120 bits a day for native language acquisition

Some researchers at U. Rochester and U. Cal. Berkeley attempted to estimate how much information a child learns to acquire a native language.

To put our lower estimate in perspective, each day for 18 years a child must wake up and remember, perfectly and for the rest of their life, an amount of information equivalent to the information in this sequence:


Even at the lower end, it suggests the presence of mechanisms in the brain that help in language acquisition. I guess a question I have is what is the threshold for there not to be one? (The upper end is almost 2,000 bits a day.)

And we are talking about every bit here being new information.  Similar to the Five Books a Day post, these are NEW bits every day.

The amounts are staggering to me. And it strikes me how impressively children learn about the world, categorize the data, and synthesize it into information. The challenge as a parent is to ensure the child gets enough exposure to acquire all this data.

Kid jokes

I love reading about the incongruity of the kids of friends. Part of why I started this is in hopes of reporting on the best of Fleur’s. The Atlantic has a good article “Knock Knock. Who’s There? Kids. Kids Who? Kids Tell Terrible Jokes.“:

“Even when their parents are feeding them ‘dad jokes’ to try to teach them about humor, half of the jokes that kids hear, they don’t quite get.” So it’s only natural, Dubinsky says, for some children to believe that a couple of absurd or mismatched concepts assembled into a familiar “knock-knock” or “What do you call …” structure adds up to a joke.

“Kids say, ‘Oh, jokes are about incongruity. I’ll show you some incongruity,’” Dubinsky says. “But they haven’t got the sophistication to construct an incongruity that’s going to be resolvable.”

Which, coincidentally, sometimes results in jokes that resemble a more advanced form of humor: an “anti-joke.” Anti-jokes deliberately deny the audience a clever or satisfying punch line, and they often serve as edgy or sophisticated commentary on jokes themselves.

Poor Fleur will suffer from “dad jokes.” She already hears them. She just has no idea she is inundated with them. And I love me some incongruity. So much of my attention is analyzing rules from social behavior to code to business process rules. I am always interested in the how and why to tease out mismatches to learn from them. Maybe that is why I love “dad jokes” so much?