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The complexity of language: what we learn and how

David Lightfoot, Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University, USA

Date/Time: 10th May 2016

Professor Lightfoot considers what it is children learn to become speakers of language. Children are not taught the relevant properties of their native language, yet become fully proficient speakers of it.

Since language is acquired without explicit teaching, it must be the case that certain simple information is built into us biologically, enabling the acquisition of simple properties. Simple biological systems interact with simple acquired properties to yield the apparently messy, complex systems that reflect mature knowledge of language.