This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 07 table of contents.


Noam Chomsky, whose theories greatly influenced the study of language in the 1960s, called creativity the core problem of human language. He pointed out that almost every sentence we speak is unique, never before produced in that exact form. Yet other people can understand what we mean. It is an everyday miracle.

What did Chomsky say was the "core problem of human language"?

Language Development

Most humans develop their ability to create and exchange language easily and naturally. We learn our native language in the first years of life, without any special training. All normal humans in all cultures go through roughly the same stages of language development, which suggests the unfolding of a biologically guided process. On the other hand, the great variety of human language shows that much depends on experience. Normal language development, like virtually all human behavior, involves a complex interplay between learned and inherited factors.

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