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Theories Of Language Acquisition Essay

966 words - 4 pages

Theories of Language Acquisition

The theories of language acquisition are essentially centred around
the nature nurture argument.

The theory that children have an innate capacity for language was
created by Noam Chomsky (1928- ) an American linguistic. This nativist
approach states that learning language is part of the genetic makeup
of human species and is nearly independent of any particular
experience which may occur after birth. Once a childs brain has been
exposed to speech for the very first time it will receive and make
sense of these utterances, due to its particular programming. Chomsky
believes that there is a language acquisition device somwehre in the
brain which enables children to distinguish between linguistically
acceptable and non-acceptable language.it also provides children with
the basic rules of grammar that govern the use of language, which are
exacted through trial and error.

The nativists belive that this language acquisition device explains
why all normal children acquire language during the same time period
in a certain order and for the fact that children can understand new
sentences and formations of sentences without ever having had
experience of them before.

It is evident, however that there are many weaknesses with this
theory; primarily that it is not a complete enough theory to explain
the whole of language acquisition. It does notr explain why socially
deprived and isolated children, for example geneie, have non-existant
language skills. even when they were reintroduced into society, they
failed to acquire much more than a very basic level of linguistic
knowledge. If this theory was completely correct, then these deprived
children would be able to acquire language in the normal way provided
that the appropriate triggers were presented.

Another theory which is in direct contrast to Chomsky’s theory of
innateness is the imitation theory by Skinner. This states that
children acquire language by imitating the language structures they
hear around them. Parents automatically reinforce and correct their
children’s language, which forms the basis for a child’s knowledge of
language (classical conditioning). Before criticising this view, it
should be pointed out that language acquisition must involve a lot of
memorising. Clearly, children must hear the words of their language in
order to go about storing it in their brains and clearly English
children learn English because they are receiving English input. So
despite the fact that imitation is necessary for learning
pronunciation and in acquiring vocabulary, children do not always pick
up the...

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