[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play [was: EmergentBehaviorsspawnedfrom...]

Michael Sellers mike at onlinealchemy.com
Tue Sep 20 16:06:23 CEST 2005

Sean Howard wrote:

>> Nothing's innate about native language (it's all learned),

> That may not be true. I've always wanted to read Chomsky's work on
> linguistics, but I get distracted easily. But it turns out that
> language is innate, so much so that a Japanese kid growing up in
> the Bronx will learn English with an accent.

Just a note on that point -- it's one that's commonly misreported,
as here.  You should take the time to read Chomsky (his
non-political stuff at least).  Japanese children learn a different
set of phonemes at a very early age (babies babble using different
phonemes) than do kid in the US or say Egypt.  Chomsky's thesis --
and this has become fairly well-ingrained theory by this point -- is
that we all have neurologically based 'deep structures' that
predispose us to learn language, but how we fill in the language
parameters differs from culture to culture (see also Pylyshyn and
Marr, among others, for foundational work on what's been called the
'functional architecture' of the brain and how it affects complex

So it's not the case that a Japanese kid growing up in the Bronx
will have an accent, at least not if he moves there before he's well
into his teens (there are also what are known as 'critical periods'
for learning language and other complex tasks, where at different
ages some things are learned more easily than others).  But a native
English speaker literally will not hear -- there is no cortical
response to -- phonemes that are significant and obviously different
to an Inuit speaker.

In short, the capacity for language is innately and neurologically
human.  The primary language we learn is set by what we hear long
before we can speak it, and affects what we hear for the rest of our

Mike Sellers
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MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

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