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Discuss the various theories of Language Acquisition

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Discuss the various theories of Language Acquisition 2b) The human race has been trying to explore the concept of language acquisition in children for centuries, and due to the nature of the subject matter, this of course is very difficult. The main debate between language theorists, however, began in the 20th century with the nature versus nurture debate. The generally accepted theory of language acquisition, supported by B. F. Skinner, was that children were completely lacking in the ability to converse when born, and that language was just another learned skill, such as walking and crawling. Supporting the argument that language acquisition was all due to the "nurturing" of the child, rather than an innate capacity to learn, Skinner believed in the theory of imitation and reinforcement. This concept suggests that children learn through positive and negative feedback (praise as opposed to corrections) from their parents or carers. To a certain extent, this theory could account for a large proportion of a child's development. Behaviourists who have observed parents with their children or young children in nurseries have noticed that when an dult suggests a new word to a child, the child is very likely to use it. ...read more.


Also citing virtuous errors such as overgeneralisations, he pointed out that children often create their own words when they do not know the correct term for what they are trying to describe, a concept called linguistic creativity. The key belief of nativism in Chomsky's time was that children have a "language acquisition device" when they are born, which allows them to learn grammar rules and the like. Chomsky himself added to this concept bu suggesting that all human languages share a "universal grammar", which is what children are capable of understanding and applying to their own mother tongue. A limitation of the nativist theory is that the ability to converse is not completely innate: children will need some form of stimulus from those around them, or their linguistic ability will be severely impaired. In particular, many theorists believe that for children, there is a cut-off point in their lives (often at about 7 years of age) when, if the child has not received sufficient stimulus, their capacity for language will be permaneantly weakened. ...read more.


At this time, children also learn to use pronouns correctly, and are more focused on learning common nouns for the objects around them. The other key leader of this theory, Lev Vygotsky, proposed that language had two roles: communication and for thought processes. After a short amount of time, he believed, language became closely linked with thought, leading to the natural link between language and understanding. However, there are, of course, limitations of this theory. Many children have displayed language skills completely at odds with their apparent cognitive skills, either more or less advanced. Of course, each theory of language acquisition has its own evidence to support it. A key mistake which many theorists made in the past was to assume that one theory could be found which covered all aspects of child development. Modern theorists now see the strengths and limitations of all schools of thought, and tend to use aspects from each theory to explain stages of language acquisition. It is generally accepted that we probably will never know the exact way in which children acquire language, due to the complex nature of the process. ?? ?? ?? ?? Chiara Giovanni 12Y ...read more.

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