Factors that Promote Rapid Language Learning in Children?

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According to Chomsky (1972), language acquisition is one of the exclusive characteristics of human beings and is known as the jewel in the crown of cognition (Pinker, 1994). It is well known that other species on earth have communication system also, but differ substantially in their qualities from human communication. Several attempts have been made to teach apes to speak (Allen & Gardner, 1969; Savage-Rumbaugh, Sevcik, & Hopkins, 1988), but language acquisition is a mystery of human beings, it starts before a child is born (DeCasper & Spence, 1986). Until today, no artificial intelligence has been created which can learn a language. Healthy newborn children acquire seemingly effortlessly and rapidly the language of any part of the world, independently from the parents native language. In the last decades various theories have emerged which try to explain the language learning process from psychological, linguistic, social, cognitive, anthropological and neurobiological perspectives; therefore, different theories promote different factors which can account for the acquisition of language (Chapman, 2000). This essay is going to evaluate the two main language acquisition theories by Chmosky and Skinner, and how these different approaches influence the language learning process. It is going to discuss the importance of critical time and social factors which influence and promote the language learning process.

One of the classical accounts of language acquisition emerged by Skinner (1957) who was a behaviourist psychologist. In his studies he revealed that rewards and punishment can shape learning in a simple way: if a behaviour is rewarded, it is more likely to be repeated, whereas a behaviour which is punished or not rewarded i...

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