We absorb1.5 Mb data to learn native languages

Los Angeles: Humans absorb about 1.5 megabytes of data from their birth to adulthood to learn their native language, scientists say. Learning one’s native language may seem effortless. However, the research from the University of California (UC) Berkeley in the US shows that language acquisition between birth and 18 is a remarkable feat of cognition, rather than something humans are just hardwired to do.

Researchers calculated that, from infancy to young adulthood, learners absorb approximately 12.5 million bits of information about language — about two bits per minute — to fully acquire linguistic knowledge. If converted into binary code, the data would fill a 1.5 Mb floppy disk, the study found.

“Ours is the first study to put a number on the amount you have to learn to acquire language,” said Steven Piantadosi, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley. “”t highlights that children and teens are remarkable learners, absorbing upwards of 1,000 bits of information each day,” said Piantadosi. “When you think about a child having to remember millions of zeroes and ones (in language), that says they must have really pretty impressive learning mechanisms,” he said.

Researchers wanted to gauge the amounts and different kinds of information that English speakers need to learn their native language. They arrived at their results by running various calculations about language semantics and syntax through computational models. The study found that linguistic knowledge focuses mostly on the meaning of words, as opposed to the grammar of language. —PTI

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