Theoretically, could some language be acquired before birth?
My daughter read a fantasy book featuring dragons. One premise of the book is that the dragons are hatched with the ability to use language by virtue of having heard lots of conversation through the eggshell during incubation. She was fascinated by this premise.
I countered that I didn’t think this would be possible because, absent a world of stimuli, language lacks the referents that give meaning to the symbols of language.
Her boyfriend (who happens to be a post-grad linguistics student at Oxford), maintains that it would be possible to acquire the mechanics of language this way, and that once exposed to a world of stimuli, all of the blanks could be quite quickly filled in.
I can’t easily dismiss someone with his academic chops, but it’s difficult for me to believe that hearing language divorced from experience would even impart this structural framework.
I’m putting this out there as more of a thought experiment than as a practical question.