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Critically discuss with reference to the work of Noam Chomsky, Derek Bickerton and Steven Pinker.
Whenever one people first encountered another all of them already had a language. Every Indian, every Eskimo. No mute tribe has ever been discovered. Universality of complex language is a discovery that fills linguists with wonder and is the reason to suspect that language is not just any cultural invention but the product of special human instinct. Cultural inventions vary widely in sophistication from society to society. Some groups count by carving into stones, others use computers. Language however ruins this correlation.
The myth that working class people and less educated members of the middle class speak a simpler or coarser language. This assumption comes the effortlessness of conversation. Speech like colour vision or walking is a paradigm of excellence. A system that works so well that the user takes the outcome for granted, unaware of the complicated machinery hidden behind the panels. Despite decades of effort, no artificially engineered language system comes close to duplicating the person in the street.
The best definition comes from max weinreich: language is a dialect with an army and a navy.
1960s American black children had been so culturally deprived that they lacked true language and were confined instead to a non-lingual mode of expressive behaviour by psychologists.
The complexity of language in human beings is astonishing and compelling proof that it is innate. But to tough minded like Hilary Putnam its no proof at all. She says not everything that is universal is innate. Just like no one ever discovered a tribe without language, these days you will never find anyone without TV. Language is invaluable for all daily activities in a community such as preparing food and shelter, lobbing, arguing, teaching. Language could have been invented by resourceful people. Like lily Tomlin said, man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain. Universal grammar would simply reflect the universal exigencies of human experience and the universal limitations on human information processing. To follow the argument that language is instinct and that complex language is universal because children actually reinvent it, generation after generation not because they are taught, not because they are generally smart, not because it is useful to them but because they just can't help it.
How do people create language from scratch? Atlantic slave trade and indentured servitude in south pacific. Plantation mixed slaves and labourers from different language backgrounds. When these people have to communicate to carry out practical tasks but didn't have the chance to learn each other languages, they developed a make shift jargon called a pidgin. Pidgins are choppy strings of words borrowed from the language of the colonisers or plantation owners, highly variable in order and with little in the way of grammar. Sometimes over time pidgin increase in complexity as in Pidgin English of modern south pacific.
Derek Bickerton presented evidence that in many cases a pidgin can be transmuted into full complex language in one fell swoop. All it takes is for a group of children to be exposed to the pidgin at the age when they acquire their mother tongue. When children were isolated from their parents and were tented collectively by a worker who spoke to them in pidgin. Not content to reproduce the fragmentary word strings, the children injected grammatical complexity where none existed before, resulting in brand new, and rich expressive language. The language that results when children made a pidgin their native tongue is called a Creole.
Bickerton main evidence comes from a unique historical circumstance. Though slave plantations are of the remote past. There was a boom in Hawaiian sugar plantation whose demands for labour quickly outstripped the native pool. Workers were brought in from china, Japan, Korea, Portugal etc and pidgin quickly developed.in all cases of pidgin the speakers intenstions had to be filled y the listener. The pidgin didn't offer the speakers the ordinary grammatical resourses to the convey the messages, there was no consistant word order, no prefexes or suffixes, no tense or other temporal and logical markers, no structure more complex thansimple clause and no consistant way to indicate who did what to whom.
For example: good, dis one. Kaukau any-kin' dis one. Pilipine islan' no good. No mo money. Meant its better here than in the Philippines, here you get all kinds of food, but over there isn't any money to buy food with.
In this case, a listener could easily mistake this more the meaning. Here it's better than Philippine. Where is no more money to be earned?
However, children who grew up in Hawaii exposed to this pidgin ended up speaking quite differently, now known as Hawaiian Creole.
Eg: one time when we go home inna night dis ting stay fly up. Meaning once when we went home at night this thing was flying about.
This crude English is probably how many of the grammatical prefixes and suffixes in established language arose. For example he hammered was originally he hammerdid. Bickerton notes that if grammar of Creole is a product of the minds of children, this should provide a clear window on the innate grammatical machinery of the brain. He argues that creoles from unrelated language mixtures exhibit uncanny resembles. This basic grammar also shows up in the errors children make when acquiring more established languages. E.g. English speaking children say let daddy hold it in or why is he leaving? They are unwittingly producing sentences that are grammatical in many of the world's creoles.
Sign language is found wherever there is a community of deaf people. And each one is a distinct, full language, using the same kinds of grammatical machinery found worldwide in spoken language. For example; American Sign Language, used by deaf community in the United States does not resemble the British Sign Language.
Until recently there was no sign language in Nicaragua since deaf people remained isolated. When Sandinista government took over in 1979 and reformed the educational system, that the deaf school were opened. School focused on teaching children to lip read and speech and but results were dismal. But on the playgrounds and school buses the children were inventing their own sign system, pooling the makeshift gestures that they used with their families at home. Soon after the Lenguaje de Signos Nicaraguense (LSN) formed. Today LSN is used with varying degree of fluency, by young deaf adults. Basically it is a pidgin. Everyone uses it differently and the signers depend on suggestive, elaborate circumlocution rather than consistent grammar. But children like mayela who joined the school at age 4 when LSN was already around. Their age group had a more fluid and compact and the gestures are more stylized and less like a pantomime. It was so different it was referred to as Idioma de Signos Nicaraguense (ISN). ISN appears to be a Creole created by younger children exposed to the pidgin signing of the older children just as Bickerton predicted. IISN has standardised itself all the children sign the same way. The children introduces many grammatical devises that were absent in LSN. ISN is very expressive and a language is being born. However ISN was a product of many children. What is the effect of one child?
When deaf infants are raised by signing parents, they learn sign language same way normal infants learn spoken language. But deaf children who are born to not deaf parents have no access to sign language. When deaf children become adults they seek out deaf communities and begin to acquire the sign language that takes proper advantage of the communicative media available to them. But by then it's usually too late and they must struggle to learn. Their proficiency is lower than that of a deaf person who acquired language at infancy. This provides good evidence that successful language acquisition must take place during a critical window during childhood.
Jenny Singleton and Elissa Newport studied nine year old deaf boy called Simon who parents were also deaf. His parents did not acquire sign language until the late ages of 15 and as a result acquired it badly. His father once tried to sign the thought 'my friend, he thought my second child was deaf. But instead signed my friend thought, my second child, he thought he was deaf. This violates ASL grammar and according to Chomsky theory of universal grammar that states all naturally acquired human languages. His parent failed to grasp verb inflection system of ASL. In many ways Simon parents were like pidgin speakers. But surprisingly he had no access to ASL but his parent's defective version yet his signing was far better than his parents. Many people have tried to invent sign system but these were always crude, children who learn from these convert them to much richer natural languages.
Parents usually do not provide explicit grammar lessons but many parents think mothers provide children with implicit lessons known as motherese. This is intensive sessions of conversational give and take with repetitive drills and simplified grammar. Eg look at the doggie, there is a doggie. In middle class American culture is seen as very important for language devleopemnt. In a part of south Africa they believe that children must be drilled to sit, stant and wlk so they pile sand around their infants feet. We find this amusing because say they do it anyway on their own schedule. But other groups may say the same to motherese.
Chomsky classic illustrations of the logic of language involve the process of moving words around to form question. Stephen Crain and Mineharu Nakayama, One experimenter controlled a doll of Jabba the Hutt. The other coaxed the child to ask a set of question eg ask jabba if the boy who is unhappy is watching Mickey Mouse and jabba would answer yes or no. As Chomsky predicted not a single child said is the boy who unhappy is watching Mickey mouse which simple linear... Chomsky's claim that the mind contains blueprints for grammatical rules come from studies on babies and many other studies have shown that language acquisition can't be explained as a kid of imitation.
No one has yet located a language organ or grammar gene. But there are several kinds of neurological and genetic impairment that compromise language while sparing cognition and vice versa. E.g. damage to left hemisphere of frontal lobe leads to person suffering from Broca aphasia. Mr. Ford was interviewed by Howard Gardner. Mr. Ford struggled to get speech out but his problems were not in controlling his vocal muscles. As he could blow out a candle, clear his throat. Most his problems lied around grammar itself.
British family, the K's studies by Myrna Gopnik and others. Say there is a link between genetics and specific language impairment (SLI).
Wug test, here shown a picture of a bird and told it's a wug then shown a picture of two of them and asked there are two.....and 4year old would cry out wugs. this study shows that children to not learn by imitation. But the k family some said wugness
On the other side Denyse who was studies by Richard Cromer suffered from spina bifida. And for reasons we do not know, children with this are significantly retarded but with unimpaired and overdeveloped language skills.
Bellugi et al worked with children with William syndrome, where they had a mutation in chromosome 11. Results showed that most their IQ were below 50 however they have good understanding of grammar.
All these studies show that complex grammar is shown across the range of human beings from the Stone Age, to middle class to children with mental retardation. Our parents to not need to teach us language. Indeed you can have all the advantages and still not developed language if you lack the right genes or the right parts of the brain.
Nonhuman communication systems are based on finite repertory of calls such as different sounds for predators, claiming territory, continuous analogue signal such as bee dance to identity food source, or series of random variations on theme such as birdsong repeated with new twist each time. While human language is different, has a discrete combinatorial system called grammar which makes human language infinite, digital and compositional.
According to some researchers changes in vocal organs and neural circuitry tare the only aspects of language that evolved in our species. This means that chimpanzee are the second best learners in the animal kingdom, so they should be able to acquire language it in 1930s two chimpanzees were trained and they learned to make three utterances that sound as papa, mama and cup. But they were at a disadvantage they were forced to use their vocal apparatus which was not designed for speech and they could not voluntary control.
It could be that language ability appeared in the ancestor and between then and now for the ability to have been elaborated and fine-tuned to the universal grammar. Language could have been a gradual fade-in. S that originally had no role in vocal communications and by the addition of some new ones.
Language could have risen by revamping of primate brain circuit.
Every food and drink which we swallow has to pass over the orifice of the trachea, with some risk of falling into the lungs. This structure of the larynx to articulate range of vowels compromised breathing and chewing. Communicative benefits outweigh the physiological costs.
Noam Chomsky thought how is it possible for a child to learn language so quickly without making conscious efforts, said the environment alone can't explain and language is too complex to learn through reward and punishment.
Chomsky et al (2005) made a distinction between faculty of language in broad sense (FLB) and in narrow sense (FLN). FLB includes a sensory-motor system, a conceptual-intentional system, and the computational mechanisms for recursion, providing the capacity to generate an infinite range of expressions from a finite set of elements. FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language may have evolved for reasons other than language, hence comparative studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the domain of communication (for example, number, navigation, and social relations).