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Patrick LockerbyRSS Feed of this column.

Retired engineer, 73 years young. Computer builder and programmer. Linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics. Interested in every human endeavour except the scrooge... Read More »

Mummy's Little Grammatical genius

How babies learn to use language.

A special note of caution to students.  My description of how a baby probably acquires language is speculative and is not a part of any well established theory.   If you are studying for exams you should not rely on any of my 'facts' except where I have given links to external documentation.

How Do Babies Learn Language ?
Did Language Invent Humans ?

Writing is a human invention.  We have plenty of evidence of its invention and of its improvement down the ages.  It would make no sense to assume that writing somehow 'just appeared'.  A magical origin of writing would presuppose that our brains are hard wired to read, but we all know that reading and writing are skills that must be taught in a formal manner.  Again, if we were 'hard wired' for written language then we would all use a single writing method, regardless of language.  Writing is most definitely invented.
The Borg Builders

Human language evolved to serve human purposes.  For most people, that purpose is to just get on with life, to be happy, to work, to play, to provide for tomorrow and to leave this world a better and a safer place for our children.   Intellectual freedom promotes those purposes.  In time of danger it may be necessary for people to put group before self, but there is always a danger in the group - the madness of crowds.  If the group functions so as to oppress its own members, then it becomes self-destructive.  Human societies thrive as collections of individuals, not as collective minds.  We are not The Borg.

We Have Ways of Making You Conform

Language is both a product and a process of evolution.  It has mechanisms by which its continuing evolution is kept from running out of control.  Those mechanisms ensure that every average user of a language uses words, phrases and pronunciation which, despite changes over time,  conform to the expectations of every other average user.  The natural laws of conformity give rise to the patterns in language that we call grammar.
Mothers Rock!

Mothers Rock!

May 06 2009 | comment(s)

Mothers Rock!

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
William Ross Wallace
This has been a slow news day.  On such days, my mind tends to drift somewhat.  Combining the science of linguistics with the philosophical notion of multiple parallel universes leads to some very strange notions.  You may not think it is science, but I hope you think it's fun.

If there are infinite universes parallel to ours, there must be at least one in which Hamlet was written by an orangutan.

"What a piece of work is an orangutan,
how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties,
in form and moving how express and admirable,
in action how like an angel,
in apprehension how like a god!"

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