Is Language An Instinct Education Essay

Topics: Linguistics, Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct Pages: 3 (1535 words) Published: January 1, 2015
Is Language An Instinct Education Essay
As you are reading these words, you are taking part in one of the wonders of the natural world. Linguists have continually been bewildered by language and the language debate which has been inundated with arguments by several professionals to support either the instinctive or learned side of the debate. So, in 1994 when “The Language Instinct” by psychologist Steven Pinker was published, it reignited the discussion. His book utilized the concepts developed by Chomsky who believed that language was instinctive due to a universal grammar- an innate design containing characteristics common to every human language. The other side of the argument builds on the theories by Karl Popper. Geoffrey Sampson (1997) and other linguists held the belief that language is developed by observing and learning from others because we are born with a blank slate. In this essay I will discuss both sides of the arguments in the hope of concluding whether or not language is an instinct. On the one hand, those who believe that language is an instinct express that language is not learned and does not depend on having had the best education. Linguistic ability is not learned like the way we learn to tell the time, or the way we learn to tie our shoelaces. Instead, it is a specialised and intricate skill which forms part of the brain, and develops in a child without conscious effort (Pinker, 2007). Behaviourists claim a child’s imitation of their parents’ language initiates a child’s language, yet there are examples of imitation which do not support this concept. Pinker (2007) uses the example that if children imitate parents then why is it that children do not imitate their parents’ quiet behaviour on airplanes? Chomsky (1980) produced an argument based on the poverty of the stimulus which stated that language is not learned because the information babies are exposed to is much less complex than the data and the rules they end up gaining. Therefore,...
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