Humans live in a world full of communication. Humans possess a native language that separates them from other animals. Language is developed within the first few years of a person’s life. By the time one is a child; he can speak and understand almost as well as an adult. Children world-wide exhibit similar patterns of language acquisition even though they may be learning different languages. How humans learn even the most complicated languages has perplexed the minds of many scientists. Two of the most popular beliefs on language acquisition today are held by Skinner and Chomsky. Their opposing belief on how humans acquire language has become the two standard views on this complicated issue; however, other researchers have also reported convincing theories.
Some theories of language acquisition that are not as commonly recognized as Skinner’s or Chomsky’s theories are still important in understanding language development. “Even before using any words, the infant learns to communicate through gestures, facial expressions, and reciprocal vocalization with a caretaker” (Levine 4). These nonverbal behaviors are very important for an individual’s speech development. Another author, Fromkin reported that:
Children diagnosed at birth as mentally retarded acquire language in the same way as those with normal intelligence. Not only can children learn any of the thousands of languages that exist in the world, they do so without being overtly taught. It is difficult, if not impossible, to account for this ability without assuming that the brain is genetically ‘pre-wired’ for language. (2)
One renowned researcher of language acquisition, Pinker, endorses language as being an instinct. The term instinct conveys the idea that:
People know how to talk in more or less the sense that spiders know how to spin webs. Web-spinning was not invented by some unsung spider genius and does not depend on having had the right education or on having an aptitude for architecture or the construction trades. Rather, spiders spin spider webs because they have spider brains, which give them the urge to spin and the competence to succeed. Although there are differences between webs and words, […] it helps to make sense of the phenomena. (5)
Pinker also acknowledged that Darwin was the first to articu...
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...suggested that language was developed through observational learning and classical conditioning. Some people believe that language development is a combination of the two theories and language development cannot occur unless both are present. Thus far, it is not precisely known how humans develop language. If researchers discovered how humans acquire language, they may be able to solve the problem individuals with hearing impairments experience or prevent hearing impairments from occurring.
Berry, Mildred. Language Disorders of Children: The Bases and Diagnoses. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
Fromkin, Victoria. “The State of Brain/Language Research.” Language, Communication, and the Brain. 66 (1988): 189-214.
Gazzaniga, Michael & Heatherton, Todd. Psychological Science: Mind, Brain, and Behavior. New York: Norton, 2003.
Hamaguchi, Patricia. Childhood Speech, Language, and Listening Problems: What Every Parents Should Know. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1995.
Levine, Linda. Great Beginnings for Early Language Learning. Tucson: Communication Skill Builders, 1988.
Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Morrow, 1994.
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