• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Theories Of Language Development - Chomsky and Skinner

Extracts from this document...


Theories Of Language Development 10/10/03 Skinner Vs Chomsky Emma Smith Many psychologists have studied and researched into how we acquire language. Some have concluded that the ability to learn language is a genetically inherited skill. Others believe that language is learnt following birth and is due to environmental factors. This is part of the nature vs. nurture debate. One of the main psychologists who supported the nurture side was B.F Skinner. Skinner is an empiricist. He put forward the idea that children learn language because of the influence of the environment. Skinner believed that parents would provide more attention and pleasurable reactions when the infant made correct sounds or utterances. This way the child would gradually learn to speak and use language. The child would respond to the smiles and approval of the parents. Skinner explained this as operant conditioning; the reinforcement of a random response by a reward. By trial and error the child would learn to communicate. The child would repeat verbal behaviour that was rewarded and drop sounds or speech that did not work in terms of getting a pleasurable response. This is selective reinforcement. Pavlov and his dogs were and excellent example of operant conditioning. Pavlov rang a bell when it was time for the dogs to eat; eventually the dogs associated the bell with food. Each time the bell rang the dogs salivated. ...read more.


is proved to be a very successful form of teaching. Speech is simplified and clarified through tone, pace and pitch. Rhymes are also used to draw attention to and provide interest in word. For example "Doggy-woggy". Although this is more the input and social approach and is not quite what skinner had in mind, it does support the idea that environmental factors are important to language acquisition and development. * A psychologist called Rheingold found that a programme of reinforcement and non-reinforcement of three-month-old babblers affected the frequency of their vocalisations. * The learning theory also explains the acquisition of the meaning of words. Criticisms Against Skinner's Theory Very few people now believe that Skinner's learning theory completely explains how language is leaned. Therefore there is no surprise that the theory was widely criticised and just like any other theory developed some cracks. * Evidence from observational studies does not support Skinner's theory. Children seem to be able to learn and understand grammar despite the exposure to incorrect grammatical sentences. * Brown found that parents do not correct or reinforce grammar, but respond more to the truth of sentences. For Example, if the child says "he a girl" the mother would reply "Yes. That's a girl". * Trial and error learning cannot explain the rapid acquisition of language and the huge overall language comprehension that young children learn. ...read more.


* Learning has to play a role in correcting errors (such as "goed"). Chomsky's theory ignores the active role of parents in teaching language to their children. * The case of Genie provides mixed evidence for the role of innate language acquisition abilities, but does seem to encounter the idea of a critical time period (also known as the sensitive period) for acquisition as proposed by Lenneburg. Genie was deprived of proper verbal stimulation for thirteen years because she had been locked in a room away from human contact since birth. Although she was able to learn language she never developed completely normal linguistic abilities. This implies that humans have a sensitive period for normal language acquisition early in life. * Sachs reported the case of Jim, whose parents deaf but who was surrounded by spoken language from the television and radio in the hope that he would learn normal language. Jim showed no signs of learning language until a speech therapist took up his case at the age of three. Without the human interaction with the speech therapist there was no sign that Jim would have learned to speak. He needed the interaction before his language ability could develop. * If language development was innate, surely it would develop soon after we are able to control our voices, which is soon after one year of age. It does not explain why language takes a few years to develop. * Chomsky's theory also doesn't explain why there are such large variations in the rate children learn language. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Investigating how language has changed in children's literature; in relation to interaction between ...

    5 star(s)

    However, it is likely that the students' near-equal role is based on their out-going personalities. Figure 3 - Word count demonstrating conversation dominance Figure 3 also demonstrates that "Miss Loy" dominates the conversation, but the author omits the explanation of their story, avoiding repetition.

  2. Translation Studies

    This substitution is made not in the basis of the linguistic elements in the phrase, but on the function of the idiom. The SL phrase is replaced by a TL phrase that serves the same on the purpose in the TL culture, and the process here involves the substitution of SL sign for TL sign.

  1. Critically evaluate one theory of language development. Chomsky argues that language is a formal ...

    to make a word plural add 's') and finally tests these newly formed words by using them in spontaneous speech. These words are the either rejected or accepted. This theory can be applied to any language and will acquire the grammar of that language. Fowler and Swenson (1979, in Gross, 1999)

  2. Innatist and Interactionist theories and their teaching implications

    The affects include motives, attitudes and emotional state which determine the acquisition process. Teaching Implications of Innatism The innatism emphasizes the innate contribution of language learning. Therefore teachers should understand that different students have different innate ability and teaching should follow their internal potential.

  1. Extended response to journeys.

    journey of a changing suburban landscape by tracing a boy's journey from birth to fatherhood. An inner journey is embarked upon as it explores the concept of journeying through the development that is captured in the boy and the environment.

  2. Investigation into Gender Differences in the Language of Personal Profiles on Dating Websites

    last read: The last book I read was 'Blue Horizon' by Wilbur Smith, About my life and what I'm looking for I consider myself to be intelligent, hard working, genuine and totally honest with a good sense of humour. I am quite a romantic at heart - I still believe

  1. Describe and discuss the Nativist and Behaviour theories of language acquisition, using examples to ...

    in another, for example adding "ed" on the verb "went" shows that children experiment with language. Language is not always shaped by grammatically correct adult models as parents reinforce incorrect grammar on occasions. A child's language does improve even though incorrect grammar is reinforced.

  2. Language development in exceptional circumstances: Auditory Impairment

    Language develops because of input around them. Children would not learn language through watching television or listening to the radio, Language is a two-way communication model, in which social interaction is very important. Maesteas y Moores (1980) conducted a study to highlight the importance of parental input in the development of an infant's language.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work