Innateness In Language Development

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Existence of innateness in language development Language acquisition is a continuous learning process and begins from the time we are born till we die. Human language is very unique and has been evolved and developed over time. But, has this language been born to be ‘natured’ or ‘nurtured’? Whether a language is an innate property or not is an ongoing discussion among rationalists and empiricists. The rationalists view was first formed as early as in 300BC by Plato, that is, basic principles of the language are innate. This theory has been supported and developed by a modern American linguist, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky states that “The basic structures for our behavior (language) are innate. The specific details of how they grow would depend on…show more content…
They analyzed the ‘word order universals’ and observed that syntax of sentences in a language is governed by its cultural evolution and ancestry. There is no presence of innate universal grammar rules as each language has changed and developed over time. There were only a few structures that remained the same for years, but they are exceptions and do not come together to form universals. The structures are evolved through exposure to different environments and adaptation to new circumstances. Hence, the rationalist theory of UG does not account for all languages across the globe. David Harrison, a linguist from Swarthmore College said, “We only have a detailed scientific descriptions of something like 10% to 15% of the world's languages, and for 85% we have no real documentation at all” (Johnson 2010). The basic principles in grammar vary for several languages and the parameters cannot account for these principles. There are languages such as Arabic and Tamil which do not have subject present and sometimes only verbs in the sentence and this is the basic construction of the language. Indeed, languages like these tell us that they have their own cultural evolution and ancestry. Language evolution is unavoidable and the grammar is altered and this alteration cannot account for the LAD which is deemed to be the same in all…show more content…
They were clearly able to understand and remember words but were never able to construct grammatically correct sentences. The most famous case is ‘Genie’, a young 13 year old girl who was isolated in a room and was deprived of any social interaction. When she was found, she was trained by linguists to learn English language. She managed to learn a lot of new words and improved her vocabulary but learned only a few functional words without understanding its usage. The morphological acquisition was impaired and Genie was not able to use the right verbs to form accurate syntactic structures (Fromkin et al. 81-107). Though there was social interaction, yet it was not in the form of the four developmental stages of Piaget. Genie’s case also suggests that since she had crossed the critical period, the brain had aged and no longer allowed access to LAD. This critical period is defined as a particular time frame where language can be acquired sooner than other time frames (Smith 120-121). Thus, Genie could not access her UG in LAD and there was a syntactic impairment. However, these suggestions should be made with caution. Each feral child is different and doing a study on an individual child is not enough for empirical evidence and the results cannot be

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