Theories Of First Language Acquisition

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Language acquisition is the processes by humans learn to perceive and communicate language as well as being able to produce words and sentences to communicate. It is one of the most essential human traits. First Language acquisition refers to the study of acquisition of first language in children. There are several theories on how children’s acquire such a complex understanding of language from young age. The theories are mainly based on two conflicting sides, namely nature (humans are born with a biological instinct for language built in them) or nurture (humans learn language through social interaction.) ("Language and Linguistics: Language Learning").
The main theory that is used in arguing on side of nature as a contributor to first language acquisition is mainly based on the Innateness Theory. This theory states that children are equipped with an innate template for language almost as if language is a biologically controlled behaviour. The innateness theory is mainly credited to Noam Chomsky and stems from the Universal Grammar theory. The universal grammar is very similar to the innateness theory and proposes that the ability to learn grammar is hard wired into the brain, suggesting that linguistic ability manifests itself without being taught and that this is a property that all humans share, hence a biological instinctual behavior. (Noam Chomsky, Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology) Eric Lenneberg has come up with a criterion for determining whether or not something is biologically controlled. They are as follows:
• The behavior emerges before it seems necessary.
• Its appearance is not the result of a conscious decision.
• Its emergence is not triggered by external events (though the surrounding environment must be suffic...

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...rocessing. It has also demonstrated that being fluent in two or more languages from early childhood enhances a person’s ability to concentrate and protect against the onset of dementia and other age-related cognitive decline. (Perry)
Language acquisition is closely linked together with linguistic relativity because the effect of language on thought may vary from first language to second language, as well as with proficiency. If an individual were to speak more than one language they might have different effects on them while they are speaking the respective languages; or they might have combinatory effect on their thought process with their differing structures. The age the second or third language is learnt might also come into play since it was mentioned that people who learn additional language in their adult life rarely reach the proficiency of native speakers.
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