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Evaluate recent challenges to nativist theories of language development.

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Introduction

TMA 05 Evaluate recent challenges to nativist theories of language development. Nativist's beleive that language is acquired through the operation of innate factors and that biological maturation governs development (Mareschall et al. 2006). For the purpose of this paper the word "innate" will be used in the same context as Grayson et al. (2005) did. Nativists propose that children are born with a formal language system known as Universal Grammar (Chomsky, 1995). The environment, in their view, only plays a part in aiding infants decide which of the universal rules to apply (Mareschall et al. 2006). To challenge the nativist view I will cover some aspects of language development where there is clear opposite views on how certain processes develop. The opposition is represented by empiricists, who believe that the environment is indispensable for development. The different approaches will be considered in light of their differences and ways in which they may contradict one another. Each theoretical point will be looked at alongside evidence from researches. It is worth noting that whilst these theories seem to be total opposites they to not deny the existence of one another but differ in the importance they place on each element (Mareschall et al. ...read more.

Middle

1998). Similar studies on temporal lobe damage carried out by researchers such as Stiles and Thal (1993) have given further neuroscientific support to epigenesis. Whilst Mia Lherpiniere X7374356 TMA 05 these studies do not dismiss the possibility of the left hemisphere being designated for language, they simply emphasise that "they are not critical since language can develop in a close to normal way without [them]" (Johnson, 1997, p. 142). Looking beyond the biological argument the debate carries on through two propositions of how children acquire and produce grammar: single and dual route theory (Mareschall et al. 2006). Children's inflectional morphology follows a curved pattern which begins with correct application of outer layers; for example adding "ed" at the end of a word indicates the past tense. Inflections then become disrupted as grammatical rules are over generalised producing common errors such as "goed". With experience children then seem able to apply regular and irregular forms of various tenses with ease. This pattern of development is called the U-shape (Plunkett and Wood, 2006). A conventional account for this process is that infants simply memorise the correct formation and as they discover grammatical rules they over apply them creating mistakes, then as the rules become more robust they eliminate the over-regularisations and adopt the correct format for nouns and verbs (Plunkett and Wood, 2006) ...read more.

Conclusion

On balance the empirical evidence supports the epigenetic view of modularisation a process by which genes and the environment work together to create self organisation (Karmiloff-Smith, 1992). Neuroscience further supports a view in between nativists and empiricist, whilst they are able to produce evidence that the brain is capable of supporting language in other areas it is unmistakable that damage to left hemisphere (the seat of language) can severely effect language development. How children acquire and produce grammar is debated Mia Lherpiniere X7374356 TMA 05 through single and dual route theory. Empirical evidence has given greater support to the single route theory which does not deny elements of nature but also incorporates nurture. Connectionist networks are becoming a common method to test theories and have been used to lend support to many language theories such as the distributional approach. Children through out the world inevitably learn their mother tongue whether it be by speech or sign (Karmiloff-Smith, 2002). What is substantive is whether this is due solely to operant conditioning of caregivers or to an innate principle of universal grammar. In view of the evidence presented in this paper it seems implausible that language can develop without the presence of both nature and nurture as Bruner (1983) conveys; "we shall make little progress if we adhere either to the impossible account of extreme empiricism or to the miraculous one of pure nativism." (Bruner 1983, P. 10). ...read more.

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