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Theories of language acquisition
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Chomsky’s and skinner’s theory of language acquisition

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Language acquisition theory according to Noah Chomsky and B.F. Skinner

Chomsky’s and skinner’s theory of language acquisition

  2. 2. Who is Chomsky?  Avram Noam Chomsky  Born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia  Studied at University of Pennsylvannia – BA, MA and PhD  American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political commentator and activist  Sometimes described as the “father of modern linguistics”  Professor Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  Wrote over 100 books  Creator or co-creator of Chomsky hierarchy, the universal grammar theory and the Chomsky-Schutzenberger theorem  Especially critical of the work of B. F. Skinners 
  3. 3. CHOMSKY’S VIEW ON LANGUAGE ACQUISITION  He argues that language acquisition is an innate structure, or function, of the human brain.  Chomsky believes that there are structures of the brain that control the interpretation and production of speech.  Children do not need any kind of formal teaching to learn to speak.  Factors that Chomsky used to support his theory:  There is an optimal learning age. Between the ages 3 to 10 a child is the most likely to learn a language in its entirety and grasp fluency.  The child does not need a trigger to begin language acquisition, it happens on its own. The parent does not need to coax the child to speak, if it around language production, the child will work to produce that language on its own  It does not matter if a child is corrected, they still grasp the language in the same manner and speak the same way. During one stage, a child will make things plural that are already plural.
  4. 4.  Limitation : - The theory is hard to prove because it is not allowed to insolate somebody just to do a research.
  5. 5. Who is Skinner?  Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher.  Born in Pennsylvania  began working on ideas of human behavior after earning his doctorate from Harvard.  Skinner's works include The Behavior of Organisms (1938) and a novel based on his theories Walden Two (1948).  He explored behaviorism in relation to society in later books, including Beyond Freedom and Human Dignity (1971).  Skinner died in Massachusetts in 1990.
  6. 6. SKINNER’S VIEW ON LANGUAGE ACQUISITION  Skinner viewed babies as ‘empty vessels’ which language had to be ‘put in to’  Skinner also viewed language acquisition as a cognitive behaviour  operant conditioning - child goes through trial-and-error in other words they tries and fails to use correct language until it succeeds; with reinforcement and shaping provided by the parents gestures (smiles, attention and approval) which are pleasant to the child.  Skinner in Verbal Behavior (1957) differentiated between two types of verbal responses that a child makes : - Verbal behaviour that is reinforced by the child receiving something it wants. - Verbal behaviour caused by imitating others.
  7. 7.  Limitations : - Children are often unable to repeat what an adult says especially if the adult utterance contains a structure the child has not yet started to use. - Critical period for language acquisition. Children who have not acquired language by the age of about seven will never entirely catch up. - Observational studies of parent-child conversations (Brown and Hanlon, 1970) show that parents rarely reinforce correct grammar in a child’s speech, but instead tend to focus on the truthfulness or accuracy of statements.
  8. 8. SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CHOMSKY’S AND SKINNER’S THEORY  Similarities  Both men have different views and theories on the same study which is how all humans manage to obtain grammar  Differences  Subject of their study is children. Chomsky’s Theory Skinner’s theory Innate biological ability that all humans possess. He believed that every child has a ‘language acquisition device’. Learning process involving the shaping of grammar into a correct form by the re-enforcement of other stimulus. innate learning mechanism enables a child to figure out how the language works (Traxler 2012) Approaches child as a blank slate that is filled up by knowledge gained through experience (Traxler, 2012)
  9. 9. CONCLUSIONS  Environment makes contribution in both theories:  As for Chomsky, he believes that as long there are people available to speak to the child, the child’s biological endowments will do the rest.  But for Skinner, he believes that children will learn by imitation, reinforcement that comes from the environments.
  10. 10. REFERENCES  Taxler, M. J. (2012). Introduction to Psycholinguists: Understanding Language Science. West Sussex: Wiley Publishers.  Crabtree, E. (1999). Noam Chomsky  Sabahat, A. (2012). Crucial differences between a behaviourist and a nativist view of first language acquisition.   Skinner, B.F. (1957). Verbal Behavior. Acton, MA: Copley Publishing Group.   Patsy M. Lightbown; Nina Spada. How Languages Are Learned. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
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Language acquisition theory according to Noah Chomsky and B.F. Skinner


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