To what extent can a nativist perspective successfully explain children’s early language development? by [Author’s Name] To what extent can a nativist perspective successfully explain children’s early language development? Introduction Despite the growing body of literature, controversies surrounding children’s language development continue to persist…
The significance of the nativist perspective cannot be disregarded, and today’s scientific evidence provides some support to the language instinct hypothesis. However, it is at least incorrect to say that early language development is nothing but a product of genetic forces. As a result, it would be fair to assume that the nativist perspective cannot adequately explain language development processes in the earliest years of life. The nativist perspective: Basic premises In order to understand why the nativist perspective cannot adequately explain language development processes in children, its basic premises need to be explained. As mentioned earlier, Fodor, Chomsky, and Pinker are rightly considered as the major representatives of the nativist stance. Simply stated, Chomsky, Pinker, and Fodor rely on the premise that all developmental processes in children, including language development, are genetically predetermined (Oates & Grayson 2004). The innateness of language is the central assumption on which all these professionals rely. The most surprising is the fact that nativists recognize the weaknesses and inconsistencies of their language instinct hypothesis: “The ubiquity of complex language among human beings is a gripping discovery and, for many observers, compelling proof that language is innate. But to tough-minded skeptics…it is no proof at all. Not everything that is universal is innate” (Oates & Grayson 2004). Yet, what they say in reality is not that their hypothesis is weak and inconsistent. Rather, they suggest that the problem of not accepting the nativist stance is entirely the problem of skeptics, and the evidence supporting their hypotheses and theories is ample. According to Pinker, evidence supporting the innateness of language is rather compelling (Oates & Grayson 2004). First, he refers to pidgins and creoles, which are characterized by poor language inputs but, nevertheless, retain numerous grammar and style commonalities (Oates & Grayson 2004). Pinker mentions the work of Derek Bickerton, who explored pidgins and creoles and concluded that, despite the lack of environmental influences, individuals using non-grammatical forms of communication managed to develop sufficient communication capabilities (Oates & Grayson 2004). Simply put, they learned to understand one another even without any external language influences. Based on this evidence, Pinker suggests that children during their early years simply cannot help creating grammatical structures to understand each other and their parents/surroundings (Oates & Grayson 2004). Therefore, Pinker concludes that language development is something that comes from within the human mind. Pinker claims that, without any motives or inputs from the outside world, children reinvent their language, and this is just another proof to the language innateness hypothesis. Second, Pinker further extends Chomsky’s argument of the poor input, meaning that children begin producing a language they have never heard in their lives. Thus, they do not need any ...
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