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infant bilingualism

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  • Nik Weaver
    I am looking for information on bilingualism in infants. Can linguists or experts in child development help with this? It seems to me that learning more than
    Message 1 of 15 , Oct 31, 2002
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      I am looking for information on bilingualism in infants. Can
      linguists or experts in child development help with this? It
      seems to me that learning more than one language in infancy would
      not have been part of our evolutionary legacy. Thus, it is unclear
      whether our evolved mechanisms for language acquisition are fully
      adequate to cope with infant bilingualism.

      What does current research say about this issue? Do infants
      raised bilingually experience language delays? Are there other
      cognitive effects, positive or negative? If so, are they transitory
      or permanent?

      Nik Weaver
    • Henry Harpending
      ... I don t see any confusion, but then again I missed the linguistic analogies. But if 2 DNA sequences are functionally equivalent then they can be treated
      Message 2 of 15 , Oct 31, 2002
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        --- In evolutionary-psychology@y..., "M. F. Badger" <mbcreative@a...>
        wrote:
        > >>First, when we consider the sameness or otherwise of (any sort of) units of
        > inheritance, what matters is not their physical but rather their
        > *functional* qualities. That is, it is *what they do* that matters -- how
        > they affect behaviour, and so on -- rather than their physical similarity
        > to each other. If two tokens of such units are functionally equivalent,
        > then it doesn't matter if they are physically different. Functional
        > equivalence is the only sense of “sameness” that counts.<<
        >
        > I have been following your thread for some time now and it seems to me that
        > your idiosyncratic use of the vocabulary of linguistics is seriously clouding your grasp of the

        I don't see any confusion, but then again I missed the linguistic
        analogies. But if 2 DNA sequences are functionally equivalent then
        they can be treated as a single type, and it doesn't matter what
        their histories are.

        This is getting to be important in human genetics I think. It looks
        like the variations in our melanocortin 1 receptor reflect selection
        for "anything that breaks the gene", G6PD variation may be much of
        the same, and Greg Cochran has pointed out to me that the many
        mutations in Ashkenazi Jews that lead to lipid storage disorders seem
        to reflect the same pattern.

        Henry Harpending
      • Irwin Silverman
        ... I cannot quote sources but my daughter and her francophone husband are raising their son in Paris, using both French and English. Their research (which may
        Message 3 of 15 , Nov 1, 2002
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          On Fri, 1 Nov 2002, Nik Weaver wrote:

          > I am looking for information on bilingualism in infants. Can
          > linguists or experts in child development help with this? It
          > seems to me that learning more than one language in infancy would
          > not have been part of our evolutionary legacy. Thus, it is unclear
          > whether our evolved mechanisms for language acquisition are fully
          > adequate to cope with infant bilingualism.

          I cannot quote sources but my daughter and her francophone husband
          are raising their son in Paris, using both French and English. Their
          research (which may have been anecdotal) showed that the child learns both
          languages, but one usually with the accent of the other. I heard just
          this morning that Luc (age 17 mos) is beginning to articulate and using
          both - no report about accents thus far. Also, the 8 yr old son of a
          friend was raised in English and Italian since infancy and moves from one
          to the other quite fluidly. There is no trace of an accent in English that
          I could discern, but there may be in his Italian that I would not catch,
          I suspect there is a lit somewhere. Try Ellen Bialystock's stuff
          on bilingual learning.

          cheers

          Irwin
        • Jeremy Bowman
          ... -- One of the problems of interdisciplinary communication is that the other guy always tends to sound a bit wonky (or idiosyncratic , if you prefer). For
          Message 4 of 15 , Nov 2, 2002
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            Badger wrote:

            > I have been following your thread for
            > some time now and it seems to me that
            > your idiosyncratic use of the
            > vocabulary of linguistics is seriously
            > clouding your grasp of the genetics.
            > The type/token analogy does not hold.

            -- One of the problems of interdisciplinary communication is that the other
            guy always tends to sound a bit wonky (or "idiosyncratic", if you prefer).

            For example, by "token" I mean something quite different from what you take
            me to mean. I do NOT mean to draw any analogy with language, and I do NOT
            suppose that a token symbolises anything. I do NOT mean to use the
            "vocabulary of linguistics".

            All I mean by a "token" is an element of a set whose membership is
            determined by similarity between the elements. The set itself is the
            "type", and the individual elements (i.e. the "tokens") "exemplify" that
            type.

            It's as simple as that -- elementary set theory, which has nothing to do
            with linguistics.

            Please note that a 'token' here is 100% literally an element (or "member"
            if you prefer) of a set, as this is understood in the most basic sort of
            mathematics. It is 0% metaphorically anything else, such as a linguistic
            symbol.

            For example, the ducks at my local pond are all mallards. The individual
            ducks are all slightly different from each other, as token ducks, but they
            all belong to (and count as examples of) ducks of the same type --
            mallards.

            > A gene is NOT like a token.

            -- You are correct. Genes are not "like" tokens. But all individual
            examples of genes literally ARE tokens. For example, in most cells of my
            body, in every nucleus, along every chromosome, there are sporadic lengths
            of DNA that count as examples of this of that gene. As I write this, my
            fingers make contact with the keyboard, and some of the tokens of my genes
            are compressed slightly (the ones in the tips of my fingers).

            > I really hate this analogy.

            -- So do I. Using language to explain genes is a bit like using the mind of
            god to explain the apparent design of life. It starts off with something
            quite complicated and mysterious, and then moves on to something even more
            complicated and mysterious, as if the latter would shed light on the
            former.

            > (To use yet another linguistics analog
            > to explain why: A gene is not like a
            > morpheme or even a phoneme. It is an
            > individual expression of an individual
            > phoneme, and a successful one would be
            > perfectly (really perfectly)
            > duplicated by others. )

            -- "Perfectly duplicated by others"? -- What about molecules whose
            constituent atoms differ only in that alternative isotopes are involved? I
            remind you that any TOKEN of a gene is identical with part of a molecule.

            > It doesn't matter whether or not one
            > allele is the "functional equivalent"
            > of another. The ONLY thing that
            > strictly matters is the frequency of
            > a particular allele within a
            > population.

            -- I am not a geneticist, but this seems to me to be so obviously false
            that I have to physically restrain myself from saying "rubbish!" -- Oops,
            sorry, said it!

            Please note that you have used the term "a particular allele". You have not
            explained whether you mean a token or a type of allele. You must surely
            mean a type of some kind, but you do not say what makes the individual
            tokens that belong to the type relevantly similar. In other words, you have
            neglected to say what makes the relevant type a type in the first place.

            Then you go on to say:

            > Two different alleles may or may not
            > be functional equivalent, but from the
            > point of view of the gene that is
            > irrelevant (though read some neutral
            > theory to see what is relevant here).

            -- I am unclear as to what individual alleles might be here -- what members
            of what sets, or what might make them "different". I honestly have no idea
            what can be meant by "two" alleles here.

            And, furthermore, I think geneticists ought to give it quite a bit more
            thought. None of them seem to be very clear about it!

            > Any advantage (rarely) or disadvantage
            > (usually) a new allele has over
            > another in replicating itself, whether
            > or not that advantage is conferred by
            > other genes, biochemistry, magic in
            > meiosis, environment, functional
            > effect, chaos, or even random event,
            > will change the frequency of that gene
            > in the population. What it "does" at
            > the macro level, in other words, only
            > matters to the extent that it affects
            > the frequency of that gene in the gene
            > pool. And that's just the beginning.

            -- I completely agree, for the first time in our communication. But so
            what? Am I supposed to draw something from this?

            > > altruism may be an evolutionarily
            > > stable strategy, as Dawkins says in
            > > his "Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin
            > > Selection", but so too must be the
            > > strategy of tricking-your-non-parent
            > > -into-treating-you-as-if-you-were
            > > -really-kin.

            > You appear confused about what ESS means here.

            You have excised the word 'kin' from the very beginning of the above
            quotation, and taken it out of context. I suggest that we go back to
            Dawkins' original paper. Then I'll prove you wrong.

            Jeremy Bowman

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          • Ian Pitchford
            Forwarded on behalf of Margaret Friend ... From: Margaret Friend To: Ian Pitchford Sent: Friday,
            Message 5 of 15 , Nov 3, 2002
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              Forwarded on behalf of Margaret Friend

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Margaret Friend" <mfriend@...>
              To: "Ian Pitchford" <ian.pitchford@...>
              Sent: Friday, November 01, 2002 5:15 PM
              Subject: Re: [evol-psych] infant bilingualism


              One of the most interesting findings, to my mind, in the literature on
              infant speech perception is that infants are initially sensitive to (i.e.,
              can detect) the majority of phonemic contrasts that occur in all major
              languages even though they are not exposed to these languages. Preference
              for the sounds of native speech (the language to which the infant is
              exposed) develops over the course of the first 9 postnatal months. Some
              researchers argue from these data that the sensitivities of the human and
              even mammalian auditory system were exploited in the development of human
              speech. By 12 months of age sensitivity to speech contrasts that are not
              part of the language to which the infant is exposed is attenuated. I am
              not an expert in bilingualism, but surely these data shed light on both the
              evolutionary history of language and on the potential to acquire more than
              one language in infancy. There are large bodies of work by Peter Jusczyk
              and Janet Werker that speak to infants' early sensitivity to the sounds of
              human speech.

              I hope this helps!


              Margaret Friend, Ph.D.
              Department of Psychology
              San Diego State University
              6363 Alvarado Court, Ste.103
              San Diego, CA 92120
              619-594-0273
            • Jeremy Bowman
              Richard Dawkins writes: Any two members of a species, whether they belong to the same family or not, usually share more than 90% of their genes. What, then,
              Message 6 of 15 , Nov 10, 2002
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                Richard Dawkins writes:

                "Any two members of a species, whether they belong to the same family or
                not, usually share more than 90% of their genes. What, then, are we talking
                about when we say that the relatedness of brothers as 1/2, or between first
                cousins as 1/8? The answer is that brothers share 1/2 of their genes over
                and above the 90% (or whatever it is) that all individuals share in any
                case." (SG, new ed, p.288)

                -- If we suppose conservatively that a stepparent and an unrelated adoptive
                child share 90% of their genes, then "biological" parents and their
                children share about 95% of their genes. The 5% that immediate family
                members share above the average (and above stepchildren) makes all the
                difference, apparently.

                As I see it, this crucial 5% is likely to have MUCH more limited and
                unpredictable effects than evolutionary psychologists tend to suggest (at
                least when they write in the popular press for the layman).

                First, most of the genetic "conflict" (or its opposite) between unrelated
                individuals of the same species will occur between alternative alleles. I
                would guess, as a layman, that "horizontal" genetic conflict (or its
                opposite) between alleles is much more ambivalent than "vertical" conflict
                between candidates for pole positions within the genome of a single
                species. There must be quite a few pairs that work like "horse and
                carriage". That is: one of each -- great; two horses -- OK; two carriages
                -- disaster. Horse breeders and carriage-makers may be "rivals" in one
                sense, but they help to keep each other afloat too, in an asymmetrical sort
                of way.

                I would also guess that "horizontal" genetic conflict is much more
                complicated than "diagonal" conflict between the genes of different
                species.

                Second, genes tend to have bad "aim". Even if one crucial 5% of an
                individual's genes did their damnedest to make things difficult for the
                other 5% of another individual's genes, all of these genes remain brainless
                and blind. My own genes are so stupid they keep telling me to have more sex
                instead of more children. My mistress's genes keep telling her that she's
                got to keep being real NICE to my children before I'll agree to be a
                vehicle for her reproduction. But not TOO nice either, because that would
                be a waste of her resources... How nice? -- I'm not sure, but I'm sure it
                isn't proportional to that crucial 5%, still less the 50% suggested by
                "half their genes" claims made in the popular press.

                Third, if the "aim" of genes is bad, the "aim" of parasitic-type genes is
                to throw it off still further.

                mfbadger wrote:

                > Cheating and cheating detection must
                > be in equilibrium. That is what makes
                > it stable. A parent who
                > altruistically wastes resources on
                > the wrong offspring is NOT at an
                > advantage and thus this kind of
                > altruism won't be selected FOR--ie
                > genes not passed on.

                -- My point was not that genes for non-kin altruism would be passed on, but
                that genes for "tricking" one's stepparent will be passed on. I would have
                thought that this is especially likely in a socially monogamous species,
                where the females "cheat" a bit, and a significant proportion of their
                offspring survive by "tricking" non-biological "fathers" into nurturing
                them. (We might call these "cuckoo" genes, although of course real cuckoos
                "trick" both sexes of a different species into nurturing them.)

                I repeat a point a made in an earlier posting, that the word 'trick' is
                very misleading here, as it suggests that the stepparent has a false
                belief. The stepparent's genes might be "duped", metaphorically, yet his
                mind might be right on the ball. Reed warblers sometimes stop at other reed
                warblers' nests to feed the cuckoo therein, as a human might feed a stray
                cat. But no one involved need have a false belief.

                Fourth, a lot of parenting-type behaviour might be "demonstrative" or even
                handicapping in Zahavi's sense. One of the few things a middle-aged man can
                do to turn himself into a babe magnet -- if he isn't rich -- is demonstrate
                to the world what a Tom-Hanks-in-You've-Got-Mail sort of guy he is. The
                more he visibly sacrifices his own welfare for his kid, the more
                irresistible he becomes.

                But that sort of behaviour is indiscriminate -- it works just as well with
                waif-like orphans as with one's own loudmouth kid.

                In short, the "50% versus 0% shared genes" line is a bunch of baloney.

                Isn't it?

                Jeremy Bowman

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              • Steven D'Aprano
                ... Jeremy, if I understand the situation correctly (which may not be the case -- I always welcome correct) that 90% of shared genes are effectively shared
                Message 7 of 15 , Nov 11, 2002
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                  On Mon, 11 Nov 2002 07:48, Jeremy Bowman wrote:
                  > Richard Dawkins writes:
                  >
                  > "Any two members of a species, whether they belong to the same family
                  > or not, usually share more than 90% of their genes. What, then, are
                  > we talking about when we say that the relatedness of brothers as 1/2,
                  > or between first cousins as 1/8? The answer is that brothers share
                  > 1/2 of their genes over and above the 90% (or whatever it is) that
                  > all individuals share in any case." (SG, new ed, p.288)
                  >
                  > -- If we suppose conservatively that a stepparent and an unrelated
                  > adoptive child share 90% of their genes, then "biological" parents
                  > and their children share about 95% of their genes. The 5% that
                  > immediate family members share above the average (and above
                  > stepchildren) makes all the difference, apparently.
                  >
                  > As I see it, this crucial 5% is likely to have MUCH more limited and
                  > unpredictable effects than evolutionary psychologists tend to suggest
                  > (at least when they write in the popular press for the layman).



                  Jeremy, if I understand the situation correctly (which may not be the
                  case -- I always welcome correct) that 90% of shared genes are
                  effectively shared across the entire population, and therefore there is
                  very little, if any, available variation in those 90% of genes, and
                  therefore, from a genetic point of view, effectively no competition
                  over those genes.

                  If I may be permitted to argue by analogy, think of architects
                  competing to be allowed to build a house. They compete on a
                  myriad of features, but they never -- or very rarely -- compete on the
                  basic bricks and mortar of the house. Regardless of how many bedrooms,
                  or which direction the kitchen window faces, or the colour of the
                  paint, you can be pretty sure that the frame will be steel (or timber),
                  the roof will be tiled, the internal walls will be plastered, and the
                  electrical wiring will be done with copper wire and not tubes filled
                  with a saline solution.

                  Effectively, the bricks and mortar is irrelevant, or invisible, when
                  you are choosing between architects, because you know that any
                  architect you pick will use plaster walls rather than solid slabs of
                  lead.

                  Similarly, the 90% of shared genes are pretty much invisible, since
                  they are shared by all individuals. To the gene for haemoglobin, any
                  individual is as good as any other individual, and therefore there is
                  no pressure for it to prefer one individual to another.

                  Hence the 10% of genes that do vary are the important ones, since they
                  are the ones that make the difference between the lime green kitchen or
                  the black marble bathroom (to return to my analogy again). The other
                  90% are vital, because without them the individual won't even exist,
                  but otherwise they might not even be there.



                  --
                  Steven D'Aprano
                • Jeremy Bowman
                  ... -- Speaking AA ( = as always, as an amateur) I like your analogy a lot. I also agree with your main point, that as far as competition goes, the unshared
                  Message 8 of 15 , Nov 15, 2002
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                    Steven D'Aprano wrote:

                    > the 10% of genes that do vary are the
                    > important ones, since they are the
                    > ones that make the difference between
                    > the lime green kitchen or the black
                    > marble bathroom (to return to my
                    > analogy again). The other 90% are
                    > vital, because without them the
                    > individual won't even exist, but
                    > otherwise they might not even be
                    > there.

                    -- Speaking AA ( = as always, as an amateur) I like your analogy a lot.

                    I also agree with your main point, that as far as competition goes, the
                    unshared 10% is much more important than the shared 90%.

                    But, just for the sake of disagreement, I think I'll keep saying that any
                    competition between these two lots of 10% of genes cannot be much like the
                    ideal competition we might imagine in a free market, or in a free-for-all
                    among replicator molecules. That sort of competition might occur between,
                    say, the genes of a disease and its host, but what happens when "survival
                    machines" of the same species are involved?

                    Here, struggle for supremacy (of numbers) must surely be very indirect. All
                    any individual gene can do is cause its survival machine to grow or react
                    in certain ways. How might a gene that causes a survival machine to grow or
                    react in certain ways come into conflict with another individual gene that
                    causes another survival machine to grow or react in other ways? (Let alone
                    how they might come into conflict at all if their effects are
                    indistinguishable!)

                    Consider the capacity to recognize the presence of one's opposite number in
                    another survival machine, and thence to cause one's own survival machine to
                    be nasty to the other machine. This is the sort of thing that highly
                    intelligent fighter pilots have difficulty with (and unlike most biological
                    survival machines, enemy planes have distinctive "green beard" roundels).
                    Wholly unintelligent genes must have even greater difficulties with it,
                    especially if they have anything else to do, such as give their survival
                    machine green eyes, or the ability to digest lactose, or avoid being
                    albino, or whatever.

                    Dawkins reminds us again and again that genes are only "selfish" in a
                    specialized, strictly technical sense of the word. We should not think of
                    genes as metaphorically "selfish", because they don't have minds. Acts of
                    anything like recognition are way beyond most of them.

                    I suspect, speaking AA, that claims such as "I would die for my brother, or
                    eight cousins" is probably only true STATISTICALLY. That is, with a very
                    large sample, over the very long run, self-sacrifice and altruism is
                    probably paid out in carefully metered ways. That is the sort of behaviour
                    that most genes (including the shared 90%) would tend to promote,
                    indirectly. BUT any given individual is liable to do anything at any given
                    moment. He might kill his brother, or give to a charity that helps
                    unrelated others. He might even treat his adoptive child as his own child.
                    He might command more loyalty from his adopted child than from his own. He
                    might not even know who his "own" is!

                    The average human may be 5'10" tall, yet there may be no single individual
                    who is exactly 5'10" tall. Importantly, no individual should be thought of
                    as being CONSTRAINED into being that height, like a victim of Procrustes.

                    Similarly, no individual should think that all second marriages are doomed
                    if other people's children are involved, or that adoption is a hopeless
                    enterprise. It is NOT always the case that "genes will out" and turn us all
                    into Cinderella's stepsisters. If we go in with our eyes open, we must
                    remind ourselves that "blood is thicker than water" -- but we all knew that
                    long before anyone started misinterpreting "degrees of relatedness".

                    Jeremy Bowman

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