Computational Linguistics

The Birth of Language – Plato’s Problem

Humans are born with zero knowledge of language structure yet we still somehow learn to communicate with others. The acquisition of languages is a lot more complicated than it seems and is known as Plato’s Problem. As kids, our parents teach us various words with images to correlate them to. However, putting these words into coherent sentences requires understanding language structure. It is possible that we acquire our language structure while listening to others speak. Eventually, the structure of certain sentences becomes engrained into our minds which may allow us to develop our internal language structure.

So far, there are only theories on how children learn languages since conducting studies with children is extremely difficult due to their lack of communication. It might seem reasonable to conduct research with adults learning new languages, however, this won’t work either because these adults have already acquired the basic language structure so the study would produce false results. One theory is simply just repetition with encouragement.

Another theory is that cognitive skills have a direct correlation to language development meaning the greater your cognitive ability, the better you will be at acquiring a language. These are just two of the many theories that attempt to explain language acquisition. Though acquiring a language seems straightforward, the science behind how it happens remains debated.


Shlok Bhattacharya

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