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Linguistics Lecture 1

Language is one of the higher cognitive abilities (like mathematics, spatial ability, music, drawing and social skills) which distinguish humans from other animals. Unlike the other skills however, excepting perhaps the closely correlated social skills, language is universal - under normal circumstances all children learn to speak at least one language. Despite being one of the most complex cognitive abilities, language is mastered early and in a roughly predictable sequence that cuts across cultures and environments. Three-four year old children use complex syntax and semantics. Such observations, added to those from neuroscience discussed in sec. [*], have led to the hypothesis of a biological basis for language. Language seems to be a special kind of a cognitive ability: perhaps it is an ``instinct''?