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Explain The Key Theories In The Field Of Child Language Acquisition

1130 words - 5 pages

To someone unfamiliar with the concept of child language acquisition, it would be easy to assume that the basis of learning speech is merely by the duplication of vocabulary and sentence structure heard around the young child. One of the early language development studies, carried out by Skinner, concluded that the crux of linguistic development was along such lines - in that children learn grammar by memorizing the words and sentences of their language. It is undeniable that a large proportion of language acquisition is attributed to such duplication, but Skinner's imitation theory is flawed for several reasons.It is a well-known fact to every parent that children produce many linguistic ...view middle of the document...

He references the fact that all a normal child needs is exposure to language in a standard environment within a critical age period (a comparison being the innate ability of children to learn to walk at a very specific stage of their development).In an attempt to explain this, Chomsky came up with the theory that every child is born with a Language Acquisition Device, or LAD - a system "wired with language universals ". His theory dictates that the brain is in some way pre-programmed with LAD, which means that all human beings are subconsciously born with such a device to understand the universal principles upon which language operates. This is a much more sound and logical theory than that of Skinner, but still left some areas open to debate.The process of language acquisition is just a little more complicated than for the theory of LAD to cover entirely. For example, there are many factors which are not inherent across a language, influences which are a result of the conditioning inherent in the child's immediate environment such as its parents. Another language theoretician, Jerome Bruner , agreed with Chomsky's theory of LAD but built upon it somewhat with his suggestion of a secondary function, LASS (Language Acquisition Support System). LASS relates to these environmentally conditioning elements present in a child's life, which can shape the spectrum of linguistic structure from lexis, to syntax, to grammar. In a normal parent/child relationship, the mother and father provide "ritualised scenarios", such as the ceremony of having a bath, eating a meal, getting dressed, or playing a game - in which the phases of interaction become rapidly recognised and predicted by the infant. It is within such "clear and emotionally charged" contexts that the child first becomes aware of the way in which language is used - it is the phase in which the parent's linguistic input can have the most impact. Research has shown that children who are brought up in a deprived socioeconomic background are markedly different from their counterparts born into more wealthy surroundings.It has also been confirmed that one important feature of LASS, parental-specific intonation, is absolutely instrumental in the development of a...

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