Language acquisition

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 13 November 2016

Language acquisition

Nature and nurture are two ways of determining the factors that are involved into the human nature. My goal in this essay is determining what are the main factors involved in the acquisition of the language in a human. By the extension of both terms, I will extend these two terms not only in the way of acquisition but also in the way of learning a language. Why? Because language is basically communication and not only children learn how to speak a language, adults can also learn. Nature Nature is the fact in which genetics and biological factors are involved.

The meaning of this term affirms that is the individual the responsible of its own growing and in its extremist significance, society and enviroment does not anything to do with human learning. In the nature position, there is a branch which affirms that the brain is divided into modules and one of this has an prenatal predisposition for acquiring language. For instance: FOX P2 is a gene that is involved into the acquisition of language in children. The mutation of this gene may cause disruptions in the speech of the individual, including the unability of pronouncing any intelligible word.

The most visible fact that makes nativism a theory is babies’ babbling. Children receive stimuli since the moment they are born and the way they react to that words is unique. For example, babies pay attention and react the stimulus sucking while their mothers are talking their L1 but they do not so if they are listening to other language, even if it is their mother voice. This theory is mainly supported by famous investigators such as Avram Noam Chomsky, Jerry Fodor or Ludovica Serratrice. Nurture Nurture is the fact that involves the family and the enviroment into the acquisition of a language.

This theory suggests that the language is acquired by social relationships. Its most extreme position points out that human can only learn language by the exposition to it and the innateness of language is impossible: there is no genetical predisposition for learning a language for a newborn until he is into an advanced age. Nurture in language supports the idea that motherise is the origin of the language in children. The most important division of this ideology is the behaviourism, followed by Burrhus F. Skinner and Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. Behaviourism says that everything that human could learn is done by imitation.

However, this theory is not valid because it cannot explain why human can create sentences that had never heard. However, in its nowadays line of thinking, admits that genetics have something to do with acquiring language. For example, a baby that sees a lollipop and wants that item would try to catch her mother attention by moaning and pointing at it. This is the first step in the communication. The second one will be acquire enough words for transmitting that information. This fact has a genetic impulse given by the recently discovered “gene of happiness”, named as 5-HTTLPR, a serotonin transporter who is able to produce satisfaction.

The debate Although the debate seems to be stuck in favour of nature, there are things that make me think about what is true in both stands. Coming back to that child sitting on that wheelchair, trying to say to her mother that he is desiring that lollipop from that shop, I must say there are a lot of factors that child ignores. First of all, the reaction of calling his mother is an attempt of communication based on the newborn innate reaction of crying. When a baby cries, requires attention and this evolves into a more mature reaction that is moaning. The trouble of this idea comes when the child acquires the words.

This lexicon is acquired by their environment, the family and the rest of society that has a kind of relationship with the individual. However, it is known that this child owns a genetic disposition for making structures in language but he has to learn it from others. Genes or family? Here resides the question. Logically, with these parameters already set it would not be possible to be carried to mistake. On a study looking for heritable factors took with children who were adopted, brothers and twins, it revealed that language is inherited by parents in a lower range.

But genes also respond to signals from environmental factors, not just the characteristics which the individual started. if genes would determine everything in a person, society would not be possible. This receptivity allows a cultural belonging and the same behaviour into a community. Of course heritable factors are in the mix, giving the sense of family. In terms of linguistics, children first learn from their families and after a few years they learn other kind of language with a “second family”.

Acquiring that language allows a person to enter into a specific community as teenagers start listening to rock music if their friends like it. An experiment took in Minnesota, United States, by T. J. Bouchard Jr determined that twins reared apart and reared together had different levels of happiness. Monozygotic twins reared together showed more correlation in genes than the ones carried apart. So heritable factors are not concluding in the study. The debate balances in favour of the nurture side talking about second language acquisition. Why is not learning a language as easy as children do.

Children have a period for learning a language. Chomsky has proved in several studies that syntax can be acquired until seven years old and phonetics until sixteen. Further of these range of age, learning for a person is impossible if it is about L1 and difficult for L2, even elder the individual is. “Jenny case” is the evidence of this. Jenny was a girl who was treated as a dog since she was born, abandoned in a room of her parents’ house without any contact with people. When the police found them, she was eleven years old and she was unable to acquire language.

In case of second language, everybody who attended a class of a foreign language and met a retired man attending those classes should know by experience that man would not learn that language even he works hard on it. Conclusion A native speaker is the result of himself and the society. Parents have a part in acquisition, as the society does.

Bibliography http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky#Linguistics http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Nature_versus_nurture#Nature_and_nurture http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Language_acquisition#Representation_of_language_acquisition_in_the_brain.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 13 November 2016

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