Psycholinguistics & Neurolinguistics

MAIN THEORIES IN THE ACQUISITION OF THE LANGUAGE

MAIN THEORIES IN THE ACQUISITION OF THE LANGUAGE

MAIN THEORIES IN THE ACQUISITION OF THE LANGUAGE

Language acquisition has always been on the ambitious intellectual horizon of Universal Grammar theorists. You can almost say that they have traditionally been considered by them as the Gordian knot of the intricate mastery of language, the key piece that would allow formulating a general theory of language and, therefore, of the mind (Baker and McCarthy, 1981; Hornstein and Lightfoot, 1981). For this, the study of language acquisition would require relying on linguistic theory and applying rigorous empirical validation procedures

There are numerous approaches and studies on language acquisition. Some theories try to explain the acquisition of the mother tongue (L1) and others focus their study on the acquisition of a second language (L2). In general, these theories try to respond to how a person acquires his knowledge of language and the conditions that facilitate a successful mastery of it.

Language acquisition process

In the process of language acquisition, this theory establishes two types of speech:

  • Self-centered speech: which corresponds to the type of speech that the child uses to express his thoughts at this stage, rather than to communicate socially. This language is reduced until it disappears after approximately seven years. (For example, when our son is playing with the fittings and says out loud “the circle goes here.” He is not telling us, but his thoughts are expressing them aloud.)
  • Social speech: it is the one that develops after the egocentric (in the case of the fittings, when he wants to communicate to us, that we are seeing him, where he has to place the figurine).

The progressive construction of different “schemes” on reality is a sign that the child’s intelligence is developing. Since the children are born, they build and accumulate these “schemes” that arise from the exploration of the environment in which they live, adapting them when facing experiences hitherto unknown to them.

Another idea of ​​Cognitive Theory is that learning begins with the first sensorimotor experiences , formed with cognitive development and language, where learning continues through knowledge as it interacts with the surrounding environment.

Thus, to reach the maximum mental development, our child should go through his birth from different and progressive stages of cognitive development, which he cannot skip, nor can we force him to achieve them more quickly.

Advantages and disadvantages

Cognitive Theory has its advantages and disadvantages, like the rest of theories. In this particular, the disadvantages are conditioned with the advantages, which are, among others:

  • The accuracy with which Piaget’s observations have been carried out.
  • By studying with his own children, Piaget was able to discover phenomena that could have gone unnoticed if someone not known to the children had done them.
  • Another advantage of having carried out his investigations with his children is that he was able to decide whether the failure of the tasks presented was due to lack of interest, fatigue or real disability.
  • The studies were carried out over a long period of time, something that is very rare to do when conducting an investigation.

On the other hand, some of the disadvantages of this theory are:

  • By basing its conclusions on only three children, it is very difficult to generalize to all children the results obtained.
  • Piaget and his wife were researchers but, above all, they were parents. And we must not forget that, on certain occasions, parents are not entirely objective in the performance of their own children.

MAIN THEORIES ABOUT THE ACQUISITION OF THE LANGUAGE

Behavioral Learning Theory

Behavioral learning theory represented the first attempt to provide an explanation for language development by exposing language learning processes in children. Skinner (1957) was the main exrapporteur for the idea that once behavior (language for him is) once reinforced, it will continue especially after a reinforcement or reward. According to this theory, in the early stages, children would reproduce all the sounds of all languages ​​and parents would selectively reinforce, through attention or approval, those that corresponded to the native language. The reinforcement can be verbal or physical. This selective reinforcement would result in the production of words. Once the child was able to speak, it could produce an emission. For example, the child could say bread and be reinforced by receiving what he asks.

In this regard, detractors of this theory point out that it is difficult to understand how the child can learn to speak and produce sentences only as a result of reinforcement. Going back to the previous example of bread. If its use depends on the reinforcement, what drives the first emission? Is it an internal impulse because the child is hungry? Or do you see a loaf of bread, crumbs or a sandwich and then emit bread ?Therefore, reinforcement is not likely to be the only means available for language development. On the other hand, the crucial role that parents play with the variety of reinforcers they can offer and with their consistency or inconsistency seems disproportionate. One of the main defects of this theory is that it presents the child as a passive receiver of environmental stimulation and reinforcement and the possibility that the child could actively construct his language outside imitation is not considered; aspect, on the other hand, key to this behavioral current.

Although there are clear obstacles in the explanatory adequacy of learning theory applied to language development, it is important to recognize the role of the environment in it. Some of the processes, such as imitation, may play a role in its development, but in no way constitute the entire process. Language learning is much more complex and complicated and requires the child to play an active role in it.

Innate theory

The greatest exponent of the innatist theory of language acquisition is Chomsky. He was the first linguist who tried to explain the universal structural properties of language, leading him to examine its acquisition processes. According to his theories, there are universal rules that could differentiate between grammatical and non-grammatical sentences in any language. He proposed two levels of rules: one that would contain those of more general applicability and, another, that would contain specific manifestations of the general rules. These two levels would correspond to what he called deep structure and superficial structure of language. The constituents of the deep structure would be the universal language, which would enable the generation of grammatical surface structures in any language.generation by Chomsky. Since the rules of generative grammar would be universal, it would be logical to assume that, since everyone learns language, it should be an innate ability, that is, something that everyone is born with. Chomsky postulated the existence of a mechanism called LAD ( Language Acquisition Device ) that would be prepared to produce a grammar of language capable of generating understandable sentences. It is also necessary to consider Chomsky’s distinction between competence and linguistic performance. The competence is equated with knowledge of the rules of grammar, while acting It would be the really broadcast production. Competition derives from acting, although for Chomsky, the acquisition of competition, of knowledge about grammar rules of language, was more important.

Vygotsky’s theory

Vygotsky’s theory not only encompasses the development of language but also that of other higher mental processes including all forms of intelligence and memory. His theoretical work has influenced studies on children’s cognitive development, especially on memory processes, problem solving and the relationship between language and thinking (Wertsch, 1985). The development .The child’s pot in spoken, written and numerical systems is equated with cultural changes in the use and mastery of those sign systems. Vygotsky’s theory rests on the fundamental premise that development takes place on a social level, within the cultural context. The child would internalize the mental processes that would initially become evident in social activities, moving from the social to the individual level. The same principle can be applied to school learning. Vygotsky’s position is that individual functioning is determined exclusively by social functioning and that the structure of an individual’s mental processes reflects the social environment from which they are derived. Despite stating that language and thought have separate roots and that they develop independently for a while, Vygotsky maintained that the child’s intellectual development is contingent upon his mastery of the social means of thought, that is, of language. Social interaction, derived from culture at any given time or from the historical perspective, in some sense creates language.

 Bruner’s theory

Jerome Bruner dismissed both imitation and innateness and focused his studies of the origin of language on social interaction. To do this, he introduced the concept of LASS ( Language Acquisition Support System or language support system) and maintained that the child would learn to speak through interaction with the mother. He proposed a predisposition for the LASS to act (similar to Chomsky’s LAD) that requires an interactive framework to function. Bruner, like Vygotsky, considered that adequate social interaction frameworks should be given for learning to take place and called this scaffolding je (Bruner, 1977).

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