Theories of Language Acquisition Essay

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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
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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 correct forms from it. For example, with irregular verbs children can sometimes over generalise, not necessarily using the standard form which adults are heard using and producing many things not in the adult grammar. Children also produce and understand new sentences. If imitation is right, we'd predict that children would not produce sentences they had not already heard. If we assume that children are constructing grammar, however, this would be expected. They acquire the "rules" of their syntax and thus have a powerful device

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