News FocusLINGUISTICS

From the Mouths (and Hands) of Babes

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Science  07 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5536, pp. 1758-1759
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5536.1758

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Summary

Nicaraguan deaf students have created a new sign language, and it has fueled the debate among linguists over how languages are formed. Are children born with a so-called language acquisition device, an innate capacity for syntax, that prepares them to build a language anew from the merest scraps of linguistic input? Or do children simply possess general strategies for solving problems--and learning to communicate is one of the most immediate and urgent problems they face? Both camps are finding support for their views from this unique group of children.