Acquisition of Language: the Debate Between Jean …
Chomsky thus continues to believe that language is “pre-organized” in some way or other within the neuronal structure of the human brain, and that the environment only shapes the contours of this network into a particular language. His approach thus remains radically opposed to that of Skinner or Piaget, for whom language is constructed solely through simple interaction with the environment. This latter, behaviourist model, in which the acquisition of language is nothing but a by-product of general cognitive development based on sensorimotor interaction with the world, would appear to have been abandoned as the result of Chomsky’s theories.
the Debate Between Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky
I have tried to suggest that the study of language may very well, as was traditionally supposed, provide a remarkably favourable perspective for the study of human mental processes. The creative aspect of language use, when investigated with care and respect for the facts, shows that current notions of habit and generalisation, as determinants of behaviour or knowledge, are quite inadequate. The abstractness of linguistic structure reinforces this conclusion, and it suggests further that in both perception and learning the mind plays an active role in determining the character of the acquired knowledge. The empirical study of linguistic universals has led to the formulation of highly restrictive and, I believe, quite plausible hypotheses concerning the possible variety of human languages, hypotheses that contribute to the attempt to develop a theory of acquisition of knowledge that gives due place to intrinsic mental activity. It seems to me, then, that the study of language should occupy a central place in general psychology.
In Chomsky’s view, the reason that children so easily master the complex operations of language is that they have innate knowledge of certain principles that guide them in developing the grammar of their language. In other words, Chomsky’s theory is that language learning is facilitated by a predisposition that our brains have for certain structures of language.
Famed scholar Noam Chomsky is known for both ..
There have been some attempts to study the structure of other, language-like systems – the study of kinship systems and folk taxonomies comes to mind, for example. But so far, at least, nothing has been discovered that is even roughly comparable to language in these domains. No one, to my knowledge, has devoted more thought to this problem than Lévi-Strauss. For example, his recent book on the categories of primitive mentality is a serious and thoughtful attempt to come to grips with this problem. Nevertheless, I do not see what conclusions can be reached from a study of his materials beyond the fact that the savage mind attempts to impose some organisation on the physical world – that humans classify, if they perform any mental acts at all. Specifically, Lévi-Strauss’s well-known critique of totemism seems to reduce to little more than this conclusion.
Language Acquisition Noam Chomsky ..
Before turning to the general implications of the study of linguistic competence and, more specifically, to the conclusions of universal grammar, it is well to make sure of the status of these conclusions in the light of current knowledge of the possible diversity of language. In my first lecture, I quoted the remarks of William Dwight Whitney about what he referred to as “the infinite diversity of human speech,” the boundless variety that, he maintained, undermines the claims of philosophical grammar to psychological relevance.
Compare and contrast two theories of language development ..
In each such grammar there are particular, idiosyncratic elements, selection of which determines one specific human language; and there are general universal elements, conditions on the form and organisation of any human language, that form the subject matter for the study of “universal grammar.” Among the principles of universal grammar are those I discussed in the preceding lecture – for example, the principles that distinguish deep and surface structure and that constrain the class of transformational operations that relate them. Notice, incidentally, that the existence of definite principles of universal grammar makes possible the rise of the new field of mathematical linguistics, a field that submits to abstract study the class of generative systems meeting the conditions set forth in universal grammar. This inquiry aims to elaborate the formal properties of any possible human language. The field is in its infancy; it is only in the last decade that the possibility of such an enterprise has been envisioned. It has some promising initial results, and it suggests one possible direction for future research that might prove to be of great importance. Thus, mathematical linguistics seems for the moment to be in a uniquely favourable position, among mathematical approaches in the social and psychological sciences, to develop not simply as a theory of data, but as the study of highly abstract principles and structures that determine the character of human mental processes. In this case, the mental processes in question are those involved in the organisation of one specific domain of human knowledge, namely knowledge of language.