Honors | Born to be a Genius: Exploring Theories of Language Acquisition
E105 | 0177 | Connell, D.


Any viable theory of human mind must come to grips with how language is
learned by children. Few areas of research on human cognition have aroused
such controversy among scientists from diverse disciplines who bring their
methodologies to bear on this elemental problem. At stake is the greatest
prize of all: determining whether all of human knowledge is molded by
human culture or whether some of it is determined by innate (genetic)
structures. Two distinct traditions have emerged from the battle, but only
one of them has influenced mainstream thought. One of the foundations of
modern day intellectual life is the assumption that the human mind is a
product of the social forces of culture brought to bear during the
developmental period.

In this course, we will examine the bold attack that has been made against
this firmly established position, an attack that has signaled a revolution
in cognitive science. Our examination of the central issues of language
acquisition will question our understanding of the modularity of mind,
genetics vs. environment, human uniqueness, and the relation between
language and thought. Students will learn how to evaluate data that are
used to support or refute theoretical positions in discussions and in
written assignments, thereby deepening their understanding of the issues
and fostering critical thinking.