Re: "Learning" Language

Subject: Re: "Learning" Language
From: "Huber, Mike" <Mike -dot- Huber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 16:22:17 -0500

The hard wired rules (if that theory is correct) are of a
more fundamental nature than a particular language.
No, the hardwiring doesn't specify Chinese or Russian
grammar, but some of the basic rules underlying both.

For example, both the Russian and Chinese grammars
use words. Both organize words into ordered groups
(sentences) where the order of the words is significant.
Both have different versions of some words depending
on context (i.e. verbs are conjugated). Both have verbs,
nouns, etc.

These rules may or may not be hard wired. Such a complex
function as language is unlikely to be controlled by a single

I think some of them are. I also think there are rules that
are hard wired that we don't consciously know about, which
very good communicators follow by instinct.

Sent: Thursday, December 07, 1995 1:41 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list TEC
Subject: Re: "Learning" Language

-------------------- ORIGINAL MESSAGE TEXT --------------------
Arlen writes
"It's well
documented that children who are talked to (either in conversation or by
being read to) speak earlier than those who do not. There's no need for
sort of special "language rules" to be wired in to our brain."

But the current research suggests those rules indeed ARE hardwired into
brains as our the speech sounds of every language on earth. As we get
older, we learnwhich sounds belong in our language and lose the rest.

-------------------- END OF ORIGINAL MESSAGE --------------------

The current research by *some individuals* does not necessarily mean
theory is fact. Have they isolated a gene for this "hardwiring?" If so,
can they distinguish which language the gene is hardcoded for? Do
people have a gene for a Chinese "dialect", whereas French people have

gene for learning French? Since the grammar of Chinese is so different
from French, one would suspect, based on the hardwiring theory, that
genes would be easily distinguishable.

I suggest that in this case, as in many others, the theory that the
grammar for a given language came first, and the research is attempting
to prove the theory. I'd really like to know the scientific basis for
"fact" that a particular language's grammar is hard-coded into the
(since the native language isn't determined until after birth). Take a
Russian woman who gives her baby up for adoption to a Chinese family,
which raises the baby in China and speaks nothing but Chinese to the
baby. Does the baby have trouble learning Chinese because he/she was
prewired for Russian? I would think it confusing if all we learn is
vocabulary -- Russian grammar is extremely complex, whereas Chinese is
very simple. Does the little 2 year old build Russian sentences with
Chinese vocabulary?

-- karen mayer
B.A. in Russian (really!)

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