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Subject:Re: "Learning" Language From:Joyce Flaherty <flahertj -at- SMTPGW -dot- LIEBERT -dot- COM> Date:Thu, 7 Dec 1995 14:55:53 EST
Arlen and Karen Mayer and others debating the Hardwired thread
...current research suggests those rules indeed ARE hardwired into our
brains as our the speech sounds of every language on earth. As we get
older, we learn which sounds belong in our language and lose the rest.
A young man who suffered from multiple seizures a day chose to take
the risk involved with brain surgery to have his epileptic tissue
removed. I watched the brain surgery Most of the procedure involved
isolating the damaged tissue. The doctors used instruments similar
to push pins to identify areas of the brain. Of course, speech was
one area. The doctor made a point of clarifying that the young man
spoke only one language, and so there was only one area of the brain
dedicated to this function. He said while we learn a foreign
language, the same area of the brain controls our speech. HOWEVER,
when we begin to think in the foreign language, another part of the
brain begins to take over this function. He pointed out that a
bilingual person could have brain surgery (for whatever reason) and
come out of the surgery speaking only one language. Fascinating!
So, although the hardwiredness (like that word?) associated with our
speech doesn't sound to me like a genetic thing, it most assuredly
does sound like an acquired thing which the medical community does not
The fact that a newborn makes all the sounds of all the languages we
speak has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with our
physical makeup. I suppose you could always argue that our physical
makeup is a function of genetics, but you get the idea. Anyway,
that's how I remember a prof explaining it to us a few thousand years