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Language Acquisition

Page history last edited by Lauren Gassie 10 years, 7 months ago

Language Acquisition 



What is the one thing that defines you as being human?  The way we use a language. How can a simple sequence of noises allow us to so easily communicate with others?  This unique ability of talking has allowed humans to develop in ways that other species cannot.  We are distinguished from others by this remarkable trait that allows us to express ourselves.  


Noam Chomsky was the first psychologist to begin questioning language acquisition.  He believed that not all of our language learning came from our individual environments.  Although a lot of our learning processes come from experience, how can someone explain how children from around the world acquire a language so similarly?  Chomsky believed that everyone is born with a genetically programmed universal grammar code.  Throughout growth, development, and experience, switches are set off in a child’s mind that enhance their language ability. 


Chomsky’s theory does not incorporate the neurobiological part of language acquisition.  Research has been done to identify different areas of the brain associated with language.  Broca’s area is known for the production of grammatically correct sentences.  Wernicke’s area makes it possible for comprehension and meaning. 


Behaviorists, such as Skinner believed that one acquires language through repetition and reinforcement of correct behaviors.  Rewards allow children to understand that they are improving and learn correct meanings and grammar skills. 


There are many ethical concerns when considering studying the human brain.  However, scientists are able to currently use MRI and PET to take images of brain tissue that allow us to see and understand activity.  Recently, electrical activity has been measured in infants to record their reactions to speech sounds.  The results show similar activity patterns for the infants’ native language and a foreign language.  Although researchers are still very far from truly understanding language acquisition, these procedures are a strong start to confirming or denying Chomsky’s idea of an innate language code.


The mystery of language acquisition is still being considered to this day.  How can a child learn an extensive language so quickly without having some sort of innate mechanism?  How long does a child need to be exposed to grammar in order to completely learn the unique ability?  The questions about language acquisition are endless and continue to make scientists question the nature vs. nurture process. 


Helpful links for more information about Language Acquisition:

1. The Linguist Link

This site shows responses to questions asked to a linguist specialist about childhood language acquisition.  

2. Language Acquisition - An Overview

This article describes the different stages of language acquisition from a teaching standpoint. 

3. Language Learning

The nature vs. nurture debate is emphasized regarding language acquisition.


The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition provides detailed information about current research projects on the acquisition processes.  

5. MIT Language Acquisition

This site is an in-depth look at almost every aspect of language acquisition. 

6. Simply Psychology

Click here for a site full of information about early theories of language acquisition, as well as two related videos.

7. First Language Acquisition

This site discusses stages and vocalizations while in the process of learning a first language.

8. Language Acquisition Video

This short video gives a brief breakdown of how unique language acquisition is to human kind.

9. How Children Acquire and Produce Language

This video describes the importance of language to a child and the history of the beginning of language. 

10. Language As Innate

This site breaks down specific landmarks in the language acquisition processes.


This page was created by Lauren Gassie.

I understand that all images, links, and videos are public material.  

If there is a problem, please email: gassie.lauren@gmail.com


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