Multiple Cues in Language Acquisition

Padraic Monaghan & Morten H. Christiansen

In: Encyclopedia of Language Development

Multiple Cues in Language Acquisition

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  • The poverty of the stimulus argument has been central to debates over the nature of language acquisition. The poverty of the stimulus, originally articulated by Noam Chomsky, contends that the language to which children are exposed does not contain sufficient information to account for their ability to acquire language because there are an indefinite number of possible grammars that are consistent with their experience of the language. A consequence of this argument is that language-specific, innate constraints are necessary to explain language development. An alternative perspective is in the empiricist tradition, whereby general-purpose learning mechanisms are seen to be sufficient for learning. Poverty of the stimulus, then, is viewed as mistaken because it underestimates the general-purpose learning mechanisms or because it underestimates the constraints available ...

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