The 'Big' Theorists (CLA)

Revision cards about the 'big' theorists which can be applied to many linguistic frameworks. 


Nativist Theorists

  • Noam Chomsky - Language Acquistion Device and Universal Grammar - all children will learn to speak through the LAD and UG, probably somewhere in the brain, present in all children worldwide. does not aim to explain acqusition of lexis and seemantics, just grammar. 
  • Leneberg - critical period hypothesis - language learning must be kick-started before the critical period is over, or the child will not learn to speak properly. The critical period is from birth to approximately 13 yrs old. 
  • Stephen Pinker - language instinct - all children learn to speak out of necessity of communication, it is an evolutionary instinct to speak and communicate since it betters our chances of survival. 
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Behaviourist Theorists

  • Skinner - reinforcement and social interaction help develop language. Children imitate and copy adults, and reinforcement conditions them into using the correct behaviour.  
      • Positive reinforcement - a behaviour is rewarded, e.g. through verbal praise, and this encourages the behaviour to be repeated.
      • Negative reinforcement - behaviour goes unrewarded with the intention that it will not be repeated (does not necessarily mean punishing/correcting it, could just be ignoring it)
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Cognitive Theorists

  • Jean Piaget - children are active learners and social interactions shae their language. Children cannot be taught before they are ready - they must understand the concepts surrounding a word's meaning first - language development relies on cognitive development. Four stages of development: 
      • Sensorimotor - up to 2 yrs - experiencing the world through sense, concrete lexical choices, not abstract, object permanence develops. 
      • Pre-operational - 2-7 yrs - language and motor skills become more competent, egocentric language (focused on the child or used when child is alone) 
      • Concrete Operational - 7-11yrs - child begins to think logically about concrete events.
      • Formal Operational - 11+yrs - abstract reasoning develops. 
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Social Interaction Theorists

  • Lev Vygotsky - Social Development Theory - child learns through social interaction and scaffolding. More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) helps child progress through zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) via giving examples and help, deceasing the amount of help as the knowledge gap decreas and the child becomes more independent. Can be applied to any skill - reading, writing, speaking, riding a bike, anything where there is a gap in knowledge. Scffolding is a strategy often used in schools. 
  • Skinner has some elements of social interaction in his theory.
  • Piaget says children learn through play and interaction - has some elements of social interaction. 
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