Language: Innate Or Learned Essay, Research Paper
Language: Innate or Learned
Language, are we born with it or do we learn it? There s a lot to debate on this subject. There are several points of view from psychologists, medical doctors, linguists and parents. John B. Watson, believed that the environment was responsible for shaping children s development. His views were consistent with those of behaviorism, an approach to psychology that had a great impact on research about children. Although behaviorists emphasize environment, they almost always deny the influence of biological variables on development. Their basic assumptions are that the mind of a newborn child is a blank slate and that all behaviors are determined by environmental events; and differences among children are the result of those environmental variables. Behaviorists encouraged experimental studies and were responsible for moving child psychology into the mainstream of psychology. Although they contributed much to the study of children, their concepts eventually were viewed as being overly narrow. Jean Piaget, had been writing about children s cognitive development since the 1920 s. Piaget called himself a genetic epistemologist; that is, a person who studies the origins of human knowledge and his theories led to more advanced work in child psychology. This work involves both experimental and observational methods and, in accounting for behavior, integrates biological and environmental variables. Piaget believes that language must be innate because deaf children eventually learn language and how to use it in social situations. The ability to communicate and to understand language is a major achievement of human beings. An amazing feature of language development is the speed with which it is acquired: The first word is spoken at about 12 months; by two years of age most children have vocabularies of about 270 words, and this increases to 2600 words at the age of six. It is almost impossible to determine the number of sentence constructions that can be generated within a single language. Children, however, use syntactically correct sentences by the age of three and highly complex constructions by the age of five. This extraordinary phenomenon cannot be explained by means of simple learning theory. The American linguist Noam Chomsky postulated that the human brain is especially constructed to detect and reproduce language; the mental system does not require formal learning and will function perfectly when language is available to the child. Although developmental psycholinguists do not agree with all of Chomsky s concepts, they do accept the idea of special mental language systems. Linguists believe that young children have certain innate characteristics that predispose them to learn language. These characteristics include the structure of the vocal tract, which enables children to make the sounds used in language, and the ability to understand a number of general grammatical principles, such as the hierarchical nature of syntax. These characteristics, however, do not limit a child to learn only one particular language. Children acquire whatever language is spoken around them, even if their parents speak a different language. There have been many recent studies using deaf children to prove that language is innate. One study done with four Chinese and four American deaf children, this to rule out any environmental influences. The study showed that they both developed strikingly similar patterns in the speech created from hand gestures. Another study shows that hearing children break up sentences by listening to the waveform of the sentence. The pauses and patterns of letters helps them to learn the syntax and grammar rules of a language. As a parent I would have to agree with the side that states that language is innate. The reason being that both of my sons and now my daughter all talk (ed) to me or anyone else who would listen. When I say talk, the term used for this type of early language is called babble. They and all children use this starting from about two months until about ten months when they start using one-word sentences. They continue to develop their language from then on, until about age three or four when they are using complete grammatical sentences. If some type of language skill is not innate then how do children start off knowing perfect grammatical sentence structure, especially since most of the human population does not use language in such a way? Language Milestones By 3 months, smiles at sound of caretaker s voice, begins to babble, imitate some sounds, turns head toward direction of sounds. By 7 months: Responds to own name, begins to respond to “NO”, distinguish emotions through tone of voice, responds to sounds by making sounds, uses own voice to express emotions, and babbles chains of consonants. By 1 year: Pays attention to speech and responds with simple requests and to “NO”. Babbles with inflection, says simple words, dada, mama, etc. Uses exclamations “UH-OH” and tries to imitate words heard. By 2 years: Recognizes names of familiar people, objects and body parts. Can point out an object if name is said to child. Follows simple instructions and repeats words heard in conversations. SO BE CAREFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Source: American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Child Psychology,” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. 1993-1998. Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. “Language,” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. 1993-1998. Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Piaget, Jean, and Barbel Inhelder. The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books, Inc. P, 1969. Wheeler, David. “Supports Theory That Language is Innate.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 44.20 (Jan. 1998) : Glendale Community College on-line Catalog “Pro-Quest”. Sena, Kathy. “Special Issue/Baby s First Year; Talk to Me; Research Indicates That Language Development Begins As Early As The First Few Months Of Life And That Speaking Comes As Naturally To Children As Eating And Sleeping. Parental Interaction Plays A Big Role.” Los Angeles Times 4 Oct 1999: Glendale Community College on-line Catalog “Pro-Quest”