Natural selection of the critical period for language acquisition.

Abstract

The language acquisition period in humans lasts about 13 years. After puberty it becomes increasingly difficult to learn a language. We explain this phenomenon by using an evolutionary framework. We present a dynamical system describing competition between language acquisition devices, which differ in the length of the learning period. There are two selective forces that play a role in determining the critical learning period: (i) having a longer learning period increases the accuracy of language acquisition; (ii) learning is associated with certain costs that affect fitness. As a result, there exists a limited learning period which is evolutionarily stable. This result is obtained analytically by means of a Nash equilibrium analysis of language acquisition devices. Interestingly, the evolutionarily stable learning period does not maximize the average fitness of the population.

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@article{Komarova2001NaturalSO, title={Natural selection of the critical period for language acquisition.}, author={Natalia Komarova and Martin A. Nowak}, journal={Proceedings. Biological sciences}, year={2001}, volume={268 1472}, pages={1189-96} }