Why Is First Language Acquisition?

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All species have the ability to communicate but despite humans and primates sharing a common ancestor only the human race has developed the capability to learn and develop language; using a set of sounds and symbols to impart meaning to one another. Animals have always had the ability to communicate using a limited set of sounds but attempts by scientists to teach animals to use language but have never truly succeeded. It is thought, therefore, to learn and utilise language is one of the defining characteristics of humans. Norman Geschwind (1979) as cited in Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams (2003: 2), said, “The nervous systems of all animals have a number of basic functions in common, most notably the control of movement and the analysis of…show more content…
Due to this, children and their acquisition of a first language has always been the focus of research into language acquisition. Various theories have tried to address how this phenomenon occurs however, almost sixty years later; there is not one definitive answer but three main schools of thought. Behaviourism based on the work of Burhuss Frederic Skinner; Nativist originating in Noam Chomsky’s research; and Cognitive founded in the studies of Jean Piaget. In 1957 Skinner, an American psychologist published his book, Verbal Behavior, which proposed children acquire language through their environment, with different conditions producing differing cognitive learning. This was based on his belief that humans learn all behaviours and do not have any innate abilities - similar to a blank slate upon which language is imprinted. Within his model, he argued that children learn the ability to understand language, and then follow on to use words and sentences to communicate. Skinner proposed children gained their knowledge of language through the imitation of adults and repetition, and learnt whether they had pronounced sounds correctly, or in context, through positive reinforcement. Skinner once said, “Give me a child, and I’ll shape him into
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