The Basic Theories of Language Acquisition
Seminar paper from the year 2007 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics, grade: 1,3, University of Cologne (Englisches Seminar), course: HS First Language Acquisition, 12 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Most of the concepts and theories explaining how native languages are acquired go back to three different approaches put forward by Burrhus Federic Skinner, Noam Chomsky and Jean Piaget, either by using their ideas as a starting point or by rejecting them and formulating a new or altered Hypothesis. This paper will try to present those three basic theories, also taking into account the contexts out of which they emerged, as to fully understand linguistic, like any other scientific, views and theories, they have always to be evaluated with respect to the scientific and cultural background they appeared in. First it will try to show how Skinners concept of 'verbal behavior' with respect to language acquisition emerged in the development of behaviouristic theories. This will be followed by Chomsky's criticism of Skinner's ideas, leading to his own theory of language and language acquisition, which will be presented. Jean Piaget offers a cognitive approach to the question. His view will be described before comparing nativist and cognitivist ideas, concerning the points whether or not innate structures exist and in how far linguistic and cognitive development are interrelated, taking the opposed views of Piaget and Chomsky, the forerunners of many other important linguists, as an example.
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