Child Language Acquisition - understanding language for use

Topics: Linguistics, Noam Chomsky, Language acquisition Pages: 3 (1855 words) Published: April 23, 2015
'Language is not just about learning material, it is about understanding its use in the real world. Discuss.' (35 marks)

In child language acquisition, there are many different theories for explaining how language is acquired. The debate over nature vs nurture is based upon the belief that language is either innate, so we’re born with it, or we simply imitate other people and gradually learn the meaning of the words. The two theories that believe that language has to be understood fully before we can use it, are the behaviourism and the nativism theories. The behaviourist theory is a nurture theory that highlights the input of the caregivers to the child, by claiming that children acquire language through imitation of other people. The theory was developed by Skinner, a psychologist, who wrote a book called ‘verbal behavior’. His research for the theory came from testing on animals such as rats and pigeons to see their gut noise responses. He suggested that children are ‘trained’ to speak. He thought that input from adults lead to children’s speech output. His theory showed that children learn pragmatics such as humour and politeness through imitation. Therefore, children can use these pragmatics in the real world as they can link them to times that they have heard adults use them e.g. if an adult knocks something over and apologises, the child then knows that if they do that too, they must apologise. However, the theory believes that if an adult corrects a child too frequently, when they use language wrongly, it can hinder the child’s development of speech. Also, another problem with adult correcting a child’s speech, is that they generally correct the truth of what they’re saying rather than the grammar used. E.g. If a child sees some goats but calls them “sheeps”, the adult will tell the child that they are in fact goats, but will not comment that they have said the plural of sheep wrongly. The theory has support from a variety of other research from...
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