Learning a language is not easy, as I can personally testify. So the ease with which children all over the world learn the language of their environment, despite the fact that the languages are very different, has always been a source of great curiosity for researchers. Linguist Noam Chomsky’s theory revolutionized the field. To the extent that I understand it, he argued that there was something known as a Universal Grammar, common but deep rules that all languages shared, and that our brains were hardwired and coded to be receptive to them. As children heard adults around them speaking, various switches were thrown in the brain that converted these general rules into the specific ones for that particular language, enabling children to quickly pick up the syntactic structures of that language.
Over time, the question of what constituted those basic rules of grammar has shifted but the basic idea of some kind of universal grammar has remained. But there have been periodic attempts to upend the Chomsky model as the dominant paradigm and this article is one such attempt, though the author Vyvyan Evans, while claiming to target Chomsky, seems to be aiming his fire more at Stephen Pinker’s interpretation and popularization of Chomsky’s ideas. Another article critiques Evans’s arguments.
While I find the subject fascinating, I simply do not have the expertise to evaluate the competing theories or to judge whether Chomsky’s or any of the alternative view is correct but I pass along the articles because they discusses the issues involved fairly clearly.