The Poverty of Stimulus Argument and the Cognitive Revolution M. C.
05 Oct. 2009
The Poverty of Stimulus Argument and the Cognitive Revolution Language is what distinguishes human beings from all the other species living in this world. Our ability to learn a language is what has kept humanity going for so many centuries. By being able to communicate, we have broken many barriers that have helped us to evolve. One question that has been controversial regarding language acquisition is if language is a human instinct or if it was invented by our cultures. Since language is learned during childhood, Noam Chomsky turned to children’s ability to produce language in order to answer this enigma. One of Noam Chomsky’s great contributions in the study of language is the poverty of stimulus argument. According to Laurence and Margolis, “the idea behind the poverty of stimulus argument is […] that the knowledge acquired in language acquisition far outstrips the information that is available in the environment” (p. 221, 2001). This argument demonstrates that kids are not given enough language samples for them to have the level of language acquisition they show. This argument is the main justification for debating that language is innate (Pinker, p. 30, 1994). For example, if a child wants to express that he ate an apple, he might say that he “eated” an apple instead. There is no way that somebody taught him that sentence before, because it is grammatically incorrect. Instead, he processed it in his mind and created a past tense that made sense to him. He did not have enough information from his exposure to the language to make that mistake. Chomsky also presented some linguistic regularities to explain his argument. As stated on the article “The Poverty of the Stimulus Argument,” examples show that if kids didn’t have the innate ability to process language, they would formulate the simplest and most natural response when changing a sentence’s meaning. For...
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