Chomsky theory on language acquisition holds that the human brain has a limited set of rules that are used in the acquisition and organization of language. This principle is also held by the hypothesis of Generative grammar. A common assumption is held that all the languages however have a similar structural basis. This is what is referred to as universal grammar. Chomsky’s view was that all children posses an innate knowledge on grammar. This means that all what they have to learn is the basic parochial elements and features of their native language. Chomsky held generally that language development in any individual should involve three factors. These are genetic endowment which limits on attainable language, external data which is converted to experience and principles which may not be specified according to faculty of language. In such a situation the grammar of a sentence is independent of the meaning. For example, colourful red ideas sleep furiously. The sentence is grammatically correct but has no any meaning. In each sentence there are two representations-deep structures and a surface structure Chomsky (1957). The deep structure is the representation of the core semantic relations of a sentence which are then mapped on the surface structure via transformations.
Skinner view on language acquisition is based on the environment the individual is in. Skinner was a behaviourist who held that all human being are born psychologically empty. According to him syntax is acquired through learning. There however exist no any real distinction between learning and production of language. There is no distinction between thought and language, to know is largely to be able to talk skinner (1957). He therefore held that syntax is acquired through the processes of imitation, reinforcement, discrimination of stimulus and the making of overall generalisations and shaping. The mastery of the acquired syntax is demonstrated through observable responses like speech production. In such a situation therefore one learns the syntax that the person is exposed and reproduces it. For example a child learns to say ‘bye-bye’ when an adult waves the hand and with a high pitched sound says “bye-bye’. In such a situation the adult has to repeat the act severally so that the child leans. Even after discontinuation of the act the child will have already learnt how to say the words ‘bye-bye’. If the child falls down and told it’s painful, the child will associate pain with the falling. This means that active stimulations are made by the bigger people to teach children syntax.
Piaget argues that knowledge and meaning is generated form interaction of humans with their experiences and their ideas. This means that during infancy, the behavioural patterns generated from experiences and their reflexes will comprise the Childs knowledge. This system of knowledge was referred to as schemata. Piaget contended that the process of accommodation and assimilation. What this means is that a child acquires syntax from the environment without active deliberate influence form the grown ups. His general view on syntax acquisition was thus between behaviourist view i.e. language is learnt by reinforcement and the rationalist view of innate acquisition. However he argued that cognitive structures can not be innate. He basically held that children will learn language by echolalia-repetition of own or of others words, monologue-speaking their thoughts loudly or simply speaking to themselves and collective monologue-several children talking in turns though each producing a monologue.
To conclude, Piaget’s point of view is more acceptable, his view was that the acquisition of language is in between the Chomsky’s view and that of Skinner. This is evidenced by the fact that prove on innateness is not clear although this cannot be completely dismissed. This point of view can also be supported by the fact that all children produce some sound at various stages. These sounds produced may be an imitation of what the child has herd or from the Childs’ own thinking. During the early stages the sound produced can not be understood by the grown ups. After some time, the child will tries to imitate the sounds it hears been made by the people. During this time the child may not be addressing any one in particular and this explains the aspects of echolalia and monologue. Deliberate attempts to teach a child language are also made by almost all parents.
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Chomsky, Noam. The Port-Royal Grammar of 1660 identified similar principles; Language and Mind. Harcourt:Brace Jovanovich, 1972. Print.
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