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Attempts to explain language developmen Essay Sample

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Attempts to explain language developmen Essay Sample

Attempts to explain language development have sparked a spirited intellectual controversy. At the heart of this controversy is the nature-nurture debate. Behaviorist B. F. Skinner believed that we can explain how babies acquire language entirely with principles of learning, such as the association of objects with the sounds of words, the imitation of language modeled by others, and the reinforcement of correct use of words and syntax by parents and teachers. Linguist Noam Chomsky, who favors the nature position, believes that much of our language capacity is inborn. According to this perspective, just as “learning” to walk is programmed according to a timetable of biological maturation, so are children pre-wired to begin to babble and talk. In this exercise, review each of the following examples of language use by children and decide whether it best supports the position of B. F. Skinner or Noam Chomsky. Then explain your reasoning. 1. Whenever 14-month-old Juwan wants his mother he calls out “Mama” and she comes running. Consequently, Juwan utters “Mama” much more frequently now than he did at seven months of age. 2. Even in her very first sentences, it is obvious that 21-month-old Melissa has figured out the basics of subject-predicate word order.

Seeing her mother returning from work, for example, she says “Mommy home” rather than “home Mommy.” 3. 10-month-old Tara, who is deaf, has begun to babble manually at about the same time hearing infants begin babbling orally. 4. While Keshawn and his mother are looking at a book together, Keshawn’s mother shows him a picture of an animal and says, “Cow.” Keshawn says, “cow,” and his mother praises him for his correct utterance. Two pages later, Keshawn spontaneously points to a picture and correctly identifies it as a cow. 5. When her preschool teacher asks 4-year-old Grace what she did yesterday, she responds with “We goed to the zoo.” Her teacher smiles, marveling at the fact that all children Grace’s age make this type of grammatical error. 6. Nicky, who is deaf and was not exposed to sign language until the age of three, lacks the manual language skills of deaf children born to deaf-signing parents. 7. 12-year-old Haile, who emigrated to the United States when he was four, understands English grammar much better than 20-year-old Maya, who was first exposed to English when she was 12.

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