File 8.1Six Theories of Language Acquisition1.

The philosophical debate over innate ideas and their role in the acquisition of knowledge has a venerable history. It is thus surprising that very little attention was paid until early last century to the questions of how linguistic knowledge is acquired and what role, if any, innate ideas might play in that process.

The stages of language acquisition ……………....…......…..

Lust, B. 2006. Child language: Acquisition and growth. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press. DOI:

What are the processes of language acquisition.

Nativism is, of course, one possibility. Natural selection might havebuilt a specialized language faculty, containing inborn knowledge about language (e.g., knowledge of UG), which subsequently was selected for because it helped human children to acquire linguistic competence, and having linguistic competence enhanced our ancestors' fitness. A problem with this hypothesis, however, is that it is unclear how a language faculty containing innate representations of UG might have arisen in the human mind. One view is that the languagefaculty was built up piecemeal by natural selection. This approach underlies Pinker and Bloom's (1990) and Jackendoff's (1999) proposalsas to the adaptive functions of various grammatical features and devices. Other nativists, however, reject the adaptationist framework. For instance, Berwick 1998, has argued that efforts to explain the piecemeal development of knowledge of linguistic universals in our species may be unnecessary in light of the new, Minimalist conception of syntax (see Chomsky 1995). On this view, all parametric constraints and rules of syntax are consequences of a fundamental syntactic process called Merge: once Merge was in place, Berwick argues, the rest of UG automatically followed. Chomsky, taking another tack, has suggested that language is a ‘spandrel,’ a byproduct of other non-linguistically directed selective processes, such as “the increase in brain size and complexity” (1982:23). And finally Bickerton 1998, on yet another tack, posits a massive saltative episode in which large chunks of syntax emerged all at once, although this posit is implicitly withdrawn in Calvin and Bickerton 2000.

Innateness hypothesis - Wikipedia

The literature on language evolution is too large to survey in this article (but see Botha 2003 for an excellent overview and critique).Suffice it to note that as yet, no consensus has emerged as to how innate knowledge of UG might have evolved from whatever preadaptations existed in our ancestors. Of course, this is not in itself a problem for linguistic nativists: formulating and testing hypotheses about human cognitive evolution is a massively difficult enterprise, due largely to the difficulty of finding evidence bearing on one's hypothesis. (See Lewontin 1998 and Sterelny2003:95-116.)

Second language acquisition is the study of how second languages are typically developed.
Therefore, language acquisition basically means the learning or the gaining of a language.

innateness hypothesis : définition de …

In response to this kind of point, Chomskyans point out that the innateness of UG is an empirical hypothesis supported by a perfectly respectable inference to the best explanation. Of course there is a logical space between the conclusion that something constrains the acquisition mechanism and the Chomskyan view that these constraints are inborn representations of Binding Theory, Thetatheory, the ECP, the principle of Greed or Shortest Path and so on. But the mere fact that the argument from the poverty of the stimulus doesn't prove that UG is innately known is hardly reason to complain. This is science, after all, and demonstrative proofs are neither possible nor required. What the argument from the poverty of the stimulus provides is good reason to think that there are strong constraints on the learning mechanism. UG is at hand to supply a theory of those constraints. Moreover, that theory has been highly productive of research in numerous areas (linguistics, psycholinguistics, developmental psychology, second language research, speech pathology etc. etc.) over the last 50 years. These successes far outstrip anything that non-nativist learning theorists have able to achieve even in their wildest dreams, and support a powerful inference to the best explanation in the Chomskyan's favor.

Language acquisition is normally viewed as a part of cognitive science....

29/10/2016 · What Is The Innateness Hypothesis

Many, probably most theorists in modern linguistics and cognitive science have accepted Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus argument for the innateness of UG. As a result, a commitment to linguistic nativism has underpinned most research into language acquisition overthe last 40-odd years. Nonetheless, it is important to understand what criticisms have been leveled against the argument, which I schematize as follows for convenience:

Language acquisition is the process of learning a native or a second language.

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You might wonder, however, whether this latter kind of account reallydiffers substantively from that of a nativist. Assuming that she doesnot reject adaptationism altogether, the nativist will presumably be committed to the idea that the innate language organ, or faculty embodying knowledge of UG, was derived from pre-existing structures that were either functionless or had non-linguistic functions. These structures subsequently acquired linguistic functions through being selected for that reason: they became adaptations for language. But so too would the various capacities postulated by Tomasello. As soon as they started being used for language learning, that's to say, theywould have been selected for that function (in addition to any other functions they might serve, and always assuming that linguistic abilities were on balance beneficial). Hence they too will over time become adaptations for language. On both Tomasello's and the nativist's view, in other words, the inborn structures responsible for language acquisition will have acquired the biological function of enabling language acquisition: they will be specialized for that purpose. Is Tomasello, then, a nativist?