How do children acquire grammar?
Evidence for Inborn Mechanism
1) Brain regions are known to be involved in language processing; left hemisphere is critical in understand
Broca’s area: necessary for combining words into meaningful sentences; suggests that we have specialized neural
circuits for learning grammar.
2) Only humans learn grammar readily; neural mechanisms unique to humans.
Studies with chimpanzees: close in terms of brain structure but not quite the same; tried to teach sign language; chimps
can only master a handful of grammatical rules for 2 word speech (not comparable to pre-schoolers level); trouble
expressing complicated ideas that humans learn.
3) Children develop linguistic communication with little or no language input; deaf children – no input from parents
who do not know how to sign spontaneously produce gestural or sign communication
Studies found that deaf children have developed basic communication into a signed language with its own grammar.
4) Critical period for learning language; birth to 12 years (spoken or signed); if not acquired then, they will never
Studies of feral or isolated children: may be able to learn few words, but do not understand the use of language; missing
early languages experiences; (victor and Jeanie).
5) Grammar is tied to development of vocabulary; both are part of the language system;