The question of the innate nature of language in the field of psychology

June 24, The question of what makes each of us the persons we are has occupied philosophers, writers and daydreamers for millennia but has been open to scientific inquiry over a far shorter time. But differences in brain wiring could be either innate or due to experience or environmental effects. This has been famously framed, by Galton originally, as a clash of nature versus nurture. While neurology and neuroscience have offered direct evidence that differences in the brain affect behaviour, it is behavioural genetics that is typically seen as having contributed most directly to the nature-nurture debate.

The question of the innate nature of language in the field of psychology

Whereas other species do communicate with an innate ability to produce a limited number of meaningful vocalizations e. This ability is remarkable in itself.

What makes it even more remarkable is that researchers are finding evidence for mastery of this complex skill in increasingly younger children. Infants as young as 12 months are reported to have sensitivity to the grammar needed to understand causative sentences who did what to whom; e. After more than 60 years of research into child language development, the mechanism that enables children to segment syllables and words out of the strings of sounds they hear, and to acquire grammar to understand and produce language is still quite an enigma.

Early Theories One of the earliest scientific explanations of language acquisition was provided by Skinner As one of the pioneers of behaviorismhe accounted for language development by means of environmental influence.

Skinner argued that children learn language based on behaviorist reinforcement principles by associating words with meanings.

The question of the innate nature of language in the field of psychology

Correct utterances are positively reinforced when the child realizes the communicative value of words and phrases. Consequently, he proposed the theory of Universal Grammar: Universal Grammar is considered to contain all the grammatical information needed to combine these categories, e.

For example, according to the Universal Grammar account, children instinctively know how to combine a noun e. This Chomskian approach to language acquisition has inspired hundreds of scholars to investigate the nature of these assumed grammatical categories and the research is still ongoing.

Contemporary Research A decade or two later some psycho linguists began to question the existence of Universal Grammar. They argued that categories like noun and verb are biologically, evolutionarily and psychologically implausible and that the field called for an account that can explain for the acquisition process without innate categories.


Researchers started to suggest that instead of having a language-specific mechanism for language processing, children might utilise general cognitive and learning principles. Whereas researchers approaching the language acquisition problem from the perspective of Universal Grammar argue for early full productivity, i.

It is suggested that children are sensitive to patterns in language which enables the acquisition process. An example of this gradual pattern learning is morphology acquisition. Morphemes are the smallest grammatical markers, or units, in language that alter words.

In English, regular plurals are marked with an —s morpheme e. Children are considered to acquire their first instances of third singular forms as entire phrasal chunks Daddy kicks, a girl eats, a dog barks without the ability of teasing the finest grammatical components apart.

When the child hears a sufficient number of instances of a linguistic construction i. In this case, the repeated pattern is the —s marker in this particular verb form.

Approaching language acquisition from the perspective of general cognitive processing is an economical account of how children can learn their first language without an excessive biolinguistic mechanism.

Conclusion However, finding a solid answer to the problem of language acquisition is far from being over. Our current understanding of the developmental process is still immature.

The question of the innate nature of language in the field of psychology

Investigators of Universal Grammar are still trying to convince that language is a task too demanding to acquire without specific innate equipment, whereas the constructivist researchers are fiercely arguing for the importance of linguistic input.

The biggest questions, however, are yet unanswered. How much does the child need to be exposed to language to achieve the adult-like state? What account can explain variation between languages and the language acquisition process in children acquiring very different languages to English?

Language Acquisition: Learned or Innate and "hard wired"

The mystery of language acquisition is granted to keep psychologists and linguists alike astonished a decade after decade.Psychology – Nature and Nurture.

Nature and Nurture. Nature – refers to those characteristics and abilities that that are determined by your genes. Supporters of this view = hereditarians or nativists; Nurture – refers to the influences of experience and environment.

A belief that all knowledge is gained through experience. Welcome to The All About Psychology Book of The Month page. Only the best, fascinating and most compelling psychology books will be featured here.

To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves. A short review of one of the most popular debates in behavioral science.

Apr 26,  · I am doing a paper on the development of language -- not focusing on understanding language however. I know that Wundt did a little bit of things on language.

The nature of epistemology

I know the Skinner came up with the debunked behavioralist's view of language through reinforcement. I know about Chomsky's review against Skinner.

That was in Status: Resolved. The Distinction Between Innate and Acquired Characteristics First published Tue Aug 4, The idea that some characteristics of an organism are explained by the organism's intrinsic nature, whilst others reflect the influence of the environment is an ancient one.

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