Noam Chomsky Fact File and Nativist Theory

This is a a short fact file on Noam Chomsky and Nativist theory I produced myself for revision. 

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  • Created on: 09-10-11 16:23
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Noam Chomsky
Biographical information
· American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist.
· Born December 7, 1928
· Described as "father of modern linguistics".
· Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology for 50 years.
Nativist theory - 1965
· Believed human babies were born with an innate faculty for language acquisition.
· Natural faculty known as Language Acquisition Device (LAD).
· Believes human brain has evolved to contain linguistic information in neural circuits at birth
- biologically determined.
· Stated that all human languages share common principles universal grammar e.g. they all have
words for things and actions nouns and verbs.
Arguments for and against Nativist theory
For Against
· Human anatomy adapted to production of · Theory relies on being exposed to
speech evolved a vocal tract which allows language, does not take into account
precise articulation of a wide repertoire of interaction - e.g. `Jim' whose parents
vocal sounds. were deaf but wanted him to speak, so
· Neuroscience identified specific areas of exposed him to TV and radio - speech
brain with distinctly linguistic functions, e.g. development delayed until sessions with
Broca's area and Wernicke's area. speech therapist.
· Children globally experience same stages of · Does not take into account reasons why
development at similar pace. children want to speak or its function.
· Produce correct language when surrounded · Stop overgeneralising and learn to use
by flawed adult language. language correctly e.g. irregular verbs.
Comparison to other language theorists
· B.F. Skinner Behaviourism theory:

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Believed behaviour controlled by consequences e.g. p raising
child to encourage to repeat word if said correctly.
· Alternatively negative response from caregiver encourages child to disassociate wrong word.
· Stimulus (object) Response (what child says) Feedback (caregiver's response
pos/neg) Reinforcement (child learns whether to use word or not)
· Believes human babies born with no concept of language, but its due to reinforcement
we learn (opposing Chomsky's theory).
· Jean Piaget - Cognitive theory:
· Theorised language development directly linked to intellectual development.…read more


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