Speaking late

Just now, New Yorker cartoons (from Zach Kanin and Joe Dator) on linguistic subjects. And along comes today’s Bizarro, on the development of language in the species and in the individual:

The strip shows the origin of language in male humans substantially lagging that in females, as if the sexes were different species — a preposterous idea when you examine it with any care. But the strip plays on a real phenomenon, that the acquisition of language in boys tends to lag somewhat behind that in girls. Boys speak later, and less, than girls, common wisdom has it. Well, common wisdom isn’t exactly wrong, but it treats, inaccurately, what is in fact a small statistical difference between the sexes (which largely overlap with one another) as an absolute gap.

And there’s certainly no reason to think that phylogeny recapitulated what we know of ontogeny.

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