Question 2 – Chapter 2, Page 21
Discuss the innateness hypothesis. If a child acquires a sign language (for example, American Sign Language) as their first language, does this provide support for the hypothesis? What does this tell us about the way human beings acquire language?
It’s all in the mind. Norm Chomsky, a most famous and influential figure in linguistics is of the view that “all human languages are fundamentally innate and that the same universal principles underlie all of them.” Lightbown and Spada, How Languages are Learned, (2011). In other words, “It’s all in your mind.” The human language system is highly complex. Many questions are asked about language acquisition. The traditional theorist, B.F. Skinner believes that language learning is simply a matter of imitation and habit formation. Norm Chomsky refutes that explanation with study and research, and developed the innateness hypothesis, which has grown to be accepted by speech and language specialists, worldwide. Built-in biological capabilities. According to Skinner’s explanation on language acquisition, every child’s mind is a blank slate, all behaviors are acquired through conditioning, hence language as well. Chomsky’s argument is that children are biologically programmed for language; that the child develops language in the same way as other biological functions develop. As an example, all children learn to walk at about the same age as long as adequate nourishment and reasonable freedom of movement are provided. Likewise, to acquire language a child only needs the availability of people to speak to the child; that would be the basic contribution; the child’s built-in biological capabilities will do the rest. The question arose with the inadequacies of the environment (not all parents are linguists or specialists) and how do children pick up complex language structures? Structure of language. There is also ‘the logical problem of language acquisition’ that the...
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