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Language Acquisition - Essay Example

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Language acquisition has been defined as the process through which learners, and more so infants, acquire the ability to speak in a new language. The seemingly effortless ability of children to acquire the ability to speak a language without formally attending any language classes has always been a matter of intrigue, thereby making language acquisition one of the most researched and most controversial topics of cognitive science (Pinker, language acquisition)…
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Language Acquisition
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Download file to see previous pages Several theories have been put forward that try and explain this process (Pinker, language acquisition).
Some theorists believe that the acquisition of language is a natural and intrinsic part of the child growth process and down play the importance of parental feedback while others believe that it is the result of their surrounding environment and how they interact with others, thereby according significance to adult- child interaction. This paper seeks to analyze the different theories that have been put forward to explain language acquisition evaluating how they all explore the importance of parental feedback in the development of linguistic skills.
Nativist theorists believe that a child is born with an intrinsic ability to learn a language which makes it relatively easy for them to learn a new language as opposed to adults who wish to learn a second language. In this sense, language is viewed as part of the human genetic make up; a natural trait similar to birds learning how to fly and fish learning how to swim (Macwinney, 1998).
As Macwinney (1998) points out, several researchers believe that since the acquisition of language seems to be unique only to humans and it must be...
Theories have been put forward to support this infant innate grammar module. Children seem to exhibit an uncanny ability to respect syntax in their early speech. This lends credence to the belief that the ability to learn language is genetically wired in the brain. However, the nativist theories have been criticized for failing to properly and accurately account for their claims on acquisition of the language, causing researchers to look for other explanations to the inherent human capacity to learn language (Macwinney, 1998).

Parental feedback in the Nativism theory
Parental feedback is not perceived to be of any significance to a child's acquisition of language. Nativism theorists point out that children do most of the language acquisition by themselves, as illustrated when a family migrates to a foreign country. The parents seem to struggle with the new language and may not master it completely but children will always adapt faster and speak the language more richly and fluently than their parents. This by itself negates any role of parental feedback in the acquisition of language as the children are able to adapt better than the parents.
Emergentism
This is a branch of nativist theory approach but differs from nativism in that it views the acquisition of language as an outcome not just of the intrinsic biology of human cognition, but also as a result of social patterns of interaction and input. Emergentism views children as learning language through means of a self organizing map with auditory, concept and articulatory as the pillars. A child learns language almost independently by associating different elements to these pillars (Macwinney, 1998).
Macwinney (1998) points out that there are neural networks in the brain that will influence the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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