During the past forty years there have been two major theories of language learning by children. But there are two major schools of thought known as, 'Behaviorists' and 'Mentalists'. One school is of the view that language learning is entirely the product of experience and that our environment affects all of us. Others have suggested that everybody has an innate language learning mechanism. Let us discovery with the help of these two schools of thought that how do children acquire their mother tongue. How do they grow up linguistically and learn to handle the stylistics varieties of their mother tongue? How much of the linguistics system they are born with and how much do they discover from their exposure to language?
a) The Behaviorist School
B.F. Skinner and his followers are known as behaviorist. According to them language learning is process known as operant conditioning. Conditioned Behavior is behavior which is the result of repeated training. Operant means that it is voluntary behavior, it is result of learner's own free will, and it is not forced by any outside person or thing. The learner demonstrates the new behavior first as a response to a system of reward or punishment, and finally as an automatic response. In order to prove their theory they conducted an experiment. EXPERIMENT
They put a rat in a box containing a bar. If it presses a bar, it is rewarded with a pellet of food. Nothing forces it to press the bar. The first time it probably does so accidentally. When the rat finds that the food arrives, it presses the bar again. Eventually it finds that if it is hungry it can obtain food by pressing the bar. Then task is made more difficult. The rat only gets rewarded if it presses the bar while a light is flashing. At first rat is puzzled. Eventually it learns the trick. Then the task is made more difficult again. This time the rat only receives food if it presses the bar a certain number of times. After initial confusion it learns to do this also. And so on, and so on. Operant condition can be summarized thus
STIMULUS RESPONSE REINFORCEMENT REPETITION
In operant conditioned, reinforcement plays a vital role. There are two kinds of reinforcement:
A) Positive Reinforcement
Praise and rewards are positive reinforcement. Experiments have shown that positive reinforcement works much better in bringing about good learning. B) Negative Reinforcement
Rebukes and punishments are negative reinforcement.
The behaviorists also claim that we learn language by imitation and association. For example, a young child hears the word "water" with the actual thing. He then makes this sound himself, imitating what he has heard. His parents are pleased that he has learnt another word and so his response is reinforced. The thoughts of behaviorist school can well be understood according to following tree diagram. The Behaviorist School
Language learning is Positive Imitation Operant conditioning and and Negative Association Reinforcement
Noam Chomsky explicitly rejects the behaviorists' position that language should be thought of as verbal behavior, arguing that it should be thought of as knowledge held by those who use language. Chomsky suggests that the learner of any language has an inbuilt learning capacity for language that enables each learner to construct a kind...