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Acquisition of Language: the Debate Between Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky.

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A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON LANGUAGE ACQUISITION: IS THE DEBATE BETWEEN PIAGET AND CHOMSKY STILL HOLDS? Rafidah Aga Mohd Jaladin Department Of Educational Psychology & Counselling Faculty Of Education University Of Malaya 50603 Kuala Lumpur Abstract In language acquisition studies, the names Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky are not uncommon. They were known because they were the founders of language acquisition theories, which act as guidance for researchers to study language and language acquisition. Although these two theorists were the main contributors in the study of language, they had a different and contradictory viewpoint. Piaget emphasized on the role of cognitive development factors in language acquisition, whereas, Chomsky focused on the role of genetic endowment factors. This paper discusses the differences in Piaget's and Chomsky's approaches to language acquisition in an attempt to present a new perspective showing that each has a place. A special focus is given to their differences in opinions and approaches towards the study of syntax and semantics, which are the two important components of a language. Introduction How children acquire language is one of the key mysteries facing scientific enquiry into humans. ...read more.


Chomsky (1986) believed that TGG is the main constituent knowledge of language. TGG is defined as "an explicit description of the internalized rules of a language as they must have been mastered by an idealized speaker-hearer" (Sinclair-de-Zwart, 1969a, p.365). There are two major points in Chomsky's model of generative grammar. First, he asserted that there was an innate language acquisition device (LAD), which provides the basis for human linguistic competence. Chomsky proposed that the nature of LAD was like an innate "black box" which was capable of receiving linguistic input (the sentences of the language in which the child was growing up) and, from these, deriving universal grammatical rules (Garton, 1992). Once these universal grammatical rules are derived, LAD functions to yield a particular language through interaction with presented experience, that is, it helps to convert experience into a system of knowledge attained: knowledge of one (native language) or another (Chomsky, 1986). Second, he posited that each sentence had a surface structure (i.e., the actual arrangement of words that we hear or see), and a deep structure (i.e., the idea underlying the sentence) (Bohannon, 1993). ...read more.


Yet, correlation does not always infer causation (Bohannon, 1993). Conclusion In conclusion, it is hypothesized that the above discussion may help to resolve the issue on language acquisition, which has been debated since early 1970s. It could be argued that why Chomsky considered language and cognition (including intellectual character of the mind) as separate entities is because his approach to language acquisition is heavily based on the acquisition of syntax. There is substantial evidence that shows the syntactic component of a language is innate and species-specific but not its semantic counterpart (Curtiss, 1977, 1981, as cited in Bohannon, 1993). However, Piaget's approach seems to provide strong arguments in relation to semantics. Therefore, it is undeniable that Piaget viewed language and cognition as interrelated because he believed that the attainment of meanings relies heavily on the continuous interaction between children's hereditary structure and their environment. This provides some evidence that each theory has a place in language acquisition. Could it be that in reality the two approaches are not contradictory, as claimed by most people, but parallel in explanations since both try to explain the same thing but based on totally different grounds? This is yet another issue that needs to be resolved in the future. ...read more.

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