Theories of Language Acquisition , acquire language in order to survive,…
Theories of Language Acquisition
There are three aspects of communication: content (semantics), form (the way meaning is represented), and use(function in context).
five structural aspects of language:
Phonology – sound and intonation patterns
Semantics – meaning of words
Syntax – rules of grammar
Morphology – rules governing morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning
Pragmatics – how we adjust our speech to our audience
Noam Chomsky believes that we are born with a set of rules about language in our heads, which he refers to as the 'Universal Grammar', the basis upon which all human languages build. He feels that children are born with ‘Universal Grammar’ wired into their brains and they intuitively know which words to use.
Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work in linguistics has earned him the Kyoto Prize and the Helmholtz Medal. He writes and lectures widely on philosophy, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy.
Chomsky’s critics site that that he reduces language acquisition to grammar and does not address comprehension of the language.
Social Interactionist Approach
Social interaction, “assumes that language acquisition is influenced by the interaction of a number of factors – physical, linguistic, cognitive, and social.”
Child observes adults and develops their language abilities.
His theory of constructivism has 3 themes:
Cognitive development is a result of social interaction.
The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) is the adult or more advanced learner who can model for the young learner.
The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the distance between what the child can do independently and what he can do with guidance.
Vygotsky’s theory states that students play an active role in their own learning and is reciprocal between the student and the teacher.
Vygotsky’s work is often placed with this theory because of the emphasis he placed on the
importance of social interaction to learn language. Another influential author, M.A.K.
Halliday, believes that children learn language out of need to function in society: “Babies
Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory is the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky
(1896-1934), who lived during Russian Revolution. his work was largely unkown to the
West until it was published in 1962.
Bruner developed the Discovery Learning Theory, which states that the learner learns best what they discover for themselves. Students retain better what they research for themselves. This type of learning is based in student inquiry, simulation based learning, and problem solving.
Behaviorism breaks the reading process into subskills for readers to master:
Visual discrimination of shapes and letters
Auditory discrimination of the sounds of the alphabet
Left to right progression
Vocabulary or word knowledge
Comprehension or meaning making
B. F. Skinner
Because of the prevailing influences of behavioristic theory in educational research and practice, reading during this period was conceptualized as conditioned
behavior, and just another process susceptible to programming. The Skinnerian
or strict behaviorist perspective was that learning should not be conceived as
growth or development, but rather as acquiring behaviors as a result of certain environmental contingen
As Skinner (1974) stated,
Everyone has suffered, and unfortunately is continuing to suffer, from mentalistic theories of learning in education.... The point of education can be stated in behavioral terms: a teacher arranges contingencies under which the student acquires
behavior which will be useful to him under other contingencies later on....
Education covers the behavior of a child or person over many years, and the principles of developmentalism are therefore particularly troublesome. (
acquire language in order to survive, have their needs met, and express themselves”