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Language acquisition in the absence of experience

  • Stephen Crain (a1)

A fundamental goal of linguistic theory is to explain how natural languages are acquired. This paper describes some recent findings on how learners acquire syntactic knowledge for which there is little, if any, decisive evidence from the environment. The first section presents several general observations about language acquisition that linguistic theory has tried to explain and discusses the thesis that certain linguistic properties are innate because they appear universally and in the absence of corresponding experience. A third diagnostic for innateness, early emergence, is the focus of the second section of the paper, in which linguistic theory is tested against recent experimental evidence on children's acquisition of syntax.

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