Artificial Grammar Reveals Inborn Language Sense

Parents know the unparalleled joy and wonder of hearing a beloved child’s first words turn quickly into whole sentences and then babbling paragraphs. But how human children acquire language-which is so complex and has so many variations-remains largely a mystery. Fifty years ago, linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky proposed an answer: Humans are able to learn language so quickly because some knowledge of grammar is hardwired into our brains. In other words, we know some of the most fundamental things about human language unconsciously at birth, without ever being taught.

Now, in a groundbreaking study, cognitive scientists at The Johns Hopkins University have confirmed a striking prediction of the controversial hypothesis that human beings are born with knowledge of certain syntactical rules that make learning human languages easier.

"This research shows clearly that learners are not blank slates; rather, their inherent biases, or preferences, influence what they will learn.

A new study by cognitive scientists confirms that human beings are born with knowledge of certain syntactical rules that make learning human languages easier. (Credit: iStockphoto/Felix Manuel Burgos-Trujillo)

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