Child Language - Essay Example

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Child Language

They have asserted that behaviorist explanations of language acquisition cannot account for it. According to the behaviorists, to learn language is to learn a sequence of stimulus-response links. The child's internalized "rules" (the sneer quotes are the behaviorist's, who does not deign to use such language) are similar to the "rules" involved in motor sequences like brushing one's teeth and tying shoe laces, or in any other well-learned motor activity. Against this, Chomsky and his followers have argued that the child cannot be seriously maintained to have learned a different set of stimulus-response links for each utterance he makes (Chomsky, 1965). Life is too short for learning all the word strings we use.
According to the semantic approach the child learns how different meanings are expressed by different sentence structures ( Quine, 1972). One might have expected such an approach to be formulated very soon as a reaction against behaviorist explanations, with their complete neglect of meaning. But such was the stranglehold of behaviorism on theory construction that the semantic approach was not formulated for a long time. The behaviorist edifice succumbed only to the truculent attacks of Noam Chomsky. Chomsky's linguistic theory, transformational grammar, gave rise to an alternative approach to language (Chomsky, 1986).
Chomsky as a b ...Show more


It is common today to speak of learning the syntax of a language as of the internalization of rules. Knowing such rules, of course, does not imply awareness; rather, a rule is viewed as a construct underlying certain regularities of behavior, namely, that we understand sentences and utter them in accordance with the grammar (more or less)…
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