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Describe and discuss the Nativist and Behaviour theories of language acquisition, using examples to comment on the ways in which the theories are supported by empirical evidence.

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Describe and discuss the Nativist and Behaviour theories of language acquisition, using examples to comments on the ways in which the theories are supported by empirical evidence The Behaviourist approach suggests the environment the child is exposed to plays a vital role in a child's development of language. The Nativist's approach suggests that language emerges instinctively as the child matures. It is widely accepted that all children develop speech in the same way; language acquisition requires an innate predisposition towards language. Although the age at which each child goes through the stages can vary, it is accepted that language acquisition is linked to physical growth, social factors and the need to learn before a critical age. The Behaviourist approach to child language development suggests that children are a blank slate and language development is a physical reaction to stimuli from the environment, mother's interaction and social experience. The key to this language acquisition is repartition of imitated language structure to which the child is exposed. "Parents automatically" (Thorne.1997.165) through smiles, body language and by speaking to the child use positive and negative reinforcement. A child must hear speech before it can repeat it and before it can be reinforced. ...read more.


Chomsky suggests the LAD instinctively works out the language structure applying correct rules of grammar which emerges as the child matures resulting in the child producing speech, suggesting that "children are able to understand new sentences and constructions without having had any previous experience of them" (Thorne. 1997.166). Baby talk shows skills are in-built, from seven months children understand rules this is evidence that language is innate and supports the Nativist approach. Chomsky Nativist theory suggests there are two parts to language, the actual sentence which he called 'the surface structure' and the meaning of the sentence 'the deep structure'. It is possible for a single sentence to have two meanings and the LAD's innate ability helps to transform words into meaning. Chomsky called this "Transformational Grammar". The sentence "They are eating apples" has one surface structure and two deep meanings. A child's ability to understand and recognise negatives and plurals is the innate ability due to the LAD creativity. "telegraphic speech suggests some underlying mechanisms that are probably innate" (Wood.1997.65). This supports Noam Chomsky's theory that all children acquire language in the same way. The Nativist theory explains the universal stages of speech, how children acquire language quickly and supports the role maturation plays in the development of speech and why speech and grammar develops as the child matures. ...read more.


She then progressed to the two word telegraphic stage, but never progressed further despite many efforts to develop her vocabulary. This could be as a result of her disabilities which could have been a result of birth defects or due to mistreatment. Genie was not integrated into a normal family unit and doctors continually used her to further their understanding of children deprived of language. She was placed with numerous foster parents and at one stage returned to her biological mother. After receiving a severe beating from a foster parent Genie unfortunately lost her ability or will to speak. Other examples of children in similar situations support the theory of a cut-off age for language. Isabelle a child of six was placed in a normal environment and acquired language rapidly. Within one year she was no different from any other seven year old. Neither of the theories on language can fully explain all the elements of child language acquisition, both agree that language is developed within established relationships, a complex interaction between social and biological events. If one of these is missing language does not occur. Neither explains an individual's idiolect or a child's creativity of language. Both approaches have limited methods of research due to lack of finance. The duration of the studies, the research methods which are conducted in clinical situations and use of small groups of children are inconclusive evidence for each theory. ...read more.

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