Wolfgang Teubert wrote:" Every child, even those with mild retardation, learns a language without being taught". But that is true only if you expect a very basic level of language. And it's the same for maths: a child knows that three toys is more than one, that if he/she gives a cake to me, he/she will have less to eat, and that three biscuits for three kids means dividing what we have. And you could say the same for science (I enjoyed the example of the " the school's spitting champion"). But of course, the level in all three domains is here very low. I think a child needs to be taught to improve his/her skills. And as Alexandre points out, it's because parents keep correcting the child and responding to the child's behavior that the learning process can be stimulated.
It seems to me that history might be the odd one out here, since it requires knowledge of things past, and not practice, observation or imitation.
What is specific about language may be that we - parents - usually master it better than maths or sciences, because we need it in everyday life, and so we're more able to correct the child if need be. But if we needed science as we need language, we would master it better and would be able to teach our children (and I think it's what's happening anyway, concerning computer sciences especially).
Sorry for being a bit long,
-----Message d'origine----- De : corpora-bounces at uib.no [mailto:corpora-bounces at uib.no] De la part de Alexandre Rafalovitch Envoyé : vendredi 29 août 2008 15:49 À : corpora at uib.no Objet : Re: [Corpora-List] Bootcamp: 'Quantitative Corpus Linguistics withR'--re Louw's endorsement
How can this be a brute fact when every day you can see a parent constantly correcting child on how to say things either by directly pointing the mistakes out or by repeating or rephrasing the same things in the correct and accepted way. That's teaching in my books, just not classroom style teaching.
Also, at least for the Russian language, syntax and morphology is drilled into the children heads during multiple years of schooling. And you can tell the person who did not undertake that schooling and just learned as much as possible through absorption.
I don't have a (strong) opinion on whether language facility is built-in, but perhaps we should be taking about low barrier of entry to language (any negotiated noise/signal would have an immediate pay-off), as opposed to a high barrier of entry to more abstract sciences where anything useful requires learning a large body of knowledge first.
> this with the learning of math or science or history, where even with
> years of intensive teaching, not everyone learns it.
Again, isn't it because most of the math/science/history is somewhat abstract and does not engage the same centers of the brain? On the other hand, the schools spitting champion who is able to hit a target at a large distance with correction for the current wind, has certainly learned some of the scary-looking math and physics, even if he (or she) never saw an equation for the earth gravity, vector decomposition of forces, conversion between kinetic and potential energy, etc. Same way, a child learning to walk will absorb enough physics to do that task but will need higher education to learn physics in space (unless they are born in orbit of course).