What animals can tell us about attentional prerequisites of language acquisition

David A. Leavens, Mahmoud M. Elsherif, Hannah Clark

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Theories of human language acquisition frequently posit human-unique attentional specializations to jumpstart language acquisition. There is a broad consensus that the developmental processes supporting language acquisition in our species rely on human-unique cognitive adaptions pertaining to the deployment and understanding of attention. However, close attention to the empirical evidence held to support these hypothetical psychological processes, reveals significant gaps between the nature of the evidence provided and these conclusions. In ape-human comparisons, species is confounded with a myriad of lurking variables. We explore these confounds and their implications for models of human language acquisition that appeal to human-unique attentional adaptions, revealing a large theoretical space wherein the phenomena of attention deployment and understanding can coalesce under particular environmental regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-73
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage and Communication
Early online date13 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

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