Are all human beings born with the same potential to communicate or learn language?

Asked on by saulsarena

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The answer to the question of whether all human beings are born with the same potential to communicate or learn language depends on what you mean by the "same potential." At one extreme, some human beings are born with severe brain damage or mental retardation, which obviously limits their language acquisition potential. At the other end of the spectrum are people who learn multiple languages effortlessly or people like Shakespeare or Aeschylus or Dante who use language at a skill level far greater than most other people.

A good parallel might be running. Most of us can readily acquire the ability to run a few blocks, but not all of us have the physical potential to set world records in the marathon. So also most people have the potential to learn to use language competently, but not all have the potential to use it brilliantly.

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