Language and Recursion

Lowenthal, Francis
November 2010
AIP Conference Proceedings;11/24/2010, Vol. 1303 Issue 1, p255
Academic Journal
This paper examines whether the recursive structure imbedded in some exercises used in the Non Verbal Communication Device (NVCD) approach is actually the factor that enables this approach to favor language acquisition and reacquisition in the case of children with cerebral lesions. For that a definition of the principle of recursion as it is used by logicians is presented. The two opposing approaches to the problem of language development are explained. For many authors such as Chomsky [1] the faculty of language is innate. This is known as the Standard Theory; the other researchers in this field, e.g. Bates and Elman [2], claim that language is entirely constructed by the young child: they thus speak of Language Acquisition. It is also shown that in both cases, a version of the principle of recursion is relevant for human language. The NVCD approach is defined and the results obtained in the domain of language while using this approach are presented: young subjects using this approach acquire a richer language structure or re-acquire such a structure in the case of cerebral lesions. Finally it is shown that exercises used in this framework imply the manipulation of recursive structures leading to regular grammars. It is thus hypothesized that language development could be favored using recursive structures with the young child. It could also be the case that the NVCD like exercises used with children lead to the elaboration of a regular language, as defined by Chomsky [3], which could be sufficient for language development but would not require full recursion. This double claim could reconcile Chomsky's approach with psychological observations made by adherents of the Language Acquisition approach, if it is confirmed by researches combining the use of NVCDs, psychometric methods and the use of Neural Networks. This paper thus suggests that a research group oriented towards this problematic should be organized.


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