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Discuss, with Illustrations from your own Observations and Study of Children Acquiring Language, what you Consider to be the Relative Importance of Social Environment and the Child's Innate Faculties in its Acquisition of Language.

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Introduction

Discuss, with Illustrations from your own Observations and Study of Children Acquiring Language, what you Consider to be the Relative Importance of Social Environment and the Child's Innate Faculties in its Acquisition of Language During the first four to five years of life, a human will learn how to articulate most of the sounds of English speech and acquire the ability to produce correctly structured sentences, take part in spoken dialogue and use language in order to learn, express emotions and to make personal contact. However, is the human's ability to do this due to nature - innate language learning faculties that every human automatically possesses, or nurture - the belief that humans only develop language as a form of communication as a result of being exposed to language and being encouraged to use it from an early stage? The nature versus nurture debate is a conundrum which has interested humans for centuries, prompting even illiterate Indian Mogul, Akbar the Great, to carry out experiments on this precise subject. He placed thirty new-born babies into a home where mute wet-nurses cared for them, in order to see if these children would be able to learn how to communicate without the 'nurture' aspect of a normal child's language development. ...read more.

Middle

He discovered that the functions needed for language in an adult can only be found in the left hemisphere of the brain, however during infancy, these functions are spread across both sides of the brain and shift across to the left until they settle there at the age of thirteen. Lenneberg's findings were proved, however the critical period has been found to be (in the majority of humans) from birth to five years old. Lenneberg's theory was therefore based along the principles of nature and nurture because he believed that a child has an innate ability when it is young to learn and develop speech and language (lateralization) but that the child needs social support / contact surrounding it in order to utilise these faculties. There are many different theories that follow the same principle of using nurturing as a way to teach a child how to speak. The Behaviourist theory, which first emerged in the 1900s, is probably the most well-known and widely-spread of these. The nurturing factors that are present in this theory are those of imitation / repetition - when the child copies what its carers say; positive / negative reinforcement - when the carer praises the child when it uses language accurately, and ...read more.

Conclusion

Chomsky also believed that every human is born with the ability to speak any language but chooses which to use as to its environment i.e. a carer's main input is the choice of which language to speak. He described the LAD as a system containing a large number of switches that determine the features of the particular native language. For example, there is a switch which determines whether the native language is based along the grammatical line of subject-verb-object (like in English) or subject-object-verb (like in Japanese). Chomsky's theory fundamentally contradicts the Behaviourist theory as it states that children learn language through trial and error - forming sentences in their heads and repeating / using them until they correspond to their carers' sentences. Positive and negative reinforcement is also therefore disputed. In conclusion, after having studied such cases as Victor and Genie, and the different theories that have been proposed by various people, I believe that social environment is definitely the determining factor during the acquisition of language of a child. Every human is born with innate faculties that enable it to absorb and acquire language (unless it is severely mentally deficient) so it is therefore the human's surroundings that shape its linguistic progress. ...read more.

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