AFRICAN LANGUAGES AND LINGUISTICS
HOW NATURE AND NURTURE CONSPIRE TO DEVELOP AN INDIVIDUAL LINGUISTICALLY The nature and nurture debate is outstanding among different scholars in both psychology and linguistics. On one hand, it is argued that language behaviour is influenced by the genetic factors, a notion shared by the nature theorists or nativist. On the other, the nurture theorists believe that the environment, in which the individual is, influences language behaviour. However, the constructivists believe that it is the interaction between the individuals and the environment they are found that results in acquisition and learning of language. In nativist approach, Chomsky argued that children are born with an innate ability to acquire and learn a language while the cognitive approach argued that children’s language relies on their understanding of the world or cognition (Brown, 2000). The nurture or behaviourist argued that the language learning and acquisition is like a behaviour, which needs reinforcement to a response from a stimulus. However, the question is how much the innate predispositions, and how much the social and cultural experiences influence the language learning and acquisition. It is important to note that “the conspiracy between these two aspects is very strong that they can hardly be neglected in determining what a normal human being becomes linguistically” (Mkandawire, 2010). Therefore, this essay discusses how nature and nurture conspire to develop a human being linguistically. To begin with, the nurture theorists believe that “language is learnt by forming associations in the mind” (cook, 1997:156). Brown (2000), states that the learning process consists of the formation of associations between the sounds they hear and the objects or things they see. This is also the same with language learning in that teachers should set stimulus such as a language task that is to be learnt and mastered by the learners, which at the end will produce response. For example, if the teacher tells the students that the structure of sentences in English is subject, verb, object, and in other cases, it is possible to have object, verb, and subject after transformation. These theorists take language and knowledge ability as a complex chains that results from stimulus and reflective response conditioning and is based on positive reinforcement of desired production. To achieve this there is need to repeatedly do it so that the child produces a good language habit. Cook, (1997: 156) argues, “if parents provide the right kind of language experience and the right kinds of feedback, children will acquire language”. Parents have to make sure that when giving feedback corrections are made right away there, so do the teachers. Behaviouralists believe that there is interference of the first language in second language learning. In one hand, it is argued that there is a positive transfer if the first and target languages are similar. The learners will be successful in learning because they use the similarities between first language and second language. In the other, there is a negative transfer if there are differences between first and second languages, and learners will likely have difficulties and will make mistakes. To form the language habits as a result of the differences between first and second languages, reinforcement is needed (Horwitz, 2008). In addition, children with disabilities learn the language by hearing the right sentences, words, and others imitate the language from their environment and are reinforced for right pronunciation. However, the difficulty is to find out whether they are really generalising from the few sentences they are taught to form new sentences (Cook, 1997). Furthermore, the problem with this theory is that it only focuses on the empirical or observable habits or traits only. It fails to explain the genetic and interactions that take place between the children and the natural environment they...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document