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  2. 2. MentalismMentalism, a theory based on mental perception and thought processes, can be learned throughexperience or through an apprenticeship with an experienced mentalist. The doctrine that objectsof knowledge has no existence except in the mind of the perceiverMentalism is a general term for scientific approaches to various phenomena that try to study theproperties of the human mind, rather than just their directly observable manifestations. Inlinguistics, mentalism is associated both with generative linguistics and with more modernapproaches that go under the heading of cognitive linguistics. Mentalist linguists try to describethe mental patterns of language (or the internalized grammars) that underlie linguistic behavior.The term was originally used for the old view that the mind is a non-physical entity controllingbut distinct from the body, especially at the beginning of the 20th century (e.g. in LeonardBloomfields writings). At that time, it was opposed to mechanism (or physicalism). Later theview that in linguistics is associated with Bloomfield came to be known as behaviorism, and theterm mentalism came to acquire its modern meaning."The mentalism theory, which is by far the older, and still prevails both in the popular view andamong men of science, supposes that the variability of human conduct is due to the interferenceof some non-physical factor, a spirit or will or mind...that is present in every human being. Thisspirit, according to the mentalist view, is entirely different from material things and accordinglyfollows some other kind of causation or perhaps none at all." (Bloomfield 1933:32) 2
  3. 3. The major principle of Mentalistic language acquisition theory is that "everybody learns alanguage, not because they are subjected to a similar conditioning process, but because theypossess an inborn capacity which permits them to acquire a language as a normal MaturationalProcess" (D.A. Wilkins, 1972: 168). In 1965, in a book titled Aspects of the Theory of Syntax,Chomsky claimed that there are innate properties of language because a child masters his nativelanguage in a very short time in spite of the highly abstract nature of rules. After this, in anarticle entitled "Linguistic Theory" Chomsky called this innate knowledge as LanguageAcquisition Device (LAD hereafter). He also insisted that every normal human being is born intoa society with a LAD, which embodies the nature and the structure of human language. LAD iswhat counts for language acquisition where in environment has got no importance for thelearning process at all.Philosophy of language Chomsky’s characterize for his own approach to linguistics. On the basisof the distinction between competence and performance, he claims that linguistics should studycompetence, that is, the speakers internalized transformational-generative rules of language.Introspection is one excellent source of data for the study of language. Linguistics is a branch ofcognitive psychology that deals with structure and process in human minds and can be connectedwith observed behavior only in an indirect way. Such a mentalistic approach is opposed tobehaviorist approaches, which reject introspection, consciousness, and other mentalistic termsfor the purpose of explaining behavior. The contrast between mentalism and behaviorism in thephilosophy of language is essentially a contrast between rationalism and empiricism.“Mentalistic linguistics is simply theoretical linguistics that uses performance as data (along with 3
  4. 4. other data, for example the data provided by introspection) for the determination of competence,the latter being taken as the primary object of its investigation.”Noam Chomsky supported the mentalistic language acquisition theory, through such conceptslike Nativist Position (Nativism), Innateness Position, Rationalist Position claims that for thebasic structure of language and how it is mastered and how human language develops, it is notthe environment but language structures, processes, and ideas that dwell in mind at birth servefor the acquisition of languages. According to this theory then, the speakers inborn knowledge(Innateness Position) of language, not the consequences of behavior, can be held responsible forthe acquisition of language.It is an obvious fact that Mentalist language learning and teaching theory is a clear-cut challengeto many claims of Behaviorist language use. A specific contribution of Mentalism to languagelearning theory is that it has bestowed a strong emphasis on human language learning behavior.In other words, according to Chomsky, human behavior is considerably more complicated.Behaviorists analyzed the results of animal behavior in labs, drew conclusions deeply dependenton laboratory experiments, whose conclusions cannot lead to explain the intricacies of humanbehavior. It is clear that it is not a reliable attitude to describe and explains the human verbalbehavior through the learning behavior of animals.After 1960s, as a vivid contribution of Mentalist learning theory, the child, not the animals, itbegan to play by and by a major role in the analysis of the learning process "This revolution wasstrongly influences by the rapid rise of a new development In linguistics, which can also betraced back to Chomsky: Transformational-Generative Grammar (was a source of inspiration forall sorts of experiments in language learning research" (Thco Van Els, et al, 1984: 28). Because 4
  5. 5. TG assumed that language learning ability is inborn and it is the LAD that allows the Kids tomake hypotheses about the nature and the composition of the language.Language learning is conditioned by the way in which the mind observes, organizes and storesinformation. In other words, the key to successful language learning and teaching lie not in theanalysis of the nature of language but in understanding the structure and processes of the mind.So it can be said that mentalistic theory could be of great help in ESP classes to make thestudents learn targeted language. Affective concerns are extremely broad and have yet to be verywell classified, that is, very clearly classified. This fact, however, does not stop us from noticingthe tremendous importance affective factors have across the board in all types of learning andespecially in foreign language learning. Effective factors touch on every single aspect of thelearning process. The main idea being that learning will only occur in so-called optimalconditions. In reality, the fact remains that people will only learn when they want to learn: whenthey feel like it. As teachers, we need to try to find ways and means as well as topics and practicetypes which will make our students want to learn. 1As a teacher of ESP class our role should be, beautifully summarized in the Chinese proverbGive a man a fish and you feed him for a dayTeach a man how to fish and you feed him for life timeESP teacher not only make his learner well equipped, with the target language but also make himefficient to use it properly in common day life.1 Stephen van VlackSookmyung Women’s UniversityGraduate School of TESOLEnglish for Specific Purposes (ESP)Spring 2006 5
  6. 6. Work cited 6