The need to share and relate to our environment made way for the formulation of a means of communicating and further allowed for the development of language. The view that “Language is an innate ability and not develop through learning” may be flawed in the sense that it can be developed through basic interaction of ones surrounding as well as a more advance development which well require some external assistance. Language is defined as a set of rules shared by individuals who are communicating, that allows them to exchange thoughts , ideas and emotions, where as innate abilities can be seen as skills which are genetically or biologically hardwired into an individual’s being.
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There are many theories as to the development/acquisition of language, such as the Babbling Perspective, Social Interactionist Theory and The Nativist Perspective. The Babbling Perspective as put forward by BF. Skinner argues that adults shape the speech of children by reinforcing the babbling of infants that sound most like words (Skinner, 1957). Dr. C. George Boeree’s claim is that language all begins in infancy, he states that from conception to the first 6 months babies make a significant amount of noise; they Yell, Squeal, Growl and gives Raspberries, They also Coo; Cooing is what he recognized and theorized as the production of what will later become Vowels (A,E,I,O,U). From 6 Months to about 10 Months they produce somewhat more complicated sounds called babbling, first they produce their vowels starting with the more round back vowels (oo, oh, ah….) working their way the unrounded vowels (ee,eh,ah..) they usually form their first consonants H,M and B which can be combined with the vowels to make syllables, soon after they will add P,T,D,N,W,F,V and Y, a little later K,G and NG.
He also recognized that infants will further add S and Z and took awhile longer to form SH, CH, J and TH, the very last sound would be L and R. Boeree further acknowledge that because the way language is develop in infants it causes them to pronounce words oddly, for example ” Fis does fine for Fish”, ” Wobbut for Robert” and “Cawa for Carla”. He also stressed that they can perceive far more than they can pronounce, this is sometimes called the Fis phenomenon. Infants he argues might not be able to say certain words, but they will not put up with adults mispronouncing them.
Boeree went on to state that both parents plays a huge role in the forming of the child’s language, this means that even if we are pre-programmed in some way to speak language, we need to learn a specific language from the people around us, he also state that a mother wouldÿtypically adjust their speech to fit the child’s level, this he says is called Motherese.ÿ
Motherese is a universal feature that is found in practically every culture, it takes the form of a sing-song quality and many special baby words. It is also embedded into the context of theÿimmediateÿsurroundings, with constant reference to things nearby ad activities that are on going. Motherese also involves subtleÿshapingÿcalled protoconversations, here mother involves infants that do little more than just coo and babble.
Mother, Child (one year old)
Look! (Getting the child’s attention)(Baby touches picture)
What are these? (Asking question)ÿ(Baby babbles and smiles)
Yes, they are doggies (naming Object) ÿ (Child vocalizes smiles and looks at mom)
(Mom laughs) Yes, Doggies! (Repeating) (Child vocalizes and smiles)
(Laugh) Yes! (Giving feedback)(Child laughs)
Mother would also ask questions like “Where is it?” and “What is it doing?” any response would be rewarded with happiness. The conversation however becomes more meaningful when the child is able to use their own words. Boeree concluded that by 10 months most children are able to understand between 5-10 ÿwords, he also observed that a significant portion are able to learn up to 40 words.
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One other theory is that of the Social Interactionist formulated by Lev Vygotsky, in the 1950s and 1960s. This theory argues that language development is both biological and social; it further states that language learning is influenced by the desire of children to communicate with others within their environment. (Shaffer, 2003). Other Interactionist believes that children are born with powerful brains that slowly predispose them to acquire new understandings that they are motivate to share with others. (Bates, 1993, Tomasella, 1995)
Interactionist focuses onÿcollaborative learning; this is the view that with older people will help children to develop both cognitively and linguistically. (Shaffer, et.al, 2002). Learning is promoted through collaboration — collaboration among students, and between students and teacher. From a social Interactionist perspective as students share background knowledge and participate in the give and take of collaborative and cooperative activities they are actually negotiating meaning. They are building knowledge, not as individuals, but as a group. People who surround the individual student, and the culture within which that person lives, greatly affect the way he or she makes sense of the world.
This is an ongoing process through out the development of the individuals’ life; this can take the form of simple task early in the child’s life, which may include team sports, and jigsaw puzzles. As the child develops other forms of collaborative learning would include networking, and mentoring. Each of these activities would help the child to interact with those around them, to ask question, and to find solution for said questions.
Noam Chomsky (1950) played an integral role in language development with his theory known as the Nativist perspective, this perspective is of the view that humans are biologically programmed to gain knowledge. Chomsky further argues that all humans have a Language Acquisition Device (LAD). The LAD he states contains knowledge of grammatical rules common to all language. (Cited by Shaffer, et.al, 2002). The LAD also allows children to understand the rules of whatever language listing to.
Chomsky also developed the concepts of transformational grammar, Surface Structure and Deep meaning. Transformational grammar refers to grammar that transforms a sentence; Surface structures are words that are actually written and deep meaning refers to the underlining meaning or message of a sentence (Mothn, 2005). Chomsky argues that children know about deep structure and they are also able to apply a rule that allows them to manipulate these structures, he called these grammatical transformations. One such example of this is in my view is crying, a newborn who is hungry might not be able toÿreadilyÿsay “Mom I’m hungry” but its need to communicate is discomfort stimulates a neurological response (Crying) that will not get the attention of the parent but also convey the child’s message, not to say the parent may immediately know that the child want to be fed, but its here her own need to understand the child causes her to perform a series of check for example a diaper check and the child realizing that its need its need for food is not being address may now begin to cry louder until satisfaction is present, this in return creates a form of language between child and parent that will later take them on a journey of a more advance level of language development which involve proper vocalization.
In essence Chomsky’s perspective that if a child has a properly functioning Language Acquisition Device(LAD) then language will develop regardless of the kind of language the exposed to, as long as the child is raised in an otherwiseÿnurturing environment.(Fitch,W.T.S,2009)
Chomsky’s views areÿcriticized saying it focuses mainly on the internal mental structure and thinking process of the child. Critics have argued that this is unlikely,ÿstemmingÿfrom their own researched and evidence gathered they say that it would not fully enable us to understand what exactly going on in aÿchild’sÿmind.
Further critiques were based on the role of people assisting the child to learn language which tends to be overlooked. Researchers have observed that adult speech is fraught with hesitations,ÿrepetitions, slip of tongue and so on and therefore provide an imperfect model. however research have shown that adults make considerable modification to their speech when talking toÿchildrenÿ, theses modifications are designed to assist the child with language learning(Fitch,W.T.S,2009).
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