Language teaches itself

How does ‘Language Teach Itself’? Consider this small, yet important, and representative example: some languages, such as English, Polish, and Mandarin Chinese put adjectives before nouns, as in ‘green tea’. Other languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic, put nouns before adjectives—‘tea green’. When you know that a language is either a ‘green tea’ language, or a ‘tea green’ language, you can assume that every other instance of the pattern will be the same. ‘Black coffee’, or ‘coffee black’; ‘red car’, or ‘car red’; ‘blue sky’, or ‘sky blue’.

Once you know to say, ‘tea green’ and not ‘green tea’, you would know to say ‘sky blue’, and not ‘blue sky’. Conversely, ‘sky blue’ could teach you ‘tea green’. Every example teaches every other example.

Now if someone should ask, “Why is it correct to say ‘sky blue’ and not ‘blue sky’? The answer should not be: “Because nouns come before verbs in this language”, but rather, “It’s ‘sky blue’ because it’s ‘tea green’.

Language is not learned explicitly, through explanation of rules, but rather implicitly, through examples of the language in use. ‘Green tea’ teaches ‘blue sky’. Language teaches itself.