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Language Acquisition

  • Date Submitted: 04/13/2010 11:04 PM
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Language Acquisition
Noam Chomsky
Chomskybelieves that children are born with an inherited ability to learn any human language. He claims that certain linguistic structures which children use so accurately must be already imprinted on the child’s mind. Chomsky believes that every child has a ‘language acquisition device’ or LAD which encodes the major principles of a language and its grammatical structures into the child’s brain. Children have then only to learn new vocabulary and apply the syntactic structures from the LAD to form sentences. Chomsky points out that a child could not possibly learn a language through imitation alone because the language spoken around them is highly irregular – adult’s speech is often broken up and even sometimes ungrammatical. Chomsky’s theory applies to all languages as they all contain nouns, verbs, consonants and vowels and children appear to be ‘hard-wired’ to acquire the grammar. Every language is extremely complex, often with subtle distinctions which even native speakers are unaware of. However, all children, regardless of their intellectual ability, become fluent in their native language within five or six years.
Evidence to support Chomsky’s theory
Children learning to speak never make grammatical errors such as getting their subjects, verbs and objects in the wrong order.
If an adult deliberately said a grammatically incorrect sentence, the child would notice.
Children often say things that are ungrammatical such as ‘mama ball’, which they cannot have learnt passively.
Mistakes such as ‘I drawed’ instead of ‘I drew’ show they are not learning through imitation alone.
Chomsky used the sentence ‘colourless green ideas sleep furiously’, which is grammatical although it doesn’t make sense, to prove his theory: he said it shows that sentences can be grammatical without having any meaning, that we can tell the difference between a grammatical and an ungrammatical sentence without ever having heard the...

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