TOPIC- THEORIES RELATING TO HOW CHILDREN ACQUIRE THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE
ABSTRACT – In the following essay ,language is explored from its initial stages of development in children. Language can be described in so many formats, due to its diversity and its complexity. One interesting description is from, (Edward Sapir), who sees language as an “art” saying; "Language is an anonymous, collective and unconscious art; the result of the creativity of thousands of generations." Although his version of language strikes interest, it is merely one of the countless accounts that many have given to illuminate this mystery of language.
The human language system is said to consist of units, materials and combinations. The units are basically the words, the materials are small sets of sounds that the words are assembled from and when formed they actually are arranged into sentences. It sounds like a complicated process when dissected into these steps but realistically it is something we acquire as early as a baby to three years of age. This fact has fascinated many linguists, scholars and even theorists to the extent that they have all attempted to fathom and find suitable rationalisations for this phenomena called language. The list has ranged from theories like the innateness hypothesis, the imitation theory, the reinforcement theory, the active construction of a grammar theory and even connectionist and social interaction theories. It seems that the more scientists study language the theories increase. Amongst the numerous theories two most outstanding ones are the theory of innatess and the social interaction theory.
Many arguments have centred on, whether language is solely the product of experiences,(Lock and Hunte), which is a view of empiricists, focusing on the environmental aspect of language. There has also been the other side of the argument that rationalists’ views are that children master language from the earliest of age as if they invented it , and believes that language is innate partly as well as partly environmental.(Plato and Dexartes). Behaviourists like Thorndike and Skinner, focused on stimulus and response as one of the earliest approaches to language. They believe that development of language is a result of habits being developed by practices and reinforcement, which touches on the importance of the environment. The theories even stem to the nativist view that language is experiential and innate knowledge. The question still exists; how come children learn so much in their early stages without having equivalent experiences to support their language acquisition levels?
The theorist Noam Chomsky contributed a generative approach to explaining language. He spoke off a “black box”, which was supposed to be “some kind of language processor” that existed in the human brain. He also expressed that all humans have a “language acquisition device”(LAD) which helps us process what we hear thereby mentally processing rules of language ,where all inputs add more information and form understanding. He communicated that humans are already designed to process and understand language from birth, thereby strengthening his “innate” views.
In an opposing view the theorist Jean Piaget also stated his take on language acquisition as being a result of cognitive development in the environment that the child is exposed too. His interpretation was from a more logical perspective and he came up with four stages that he sates children go through in this process of development and by extension language acquisition. These stages are the sensorimotor (0-2 years), pre-operational stage, concrete operational and the formal stages. These ages range from babies to eleven years old. He describes when a parent smiles with a baby and does this constantly it encourages the baby to smile back and further develops into words by...
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