This research paper will focus on the human language. Human language is extremely significant for all peoples. My main topic for this paper is how we use and develop language, the production of language, language acquisition and the importance of the critical period. Chomsky, Skinner, and Whorf all had various theories on language but all had one major thing in common, which was the significance of language. Regardless of when or how language is developed; it is essential to have living in environment where every one using language to talk, learn and receive knowledge.
The Ways in Which People Use and Develop Language and
The Effects it May Have on a Person
If a person does not develop oral language this will affect the way in which people communicate with other people. From birth throughout their lives time people are taught the uses of language and create a way of communication. Language is the main component for all humans. “The use of language-the communication of information through symbols arranged according to systematic rules-is a central cognitive ability, one that is indispensable for us to communicate with one another” (Stapel & Semin, 2007; Hoff; 2008; Resiberg). Language is essential to how we communicate, think, and understand the world. Without language our ability to convey information, obtain knowledge and cooperate with others would be hindered. This paper looks at Chomsky, Benjamin Lee Whorf and B.J. Skinners theories on language acquisition and why language it is so important to have and what could happen to a person if he/she were isolated from society.
In order to comprehend how language is created and relates to thought, we first need to know that the basic structure of language is grammar. Grammar is a set of rules that clarifies how our thoughts can be articulated. There are three main elements that go with grammar; they are phonology, syntax, and semantics. Phonology is the study of the smallest unit of speech called phonemes. Phonemes are the way we use sounds to form words and produce meaning. Syntax deals with how words and phrases can be united to form sentences and semantic rules allow us to express meanings to words. Feldman, Robert S. (2011). Although many people may have a hard time explaining the meanings of these words, we all subconsciously use grammar every day in a linguistic way!
Language starts during infancy from three months through one-year- old. Children begin to make insignificant speech like sounds that is called babble. In the textbook Feldman, Robert S. (2011) stated that while babbling, they produce, at one time or another, any of the sounds found in all languages, not just the one to which are exposed. Even deaf children demonstrate their own form of babbling, who are incapable to hear, yet who are exposed to sign language from birth babble in their own way. In the same textbook I stated before Feldman, Robert S. (2011); indicates that babies’ babbling imitates the precise language being spoken in the infant’s environment which focuses more on the pitch and tone of the person talking to the child. As the baby gets older, he or she starts to specialize in the language that they were exposed to from birth.
To support what I am saying I read an article called Language and Brain Development “Jump Start” copyright United Feature Syndicate stated that “a child is introduced to language virtually at the moment of birth. Children do not require explicit language instruction, but they do need exposure to language in order to develop normally. Children who do not receive linguistic input during their formative years do not achieve native like grammatical competence.”
There were three theorists that had their own speculation on language acquisition but intertwined with my thesis. Let us begin with Noam Chomsky. Chomsky was a very well- known linguist. He believes that human brains have a language acquisition device that we are inborn with. All children are born with a universal grammar that makes them amenable to the common features of language because of this hard-wired background in grammar; children easily pick up a language when they are exposed to its particular grammar. Http://www.brighthubeducation.com/language-learning-tips/71728-noam-chomsky-language-acquisition-theories/. Basically Chomsky believed that all children develop language around the same age and all develop language skills rapidly and naturally. The next theorist was Benjamin Lee Whorf. Whorf’s theory is that children will learn language skills through interaction with others rather than obtain the knowledge involuntarily.
He was recognized for his study that focused on a person’s thinking skills, how their ideas and expressions all depend on language. He anticipated a theory called “linguistic relativity.” This theory determines the way people think. In other words ““we think in terms of words or other symbols, and they are required as a precondition for a human to form an idea—or, at least, to express the idea to others. Although thinking involves mental manipulation of reality, it is heavily dependent upon words or other symbols.” Bergman. Jerry (Benjamin Lee Whorf: An Early Supporter of Creationism). My last theorist was B.F. Skinner. Skinner thought language is attained through standards of conditioning, association, imitation and, reinforcement. The difference from Chomsky and Skinner one believed he or she is born with language where Skinner believed that people have to be taught how to speak by some one’s language acquisition.
All three theorists have their own assumptions on language acquisition. Chomsky believes we are born with the skills for language. Skinner believes children is learn through imitation that focuses on behavior and Whorf thought language was developed by interaction with peers rather than being born with it. The one major factor that they all share is the importance of language from birth. If children are deprived of language from the start they will suffer drastically, which proves my statement in the beginning; which was, children who are isolated from language and communication from the early ages will deal with major effects when they are older.
A major period that some theorists believe is crucial for language development is called the critical period, which can cause many effects in learning language. From the article “Introduction Brain and Language” explained what the critical-age hypothesis was. This theory believes language is organically based and the capacity to learn your inhabitant language develops from birth to middle childhood. Subsequent to this period, the attainment of grammar is complicated for most people and never fully grasped.
Children who are not exposed of language during this critical period will have a difficult time overcoming this deficit. This concept can be proved to be true in humans and other species. 22. Introduction Brain and Language gave an example of ducklings. For instance, from nine to twenty-one months after hatching, ducks will follow the first moving object they see regardless if it is a duck or not. This behavior did not come subconsciously but from an “external teaching, or intensive practice.” Other examples of the critical period that is strongly associated to language learning is the critical period in certain songbirds, e.g., zebra finches or white crowned sparrows (Marler, 1970).
For children there have been cases that support this theory. For instance, there was a young boy who was isolated from society also known as the “wild” child. In the film produced by Francois Truffaut “The Wild Child” was based on a young boy named Victor. It was determined that he was left in forest and survived shockingly. (Language and Brain Development 23.) In the YouTube documentary we learned that Victor was not capable to speak or recognize language. He was brought to Paris where he was first put into a deaf school, but after Francois Truffaut observes Victor he believes he can hear and can be educated. After a while, Victor begins to gain some kind of language from being in society. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dA2W0SwIwY).
Another perfect example that supports the conjecture of the critical period is a girl named Genie. Genie as well as Victor was a wild child. Genie was abused and isolated from all society from eighteen months to about fourteen years of age. Genie was restricted to a small room under terrible conditions and received minimal to none of human contact. Genie was not able to talk or knew any language at all. (Language and Brain Development 23) said “this linguistic inability could simply be caused by the fact that these children received no linguistic input, showing that language acquisition, though an innate, neurologically based ability, must be triggered by input from the environment.”
Like Victor, Genie learned some kind of language but lacked “grammatical structure.” Possessing language is essential to have living in a society. Without language you would not be able to communicate, give, and receive knowledge. For instance Genie; in (Introduction Brain and Language) said “The cases of Genie and other isolated children, as well as deaf late learners of ASL, show that children cannot fully acquire language unless they are exposed to it within the critical period—a biologically determined window of opportunity during which time the brain is prepared to develop language.” People use and develop language in their lives and it is important to have developed it in an early age.
Feldman, Robert S. (2011). Essentials of Understanding Psychology “Jump Start” copyright . United Feature Syndicate. Reprinted with permission. Introduction Brain and Language http://suite101.com/article/how-we-learn-language-a158847
Aitchinson, Jean (1976). The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. London: Hutchinson & Co. http://www.healthofchildren.com/L/Language-Development.html