A great deal of a child's acquisition of linguistic structure occurs during the first five years of life. This is the period when he is most active in discerning a set of underlying organizational principles of language from the expression that surrounds him. It is amazing how at a very young age, he is capable of abstracting meaning from direct experience with other language users depending on his own context.
Lindfors (1987) notes that the child's language environment includes a set of specific sentences, however, it is not this set of sentences that he acquires, but deduces from these an underlying set of organizational principles and sound-meaning relationships. To illustrate, children as young as two do not talk by simply using the specific sentences they hear, but rather, they construct sentences according to their own early version of organized principles underlying the specific sentences they have heard. Perhaps due also limited language and motor skills, the child's early linguistic system is different from the adult's and results in telegraphic and grammatically erratic sentences like "He no want to sit me.", "I not like it", and "He gived it to me."
Over time, his language system will be revised in many different situations, and his sentences will become more adult-like. For his own purpose, he builds his own rule-governed constructions as he has deduced from his environment. (Lindfors, 1987)
There have been many theories conceptualized as to how language is acquired by human beings. Lindfors (1987) claims, "Virtually every child, without special training, exposed to surface structures of language in many interaction contexts, builds for himself - in a short period of time and at an early stage in his cognitive development - a deep-level, abstract, and highly complex system of linguistic structure and use. "( 90) This implies that every child is capable of learning language. The question is, how do they'
Two proponents of theories of language acquisition have opposing views on the matter: B.F. Skinner, the father of Behaviorism, a psychologist and Noam Chomsky, a linguist. Their theories shall be discussed independently at first, and then contrasted later.
Skinner's Behaviorist Model of language acquisition is consistent with the rules of operant conditioning, based upon a stimulus-response model. Simply put, infants are presented with language which they imitate. They are rewarded for their imitations so they continue to repeat what they have heard. Their imitation does not have to be exact or immediate in order for them to make use of it in learning language.