Language is closely related to the human mind. The human mind, however, is very difficult to study, as it cannot be observed directly. But it leaves its traces everywhere, particularly in language. Language has been a window of the mind. Many people have tried to discern the workings of the mind from the growth of children. Psycholinguists are concerned with the mental processes that are involved in learning to speak, and are also interested in the underlying knowledge and abilities which children must have in order to use language and to learn to use language in childhood. Is language innate or is it learned after birth? Is there any biological foundation for language? How do children acquire their first language? These and other issues have the focus of interests and research to applied linguists, psycholinguists and language teachers. L1 acquisition theories are the attempted explanations for these unanswered questions.
1. Major Modern First Language Acquisition Theories
How do children acquire language is at the center of the debate. Learning theorists such as Skinner maintained （1957）that language is acquired through reinforcement. Chomsky （1959 ）argued that language was far too complex to be learned so completely in such a short space of time, by cognitively immature toddlers（baby, child）, merely by reinforcement. He argued that the neonate婴儿 arrives equipped with a LAD. This contains a set of rules common to all languages and allows children to learn any language which they are exposed to. Slobin (1985) suggested a similar innate device---the LMC (language making capacity). The interactionists perspective suggests that a combination of biological and cognitive factors plus linguistic environment are all necessary for the acquisition of language.
Basically we shall discuss two schools of thoughts on the issue of language acquisition here. The question of how children acquire their first language is answered quite differently by the two schools of theories. The school of behavioristic theory believes that the infant’s mind at birth is a blank slate to be written on by experience. With regard to language, it claims that children acquire their L1 through a chain of stimulus-response-imitation-reinforcement. The other school of thoughts is based on the innateness hypothesis. People who hold the cognitive view believe that human babies are somewhat predisposed 有倾向 to acquire a language. They say that there are aspects of linguistic organization that are basic to human brain and that make it possible for human children to learn a language with all its complexity with little or no instruction from family or friends. The nature of language acquisition is still an open question and people are still probing the nature of the innateness of infant’s mind.
2. Brief History of Modern L1 Acquisition Research
1．Modern research on child language acquisition dates back to the late 18th when the German philosopher recorded his observation of the psychological and linguistic development of his young son. 2. Most of the studies carried out between the 1920s and 1950s were limited to diary like recordings of observed speech with some attempts to classify word types, and simply accounts of changes from babbling to the first word and descriptions of the growing vocabulary and sentence length. 3. Most observers regarded language development as a matter of imitation, practice, and habituation. 4. It was not until the 1960s that the study of L1 acquisition received a new major ‘impetus促进 largely because of the Chomsky’s revolution and the creation of the generative grammar. Researchers began to analyze child language systematically and tried to discover the nature of the psycholinguistic process that enables every human being to gain a fluent control of the exceedingly极度 complex system of communication. 5. In a matter of(about) a few decades of language...