Absorption of syntax

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Tue, 20 Aug 1996 16:47:28 -0400

In message <> Jeannine Jarvis writes:

> I wonder:
> Isn't there more osmosis going on here than innate ability? By the time a
> child is able to "produce the equivalent of adult vowels", isn't that child
> absorbing the syntax of the language he/she hears?

Apparently not. The view that children are little sponges, starting out empty
and soaking up language, is no longer taken seriously by the folks working on
language acquisition, as far as I can tell. This also harks back to Skinner's
behaviorist model of language acquisition (Skinner 1957: Verbal Behavior), which
was demolished by Chomsky's review thereof (Language 35: 26-58).

A decent book on language acquisition is Language Acquisition, by Helen Goodluck
(Blackwell 1991). See especially chapter 1; chapter 2, section 2.3; and chapter

Ronald Kephart
University of North Florida