Behavioristic theory by Skinner.
The process of learning language has always been a complex phenomenon amongthe
critics. It is an acknowledged fact that the lap of mother is the first educational cente4r for
the child and the foundation of every human activity is laid when a child uses the lap of the
mother, the only shelter of man. In this way this has always been a debatable question how
for the lap of mother, the surroundings and the entire atmosphere in which a child lives,
proves helpful in learning language one. In this respect, two theories have been put
forward, the innate theory presented by chomeskyand the behaviouristic theory presented
According to skinner child acquires his first speech throu a process which is called the
operant process. Operant process means that language is an activity that a child acquires
voluntarily without any external force. In this way child acquires his language one in his
own free will without any sort of pressure. According to skinner the whole process is based
upon four elements.
skinner has elaborated all these th ings after making experiments on animals.He illustrates
the whole process as a rat is put in a box containing a bar and this rat is rewarded food only
if it presses accidentally and as a result of that initially process it will be rewarded with the
food, but eventually it will get the perception that it cannot get food until it presses the bar.
Later the process is made a bit difficult and now it gets the food if it presses the barat
certain number of time. Initially it will feel confusion but eventually it will learn the trick.
After this experiment, skinner expresses the very notion that every stimulus which is
followed by a response plays a vital role in learning the first language. Initially this
response is given only in case of sort of punishment or reward but eventually the child
becomes volunteer in this.
Skinner also maintains that learning language one depends the imitation and the child
imitates his nears and dears around him. First of all any thing plays a role that stimulates
the child to speak. For example, when a child listens a word toffee, he tries to store this
word in this mind and when he tastes a toffee and enjoys it, he tries to associate this word
with actual theme (Toffee).
When the child gives response to such a way by uttering the word toffee it proves no less
that farrie song for his parents. So they reinforce him to utter this word again and again and
the child makes repetition. This is the whole process that has been referred and presented
by the behaviourists. Child enjoys a flexible mind, he is easily attracted by the atmosphere
which he lives. That is why , skinner seems to be firm in his notion that language learning
is mot different from learning any thing else and anything which is stuffed in the mind of
the child becomes the part and parcel of his life. That is why, skinner denies that language
is a preprogrammed activity. It is just the gift of society and operant condiioning of his
around. If we take up the example of fictional character Tarjen, skinner seems to be true in
his notion because Tarjen was brought among the animals and according to the story tellers
he spoke the language of animals. So he could not help being affected by the company in
which eh lived.
Skinner is not without his critics. It was chomskey who made a bitter attach on the theory
presented by skinner. He considered it to be an inappropriate theory that is why, he brought
his own theory named Nativistic theory or mentalistic Theory or Innate Theory.
So to sum up the discussion we may say that although skinner’s theory was challenged by
chomesky yet the paved the way for the other language scholars to test their abilities and
solve the mystery of child’s first language acquisition.