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Rich Languages From Poor Inputs$
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Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini and Robert C. Berwick

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199590339

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199590339.001.0001

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Every Child an Isolate: Nature's Experiments in Language Learning

Every Child an Isolate: Nature's Experiments in Language Learning

(p.91) 6 Every Child an Isolate: Nature's Experiments in Language Learning
Rich Languages From Poor Inputs

Lila Gleitman

Barbara Landau

Oxford University Press

Drawing upon the work of Carol Chomsky, this chapter focuses on two specific issues. The first concerns the robustness of language acquisition to variability in learners' access to input that appear crucial to the function being acquired, as seen from language studies in people who became both deaf and blind during infancy. The second concerns the abilities of children to reconstruct the meanings of sentences with covert structure, as in Carol Chomsky's landmark studies of whether blindfolded dolls might be hard to see. These two themes exemplify the general problem known as ‘the poverty of the stimulus’; in the present case, how humans reconstruct linguistic form and meaning from the blatantly inadequate information offered in their usable environment.

Keywords:   Carol Chomsky, language acquisition, Poverty of the Stimulus, children, linguistic form, meaning

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