Applied Linguistics

Innateness theory of language/Critical period hypothesis

Innateness hypothesis

Linguistic nativism is a theory that people are born with the knowledge of a language: they acquire language not only through learning. Human language is complex and considered one of the most difficult areas of human cognition. However, despite the complexity of the language, children can accurately learn the language in a short period of time. Moreover, research has shown that language acquisition by children (including the blind and deaf) occurs at ordered developmental stages. This highlights the possibility that humans have an innate ability to acquire language. According to Noam Chomsky, “the speed and accuracy of vocabulary acquisition do not leave any real alternative to the conclusion that the child somehow possesses the concepts available before the language experience, and basically memorizes the labels for the concepts that are already part of him or her. conceptual apparatus “. Stephen Pinker confirms Chomsky’s opinion that a person’s ability to language is innate. Moreover, in his work “Language Instinct” Pinker argued that language in humans is a biological adaptation – language is rigidly built into the human mind as a result of evolution. Moreover, unlike children who learn a language easily, adult learners who have passed the critical age for language acquisition find that the complexity of a language often makes it difficult to acquire a second language. More often than not, unlike children, adults are unable to acquire skills similar to those of their families. Hence, with this idea in mind, nativists argue that the foundations of language and grammar are innate and not acquired through learning. The innate hypothesis supports linguistic nativism, and several reasons and concepts have been proposed to support and explain this hypothesis. In his work, Chomsky presented the idea of ​​a device for language acquisition (LAD) to take into account the competence of people in language acquisition. The Universal Grammar (UG) – also often credited by Chomsky – was introduced later. We are describing here the Innateness theory of language.

Language acquisition device

According to Chomsky, humans are born with a set of language learning tools called LAD (language learning device). LAD is an abstract part of the human mind, which contains the ability of people to acquire and reproduce language. Chomsky suggested that children can develop language rules through hypothesis testing because they are equipped with LAD. LAD then translates these rules into basic grammar. Hence, according to Chomsky, LAD explains why children seem to have an innate ability to acquire a language, and explains why a child does not need explicit instruction to learn a language.

 Universal grammar

In his argument for the existence of LAD, Chomsky suggested that sufficient innate linguistic knowledge is required for a child to master a language. These restrictions were later called universal grammar (UG). This theory assumes that all humans have a set of limited grammar rules that are common to all-natural human languages. These rules are genetically embedded in the human brain and can be changed according to the language children are exposed to. In other words, this theory views language acquisition as a process of filtering through a set of possible grammatical structures in natural languages ​​pre-programmed in the mind, and this is determined by linguistic input in the environment. Chomsky later introduced generative grammar … He argued that “the properties of generative grammar arise from an ‘innate’ universal grammar.” This theory of generative grammar describes a set of rules that are used to properly order words in order to form grammatically correct sentences. He also tries to describe the innate grammatical knowledge of the speaker.

Poverty of incentives

One of the most important arguments given by generative grammars in favor of linguistic nativism is the paucity of the incentive argument. Since 1980, incentive poverty has been increasingly integrated into generative grammar theory. In this argument, Noam Chomsky argued that the amount of input a child receives during language acquisition is insufficient to account for linguistic inference. More precisely, he said that “a native speaker learned the grammar from very limited and degenerate evidence.” Likewise, Pinker concludes that humans have a system that is more complex than the one they undergo. Pullum and Scholz summarized the properties of the child’s environment. They determined the properties of positivity, degeneration, incompleteness, and idiosyncrasy. Positively, they argue that only positive linguistic data are available to children. Moreover, there is a lack of negative data that helps a child to identify illiterate sentences that are unacceptable in the language. It is also argued that children cannot learn a language based on positive data alone. In addition, it is argued that in conditions of degeneration, children are often faced with erroneous linguistic data. This is confirmed by Zohari, who argues that erroneous statements are often observed in the speech of adults, which include speech typos, inaccurate sentences, incomplete sentences, etc. In addition, the linguistic data to which each child is exposed is different (i.e. E. Idiosyncrasy), and there are many sayings that the child may not have heard (i.e., incompleteness). However, despite the properties mentioned above, children will eventually be able to provide a linguistic result similar to the target language in a relatively short period of time. In contrast, when placed in a specific environment, other organisms cannot achieve the level of language proficiency that humans have achieved. From a nativist point of view, all of this emphasizes that infants are strongly associated with UG, and thus support the congenital hypothesis. when placed in a particular environment, other organisms cannot achieve the level of language proficiency that humans have. From a nativist point of view, all of this emphasizes that infants are strongly associated with UG, and thus support the congenital hypothesis. when placed in a particular environment, other organisms cannot achieve the level of language proficiency that humans have. From a nativist point of view, all of this emphasizes that infants are strongly associated with UG, and thus support the congenital hypothesis. However, it is important to note that the argument that incentive poverty supports the innate hypothesis remains highly controversial. Choms ky’s theory of Innateness

For example, in a recent speech against the incentive poverty argument, Fiona Cowie wrote that the incentive poverty argument fails “on both empirical and conceptual grounds in support of nativism.

Critical period hypothesis

Linguist Eric Lenneberg ‘s critical period hypothesis states that the full competence of a native speaker in language acquisition can only be achieved during an optimal period. This hypothesis supports the congenital hypothesis of the biological congeniality of language competence. Lenneberg said that age plays an important role in language acquisition ability. According to him, a child before the age of two will not be sufficiently proficient in the language, and the development of full native language competence should occur before puberty. This suggests that language is innate and arises in the process of development, and not through feedback from the environment. As a result, if the child does not hear any language during this period, he will be unable to learn or speak. This hypothesis also explains why adults do not learn languages ​​as well as children. Genie’s Feral Child Case confirms the critical period hypothesis. When she was discovered, she did not know the language. The subsequent learning process of Gini’s language was examined, with the result that her linguistic abilities, cognitive and emotional development were considered abnormal. The genie is said to have right-brain language, as in other cases when the language was acquired outside the “critical period.” This will confirm Lenneberg’s hypothesis. Moreover, some saw Gini’s case as supporting the congenital hypothesis. When LAD is not fired at a critical time, the natural process of language acquisition cannot be achieved. However, Gini’s case is complex and controversial. It has been argued that he does not support linguistic innateness. Some have argued that there is at least the possibility of mastering the first language after the critical period. The development of Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) by students in schools for the deaf also supports the critical period hypothesis. Originally a pidgin sign language with simple grammar, it had large grammatical differences and variations between signers. Eventually, pidgin became a full-fledged language (e.g. Creole ), as young signers have developed a much more grammatically structured and regular system, such as certain grammatical structures. There are often differences in the ability of younger and older learners to use said sign language to offer evidence for a critical period. The spontaneity of NSL development also implies an innate element in the language learning process. However, the critical period hypothesis regarding language acquisition is also widely discussed. Other studies have also shown that any age-related effects are highly dependent on learning opportunities, learning situations, and how significant the initial exposure is.

Linguistic empiricism

Empiricism is a theory that all knowledge is based on experience from the senses. Empiricists study only observable behavior instead of unobservable mental representations, states, and processes. They argue that meaning and experience are the ultimate sources of all concepts and knowledge. On the other hand, linguistic empiricism is a perspective in which a language is fully learned. These data-driven theorists also confirm that babies do not have specific linguistic knowledge at birth. Language and grammar are learned only through acquaintance and experience. This is also called the ‘nurturing’ perspective as opposed to the ‘nature’ perspective (linguistic nativism). Chomsky’s hypothesis contradicts John Locke’s belief that our knowledge, including language, cannot be innate, but instead based on experience. Jeffrey Sampson also demonstrated the same position, stating that “our languages ​​are not innate, but are learned entirely with experience.” Empiricists have criticized concepts such as generative grammar that support linguistic nativism. In fact, some argue that “language structure” is created through the use of language. Moreover, they argue that theories like LAD are not supported by empirical evidence.

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