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Psychol Sci. 2001 Jul;12(4):323-8.

Children creating language: how Nicaraguan sign language acquired a spatial grammar.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Barnard College of Columbia University, New York, NY 10027-6598, USA. annie@alum.mit.edu

Abstract

It has long been postulated that language is not purely learned, but arises from an interaction between environmental exposure and innate abilities. The innate component becomes more evident in rare situations in which the environment is markedly impoverished. The present study investigated the language production of a generation of deaf Nicaraguans who had not been exposed to a developed language. We examined the changing use of early linguistic structures (specifically, spatial modulations) in a sign language that has emerged since the Nicaraguan group first came together: In tinder two decades, sequential cohorts of learners systematized the grammar of this new sign language. We examined whether the systematicity being added to the language stems from children or adults: our results indicate that such changes originate in children aged 10 and younger Thus, sequential cohorts of interacting young children collectively: possess the capacity not only to learn, but also to create, language.

PMID:
11476100
DOI:
10.1111/1467-9280.00359
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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