There are between 4,000 and 6,000 languages remaining in the world and the characteristics of these languages vary widely. How could an infant born today master any language in the world, regardless of the language's characteristics?
The study of language comprehension has a relatively long history. Researchers were studying the topic using scientific methods as far back as the late 1800s (Huey, 1908/1968). However, it was not until after the cognitive revolution around 1960 that most of the major advances in understanding how language is processed were made. With the invention of the computer and the popularity of the computer as a metaphor for how the human mind functions, research into human cognition has flourished. Over the past 50 years, a great deal has been learned about how natural language is processed as text and as speech. Researchers generally agree that comprehension occurs incrementally—word by word or [Page 262]morpheme by morpheme—over time. As you are reading this ...