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Select and critically examine any one perspective that successfully explains the development of language.

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Introduction

Select and critically examine any one perspective that successfully explains the development of language. In this essay I am going to discuss the social learning approach to language development in psychology. I will also look at an apposing view and criticisms to this theory. I will start by looking at what language is and examine the social learning theory to language development looking in detail at Skinner B.F.'s theory and experiments in this area. After this I will look at the criticisms of Skinners theory especially Chomsky's criticisms and differences. Language is seen to be one aspect that separates humans from non-humans for example wild chimpanzees use over 30 different vocalizations to convey a large number of meanings and repeat sounds to intensify their meaning. However, they don't string these sounds together to make new 'words'. According to Brown (1965) language is a set of arbitrary symbols " Which, taken together, make it possible for a creature with limited powers of discrimination and a limited memory to transmit and understand an infinite variety of messages and to do this in spite of noise and distraction." ...read more.

Middle

Referred to as operant conditioning. A baby left alone in a crib may kick, twist and coo spontaneously in a room but the chances of this happening again depends on its consequences. The baby will coo more often if each such occurrence is followed by parent attention. 'If we think of the baby as having a goal of parental attention, then operant conditioning amounts to learning that a particular behavior leads to attaining a particular goal.' (Rescorla, 1987). Via operant conditioning, behaviorists such as Skinner have shown that techniques of positive reinforcement shape the repertoires of individual behaviors; reinforcement of appropriate grammar and language would therefore lead to a child's acquisition of language and grammar. Skinner's explanation of language was that any acquisition was due to a learning process involving the shaping of grammar into a correct form by the re-enforcement of other stimulus. Correct grammar is positively reinforced and will be used in the future, and incorrect grammar is negatively reinforced and will be not be used again. His model of this is shown below. One form of positive reinforcement is the child getting what it asks for. For example, 'May I have some water?' produces a drink that reinforces that form of words. ...read more.

Conclusion

It enables children to process linguistic data selectively from their environment and this helps them to generate rules of grammar, from this they can generate a language. Chomsky's theory explains why children can build sentences that have never been heard before in a complex and grammatically correct way. For example 'The big fat cow run over the road and arrested me' This type of sentence is unlikely to have been heard before from anyone but can still be said grammatically correctly. More evidence to back up Chomsk's theory is that children all around the world seem to develop speech at around the same time, and so suggests again that children have an innate learning system. If children didn't have this then it is suggested that children from different countries and cultures would develop at different times because of the way they are talked to and brought up, though this is not the way. The detailed and vast nature of language, the difficulty in collecting empirical data during child language acquisition and the fact that language touches on so many areas of Psychology, make validation of Chomsky and Skinner's theories, and any language theories, particularly difficult. However looking at the evidence that has been collected, it seems understandable to accept different parts of each theory. 1 Miranda Hazell Introduction to Psychology 2 ...read more.

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