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date: 19 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter advances a new hypothesis—that in the earliest phases of language acquisition, infants combine a powerful set of domain-general computational skills with their equally extraordinary social skills to “crack the speech code.” Further, it is hypothesized that the social brain—in ways we have yet to understand—“gates” the computational mechanisms underlying learning in the domain of language. Four levels at which the gating mechanism might work are developed. It is argued that the assertion that social factors gate language learning explains not only how typically developing children acquire language, but also why children with autism exhibit twin deficits in social cognition and language, and why nonhuman animals with impressive computational abilities do not acquire language.

Keywords: language acquisition, infants, domain-general computational skills, social skills, social brain

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