Language Acquisition

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Refer the theories of language acquisition (Behaviorist theories, nativist theories and interactionist theories) and write an evaluation of them.Consider the stages of language acquisition in the evaluation of these theories.

Human language development is a huge debate between Nature Vs Nurture within theorists of various fields in psychology.There are three major schools of thought that will be mainly focused on; behaviourist, nativist (rationalist) and interactionist(cognitive and social). The cognitive approach and social context of language development is known as interactionist approach as the language depends upon the child having interaction with its physical and social world. The Behaviorist approach to language acquisition:

The behaviorist theory was developed in the early twentieth century. The theory was developed as a protest against introspection. This theory suggests that everything that is capable of learning without a much of effort is not innate, but learned through conditioning – which is frequent association of stimuli in the mind.

Language acquisition theory of B.F. Skinner.
Skinner’s theory of language (1957) explained language acquisition is related to operant conditioning. He stated that behavior is learned through reinforcement. Rewarding children when they speak the correct way could help the child to gradually learn an approximate correct desired speech, this is called shaping. In 1957, skinner published his book, Verbal behavior, in which he attempted to apply his form of operant conditioning to language learning. Skinner also stated that for instance when the child sees a “car” he / she interprets and utters the word “car” to the carer. The carer reinforces the child, excepting that it is a car. This is referred to as Tact. This means understanding the relationship between the word and the object. Skinner also referred to echoic responses. This occurs when children imitate sounds heard from others and get immediate approval. He believes that accents and dialects were unconsciously modeled.

“A sentence is merely a part of a behavior chain, each element of which provides a conditional stimulus for the production of the succeeding element” (Fodor,Bever & Garret,p25) Skinner argued that adults are responsible in shaping, by reinforcing babbling of infants that mostly sound as words (Skinner, 1957, as cited in sheffer et al 2002) Behaviorist theory emphasize that language acquisition could be explained by the principles of learning such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning. Also Bandura stated that using the processes of observation and imitation behavior, language learning could be acquired. Accounts of language development which emphasize that language acquisition can be explained using the principles of learning such as classical conditioning, operant and observational learning.Bandura argued that language learning takes place by the process of observation and imitation.

Evaluation:
Simple cases were used to explain this theory. Our natural verbal behavior is not only in the form of mands or tacts,instead , it is the form of inter-verbal responses.(Skinner. p.676) Skinner did not show much interest to children’s creativity and novel utterences.eg: mouses, he goed, he seed… Skinners conditioning model mostly depends on the role of parents for the child’s speech. Conditioning approach doesn’t explain a complex process of language acquisition. Evidence shows when it was tape recorded mothers talking to their children, shows only little shaping to their children’s grammar. (Brown et al,1969) Reinforcement theory predicts that children would grow up and speak the truth, yet will be using incorrect grammatical errors. (M Eyesenck,1993) It’s not simply possible for parents to reinforce or punish all the possible utterances a child will use. Studies of parent-child interaction show that...
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