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Language Acquisition, Theories of

Every normal child acquires at least one language in the first few years of life. Before children start grammar school, they have effectively become adults in many seemingly complex linguistic abilities. These abilities include the capacity to produce and understand a boundless number of novel sentences and to judge whether what a sentence is stating is true or false. There are two alternative accounts of the course of children’s language development. These different perspectives can be traced back to the nature versus nurture debate about how knowledge is acquired in any cognitive domain. The nature perspective dates back to Plato’s dialogue “The Meno.” In this dialogue, the protagonist, Socrates, demonstrates to Meno, an aristocrat in ancient Greece, that a young slave knows more about geometry ...

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