Monday, June 11, 2007

Models of Language Development

I. Nativist Theory
o Chomsky was interested in a theory of universal grammatical rules of language.
o Chomsky stated that the capacity to learn language was innate.
o Nativist Theory stresses language form (syntax) and underlying mental processes.
o Theory states that children are born with a language acquisition device (LAD)
o In order to trigger this LAD device, the child needs input from the environment, however language is innate therefore the environment's role is minimal

II. Two levels of linguistic processing
o Phrase structure rules
- Phrase structure grammar must contain a noun and a verb
o Transformational rules
- Rules for changing phrase structure rules
* Surface structure is the actual sentence the child produces (e.g. John prefers steak)
* Deep structure is the underlying meaning of the sentence the child wants to produce (e.g. John would like steak)

III. Contributions of Nativist Theory
o Chomsky tried to explain universal language processes
o Offered a view that language learning is not externally imposed but develops from internal processing mechanisms.

IV. Limitations of Nativist Theory
o Transformational grammar emphasizes syntactic structures, but virtually ignores the contributions of phonetics, semantics and pragmatics.
o A syntax based model is inappropriate for describing single-word and two-word levels of language development.
o De-emphasizes the importance of the environment in early social and cognitive growth
o Issue of innateness is the weakest. To assume that the ability to use language is innate does little to facilitate an understanding of the actual process of language development (Chomsky was applying adult rules to explain how children develop language)