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Language is the foremost way of human communication, although there are different methods to communicate with another human being without using language, through signs and gesture. Language is a complex structure of various symbols and sounds, which are structured in certain ways to make sense. The babies learn to imitate sounds and in the later stages, they learn to talk by using grammar in their sentences without any proper training. The process of how the infants begin to acquire the vocabulary and form a proper sentence is a unique journey. In this essay, three theories will be discussed regarding the acquisition and development of language in children.
One of the most popular theories of acquisition of language is the Nativist theory, which was provided by Noam Chomsky, who was a renowned linguist of the twentieth century. He suggested that the human beings are born with an innate ability of learning languages (Arends, 2014). Every infant develop the skills of communication by listening to others, it is almost a miracle how they learn the vocabularies and grammatical rules just by listening to the sounds. The children listen to the words spoken by the grown-ups and try to imitate the same and in this way, they learn the words, but Chomsky proclaimed that even though the children can learn the words by listening, the ability to arrange the words to form a coherent sentence is present in them from birth. Although there is no such specified part in our brain, which is responsible for language development, but it has been seen that if the left hemisphere of the human brain is damaged due to some accident or at birth, the person develops problems of speech and faces difficulties to form coherent sentences (Saxton, 2017). This encouraged Chomsky to suggest that, there is a hypothetical area in the human brain, which helps the children to adopt and learn languages on their own; he named the hypothetical area, LAD or Language Acquisition Device. This theory also claims that there is a Universal Grammar structure intertwined with the human genetic framework and that helps a child to form a grammatically correct sentence without formal instructions. For example, a child learns to say, “I want to play” instead of “play I want to” on their own from a very young age. In the Nativist theory, this is where the LAD and Universal Grammar come into play and when a child learns to say a grammatically coherent sentence, it marks a developmental milestone behavior in the child.
According to the Learning theory provided by the famous behaviorist B.F Skinner, language development in children is promoted by the various influences of the environment, it is the combination on behavioral psychology and language learning techniques (Gass, 2017). He suggested that the children learn languages by associating the words with the responses provided with them and thus understanding the meaning. The Learning theory suggests that the children develop language acquisition in the same way as they learn to ride bikes or learn counting, by practice and recurrence. In the beginning when the infants learn to make cooing noises or utter a sound, they are appreciated and loved by their parents and relatives and thus they understand the response they get (Chun & Frodesen, 2014). While growing up, the children are praised for their good actions and are scolded for bad behavior, in this way they learn and adopt the proper way of speaking and behaving, in this way they learn by understanding the responses to the various stimuli, this is also known as operant conditioning. The child goes through a method of trial and error and develops correct responses to particular behaviors and words.
The Learning theory although establishes that the children learn and develop language skills by imitation and responses the receive from the stimuli, but it fails to explain how the children learn to arrange the words grammatically to form correct sentences and how they understand the new words and apply them accordingly. For example if a child utters a new word for the first time, the mother will show appreciation by smiling and the child will understand that repeating the same action can bring appreciation and thus the child will continue to do it (VanPatten & Williams, 2014). Similarly, if the child misbehaves the parent will shows signs of disapproval, which will discourage the child from behaving in the same manner for the second time. In this way the children develops milestone behaviors, gestures and new language as mentioned in the learning theory.
The third theory of language development is the Interactionist theory, in this theory the principles of biology and that of sociology are combined together. According to this theory, the children learn new words and develop language acquisition to communicate with the world around them (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 2014). The children develop language skills as they wish to establish connection with another person or want to communicate their thoughts or feelings to the outside world(Owens, 2016). The language learnt by the child depends on the people with whom the child wants to connect. For example if the child communicates with the mother more than the father then, he/she is more likely to learn the word “mum” before “dad”. According to Lev Vygotsky, social interaction plays an important role in the development of a child, unlike the behaviorist approach, which suggests that the children learns a new language as a result of response to the stimuli (Saville-Troike & Barto, 2016). Interactionist theory emphasizes on the society in which the child grows up, thus in this theory the social interactions are responsible for the development of communicative skills in a child. For example, if a child grows up in an interactive community then the child is likely to develop a stronger vocabulary than a child who is reared in a closed environment.
To sum it up, the three theories mentioned in the above paragraph provides an insight of how the social, biological and psychological factors influence the development of language in a child. The theories have some individual shortcomings as certain aspects of language acquisition in children have not been explained clearly, but these theories provide a general idea, which are applicable in the current scenarios. The process of language acquisition is a complex one by nature affected by human genetics as well as psychology, and these three theories provide the best knowledge to explain the method of acquisition of language by the children.
Arends, R. (2014). Learning to teach. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Chun, D. M., & Frodesen, J. (2014). Second language acquisition.
Gass, S. M. (2017). Input, interaction, and the second language learner. Routledge.
Larsen-Freeman, D., & Long, M. H. (2014). An introduction to second language acquisition research. Routledge.
Owens Jr, R. E. (2016). Language Development: An Introduction| Edition: 9. Instructor.
Saville-Troike, M., & Barto, K. (2016). Introducing second language acquisition. Cambridge University Press.
Saxton, M. (2017). Child language: Acquisition and development. Sage.
VanPatten, B., & Williams, J. (Eds.). (2014). Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction. Routledge.
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