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Morten H. Christiansen

Language acquisition as skill learning

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Language acquisition researchers have often viewed children as ‘mini-linguists,’ attempting to infer abstract knowledge of language from exposure to their native language. From this perspective, the challenge of acquisition can seem so formidable that meeting it would appear to require that much of this knowledge must be built-in, as a language instinct or universal grammar. From this viewpoint, language acquisition is also disconnected from language processing, and from the acquisition of other learned perceptuo-motor or cognitive abilities. This paper explores a recent alternative viewpoint, the ‘language-as-skill’ framework, according to which the child's challenge is practical, not theoretical: the child learns to understand and produce the language from practicing conversational interactions. Language acquisition can thus be seen as a type of skill acquisition, using similar mechanisms to those involved in learning to ride a bicycle, play a musical instrument, or draw a picture; and the need to acquire knowledge of the abstract structure of language is dissolved. This perspective takes the pressure off biological adaptation as the primary driver of language evolution, emphasizing instead the cultural evolution of linguistic structure.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
Vol/bind21
Sider (fra-til)205-208
Antal sider4
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 1 jun. 2018

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