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Ecological Theory of Language Acquisition

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Abstract: This poster outlines an Ecological Theory of Language Acquisition (ETLA). The theory views the early phases of the language acquisition process as an emergent consequence of the interaction between the infant and its linguistic environment. The newborn infant is considered to be linguistically and phonetically naïve but endowed with the ability to register a wide range of multi-sensory inputs along with the ability to detect similarity between the multi-sensory stimuli it is exposed to. The initial steps of the language acquisition process are explained as unintended and inevitable consequences of the infant’s multisensory interaction with the adult.The theoretical model deriving from ETLA is tested using the experimental data presented in the two additional contributions from our research team (Gustavsson et al, “Integration of audiovisual information in 8-months-old infants”; Lacerda, Marklund et al. “On the linguistic implications of context-bound adult-infant interactions”). The generality of the ETLA’s concept is likely to be of significance for a wide range of scientific areas, like robotics, where a central issue concerns addressing general problems of how organisms or systems might develop the ability to tap on the structure of the information embedded in their operating environments.

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