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

Amanda Walker amanda at alfar.com
Tue Sep 20 17:53:49 CEST 2005

On Sep 17, 2005, at 5:35 PM, Sean Howard wrote:
> "Amanda Walker" <amanda at alfar.com> 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.

[warning: I minored in computational linguistics, and language
processing and acquisition is a major interest of mine...]

> 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.

That's false.  An ethnically Japanese kid, growing up in the Bronx
with Bronx-speaking parents, will grow up with a Bronx accent just
like anyone else in the neighborhood (having an accent from growing
up with Japanese-speaking parents would be learned behavior).

> The specifics of language may be less important than the structure
> of it, which is built in. Every language has objects, nouns,
> subjects, etc.

Yes and no.  For example, Japanese has parts of speech that English
does not, and vice versa.  However, there are certain common
elements, which is where Chomsky got his idea of "deep structure"
(with "transformational grammar" being his attempt to map deep
structure to surface syntax and phonology, something that was never
entirely successful).

> I don't know enough about the subject to enter into a full
> discussion, but I can't help but question how much of a native
> language is learned and how much really is innate.

The general consensus in academia (general, mind you--these are
areas of active study) is that the capacity for language is innate,
but that the details of any particular language are learned, and
that native language acquisition happens during a particular
developmental period.  Learning a second language is a different
process than learning the first.

[ Aside to any linguists that may be lurking in the audience: yes,
this is wildly oversimplified, and this is a very rich field--I
decided not to apply my +5 Mace of Footnoting :-), but if anyone
wants to dig into this topic, I'm game. ]

Amanda Walker
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