What does it mean to know a language?


Semantics Life

Most everybody knows a language. Five year-old kids are nearly as proficient at speaking and understanding as their parents are. It is true of any language, that its speakers will unconsciously, or even instinctively, develop a profound knowledge of the rules that govern it. But this is not only true to language, when it comes to human learning. Just like we do not need to understand the principles of balance and support before we can learn to walk, we do not necessarily need to study a language to know it. Someone who’s never touched a grammar book can form a sentence, containing two relative clauses without being able to define a relative clause e.g. my friend who is 30 years old, and who lives on a boathouse, is named Eugene after his grandfather. A five year-old child ‘learns’ when to say I went to school rather than I go…

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