Less-Is-More Hypothesis

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  • Elissa Newport's less-is-more hypothesis seeks to explain the seeming paradox that children, who are generally inferior to adults on most cognitive and memory measures, are actually superior to adults in acquiring the structure of language. Rather than seeing this as a contradiction, the less-is-more hypothesis postulates that there is actually a causal relationship between limited processing capacity and the ability to master language structure. Language is a complex system built up of smaller elements such as words and grammatical markers, and once these smaller units are mastered, they can be recombined in new, productive grammatical ways. Children, because of their limited processing capacity, may only be able to attend to and remember smaller units of input and, thus, de facto get language broken down into ...

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