Chomsky believes that children are born with an inherited ability to learn any of the human languages. He thinks that certain linguistic structures that children use so accurately, must have already stuck in their mind. Chomsky believes that every child has a ‘language acquisition device’ or LAD. LAD encodes the major principles of a language and its grammatical structures into the child’s brain. Then the children only have to learn new vocabulary and apply the syntactic structures form the LAD to form sentences.
He pointed out that a child could not possibly learn a new language through imitation alone simply because the language spoken around them is of a higher form. Adult’s speech is often broken up and even sometime ungrammatical. His theory applies to all languages as they all contain; nouns, verbs, consonants and vowels. Every language is extremely complex, often with subtle distinctions which even native speakers are unaware of. However, all children, regardless of their intellectual ability, become fluent in their native language within five or six years. Evidence to support Chomsky’s theory
•Children learning to speak never make grammatical errors such as getting their subjects, verbs and objects in the wrong order. •If an adult deliberately said a grammatically incorrect sentence, the child would notice. •Children often say things that are ungrammatical such as ‘mama ball’, which they cannot have learnt passively. •Mistakes such as ‘I drawed’ instead of ‘I drew’ show they are not learning through imitation alone.
•Chomsky used the sentence ‘colourless green ideas sleep furiously’, which is grammatical although it doesn’t make sense, to prove his theory: he said it shows that sentences can be grammatical without having any meaning, that we can tell the difference between a grammatical and an ungrammatical sentence without ever having heard the sentence before, and that we can produce and understand brand new sentences that no one has ever said before. Evidence against Chomsky’s theory
•Critics of Chomsky’s theory say that although it is clear that children don’t learn language through imitation alone, this does not prove that they must have an LAD – language learning could merely be through general learning and understanding abilities and interactions with other people.