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Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the argument that children have an innate capacity for language. What other explanations of children language acquisition have been offered?

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Introduction

Theories of language acquisition Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the argument that children have an innate capacity for language. What other explanations of children language acquisition have been offered? 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. ...read more.

Middle

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. ...read more.

Conclusion

Recent studies have shown the importance of interaction in acquiring language. Vygotsky and others believe that social interaction plays an important role in the learning process and places a great emphasis on the role of shared language in the development of both thought and language. Being exposed to this interaction at first will eventually enable them to build their inner resources. Adults, whilst talking to children alter the way they speak to allow room for the child to take part in a conversation. For example they use simplified utterances, distinctive intonation patterns and questions which invite direct participation. Adults also expand on the child's speech which has been proven to increase his/her awareness of grammatical structures. This child directed speaach is an important means of creating a positive relationship between parent and child, which forms the basis for future communication. However, Piaget greatly disagreed with child directed speech, believing it to be an impoverished form of speech, not allowing children to learn the correct forms of language. ...read more.

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