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Innateness Theory of Language Acquisition

Noam Chomsky published a criticism of the behaviorist theory in 1957. In addition to some of the arguments listed above, he focused particularly on the impoverished language input children receive. This theory is connected with the writings of Chomsky, although the theory has been around for hundreds of years. Children are born with an innate capacity for learning the human language. Humans are destined to speak. Children discover the grammar of their language based on their own inborn grammar. Certain aspects of language structure seem to be preordained by the cognitive structure of the human mind. This accounts for certain very basic universal features of language structure: every language has nouns/verbs, consonants, and vowels. It is assumed that children are preprogrammed, hard-wired, to acquire such things.

Yet no one has been able to explain how quickly and perfectly all children acquire their native language. Every language is extremely complex, full of subtle distinctions that speakers are not even aware of. Nevertheless, children master their native language in 5 or 6 years regardless of their other talents and general intellectual ability. The acquisition must certainly be more than mere imitation; it also doesn’t seem to depend on levels of general intelligence, since even a severely retarded child will acquire a native language without special training. Some innate features of the mind must be responsible for the universally rapid and natural acquisition of language by any young child exposed to speech.

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