May 25, 2011
Research by Johns Hopkins University has produced evidence confirming Noam Chomsky's fifty-year old hypothesis that language has been hardwired by evolution into the human brain at birth.
In the study, a small, green, cartoonish “alien informant” named Glermi taught participants an artificial nanolanguage named Verblog designed to violate these natural word order rules of language. Other groups were taught a variation of Verblog that used word order combinations commonly found in human languages.
The adult learners quite easily learned the variants but failed to learn pure Verblog. Researchers claim that this was because learners’ brains “knew” in some sense that the Verblog word order was extremely unlikely, just as predicted by Chomsky a half-century ago.
• John Hopkins press release
• Noam Chomsky's universal grammar
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