Comparison of language acquisition of Chomsky and Skinner - Essay Example

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Language acquisition is one of the moot points of psychology. Different theories of how this process happens have been offered. In the last half of the 20th century, polemics on the language origins was roused by a publicized exchange between a steadfast nativist and a steadfast learning theorist…
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Comparison of language acquisition of Chomsky and Skinner
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Comparison of language acquisition of Chomsky and Skinner Language acquisition is one of the moot points of psychology. Different theories of how this process happens have been offered. In the last half of the 20th century, polemics on the language origins was roused by a publicized exchange between a steadfast nativist and a steadfast learning theorist. In 1957, the behavioral psychologist B F. Skinner proposed a learning view in his book Verbal Behavior, maintaining that language, like all animal behavior, was an "operant" that developed in children as an external reinforcement and shaping function. By Skinner's account, infants learn language through the observation and management of reward contingencies. N. Chomsky, in a review of Verbal Behavior, took a very different theoretical side. He argued that traditional reinforcement learning has little to do with our abilities to acquire language. Chomsky disposed a "language faculty" that involved innately specified constraints on the probable forms human language could take. He disputed that infants' innate compulsion for language involved specification of universal grammar and phonetics. Language was one of the primary examples of a domain-specific, informationally encapsulated and inborn module.
The two visions took absolutely different positions on all critical components of a theory of language acquisition: a) the initial state of knowledge, b) the mechanisms responsible for developmental change, and c) the role of ambient language input. According to Skinner, no inborn information was required and developmental change was achieved through reward contingencies, and language input did not result in language forthcoming. According to Chomsky, infants' innate knowledge of language was a central principle, development constituted growth of the language module, and language input initiated a particular pattern from among those inherently provided.
A good deal has been learned since the dispute arose, induced largely by experiments conducted on infants. Babies' perception of the speech phonetic units, which requires tracking the formant frequencies, and their detection of words from cues in running speech assist a different view. The emerging vision argues that the kind of learning of the early language acquisition cannot be accounted for by Skinnerian reinforcement. Another idea that language acquisition involves a selectionist process wherein language input operates on innately specified choices also is not supported. The arising view suggests that infants engage in a new kind of learning when language input is mapped minutely by the infant brain. Researches showed that children produce more utterances and word roots and express themselves in longer mean length of utterance in interaction with parents. A child who produced first words sooner in development, coupled with a verbally responsive mother and father, was at a strong advantage for precocious achievement of key language milestones in comparison with single parent families, or poor families where problem of child's language acquisition is moved aside by "more important" financial problems.
The framework of many researches lead to the conclusion that infants are neither something unimpaired that Skinner described nor the inborn grammarians that Chomsky envisioned. Infants have inherent perceptual bigotries that segment phonetic units without providing their inborn descriptions. They use inherent learning strategies that were unexpected, ones thought to be too complex and difficult for infants' use. Parents addressing infants unconsciously modify speech in ways that assist the brain sketching of language. Combined, these factors provide a strong discovery procedure for language. Some main principles of a vision of language acquisition can be in short suggested in the following way. Infants initially parse the basic speech units that allow them to obtain higher-order wholes formed by their combination. The developmental process is not selective in which inborn specified options are chosen on the experience fundament. A perceptual learning process, unrelated to Skinnerian learning, begins with exposure to language, during which infant detects patterns, uses statistical properties, and are perceptually changed. The critical period for language is impacted by time and by the neural commitment that results from experience. These principles suggest that inborn features of language are not a universal grammar and phonetics, but inherent strategies and biases that place constraints on learning and perception. They allow us to reclaim from language input the rules of communication of people in their community.
1. Chomsky, Noam. (1991) Review of Verbal Behavior by B. F. Skinner. Irvington Publishers.
2. Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal Behavior. Prentice-Hall. Read More
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