Noam Chomsky: Languages are innate Children are biologically programmed for language → They do not have to be taught
Difference to behaviorist perspective Children know more about structure of language than they could be expected to learn Their minds are not blank slates to be filled BUT: innate ability to discover underlying rules of language system
Universal Grammar ( UG) Human brain contains a limited set of rules for organizing language Assumption that all languages have a common structural basis No wrong hypothesis of how a language system might work Only have to learn how language makes use of the UG
Example John saw himself. *Himself saw John. Looking after himself bores John. Could not be learned simply by imitating and practicing sentences There must be an innate mechanism!
The critical period hypothesis Particular time (critical period) to learn certain knowledge or skills Genetically programmed Prove in history: Victor Genie
CPH: Victor 1799: 12 year old boy found in the woods of France → feral child Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (doctor) worked with him for 5 years Progress in most areas but not in language
CPH: Genie 13 year old girl from California Isolated, neglected and abused by her parents Was tied to a chair for 11 years and deprived from language 1977: started to be educated and cared for Social, cognitive progress but not in language
The critical period hypothesis Still not enough prove for CPH Research with deaf children who are born to hearing parents → late access to language 5 – 10% of deaf children are born to deaf parents 1990: Elissa Newport’s research with deaf children
CPH: Elissa Newport’s research ASL (sign language) makes use of grammatical markers Comparison of three groups Native signers (children who learned ASL from birth) Early learners (learned ASL between 4 and 6 years of age) Late learners (learned ASL after the age of 12)
CPH: Newport’s results No difference in some aspects of their use of ASL BUT Native signers were more consistent with grammatical markers than early learners Early learners were more consistent with grammatical markers than late learners Prove for CPH whether language is oral or gestural
Interactionist/ developmental perspectives Overview learning from inside and out → innate learning ability and interaction with environment: powerful learning mechanism in the brain learning from experience connection between cognitive development and language acquisition
Jean Piaget development of children’s cognitive understanding: object permanence stability of quantities logical inferencing language = symbol system developing in childhood and expressing children’s knowledge
Lev Vygotsky language develops mainly from social interaction “zone of proximal development” → high level of knowledge and performance language = thought → internalized speech; speech → results from social interaction
The importance of interaction direct access to language repetitions and paraphrases of adults feeling of being understood through adults’ response
Connectionism language learning = learning in general language acquisition = association of words and phrases with objects and situations
Question What do you think about these different theories? Do they all work together or is there only one that is right?