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Domain-General Learning Capacities

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2007 by Jenny R. Saffran, Erik Thiessen

Language is arguably the most complex system acquired by humans. This fact, combined with the tender age at which language is typically learned, suggests that infants must come to the task of language acquisition already possessing the machinery required to master human language. What remains unknown is the nature of this machinery. Do infants possess dedicated domain-specific learning mechanisms, evolved for language acquisition? Or do infants take advantage of existing learning mechanisms that are not domain-specific to discover the structure of human language? In this chapter, we will consider the current state of the art in disentangling these views.