*This article may have affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links we provide (at no extra cost to you). For more details, please read our privacy policy/affiliate disclosure. Thank you for supporting the work we put into this blog!

Lan­guage acqui­si­tion is the process by which humans acquire the capac­i­ty to per­ceive and com­pre­hend lan­guage, as well as to pro­duce and use words and sen­tences to com­mu­ni­cate. Lan­guage acqui­si­tion is one of the quin­tes­sen­tial human traits, because non-humans do not com­mu­ni­cate by using lan­guage. Lan­guage acqui­si­tion usu­al­ly refers to first-lan­guage acqui­si­tion, which stud­ies infants’ acqui­si­tion of their native lan­guage. This is dis­tin­guished from sec­ond-lan­guage acqui­si­tion, which deals with the acqui­si­tion (in both chil­dren and adults) of addi­tion­al lan­guages. The capac­i­ty to suc­cess­ful­ly use lan­guage requires one to acquire a range of tools includ­ing phonol­o­gy, mor­phol­o­gy, syn­tax, seman­tics, and an exten­sive vocab­u­lary. Lan­guage can be vocal­ized as in speech, or man­u­al as in sign. The human lan­guage capac­i­ty is rep­re­sent­ed in the brain. Even though the human lan­guage capac­i­ty is finite, one can say and under­stand an infi­nite num­ber of sen­tences, which is based on a syn­tac­tic prin­ci­ple called recur­sion. Evi­dence sug­gests that every indi­vid­ual has three recur­sive mech­a­nisms that allow sen­tences to go inde­ter­mi­nate­ly. These three mech­a­nisms are: rel­a­tiviza­tion, com­ple­men­ta­tion and coor­di­na­tion. Fur­ther­more, there are actu­al­ly two main guid­ing prin­ci­ples in first-lan­guage acqui­si­tion, that is, speech per­cep­tion always pre­cedes speech pro­duc­tion and the grad­u­al­ly evolv­ing sys­tem by which a child learns a lan­guage is built up one step at a time, begin­ning with the dis­tinc­tion between indi­vid­ual phonemes.