FALL 2000                                                                                                          


 Essay Topic: Write a group essay in which you describe the language acquisition theories of Noam Chomsky and B.F. Skinner. Then compare and contrast these theories. Explain the analogy of the light switch, described on p23 of your textbook Interdisciplinary English, and  relate it to what Chomsky and Skinner believed about how we acquire language.


            Language is very important for all of us because the language helps us to express our thoughts, and feelings. We also can communicate between human beings with language.  Without learning language, there would probably be a problem for everyone.


            Sociologists, linguists and psychologists are interested in language acquisition and how we acquire our language skills.  For example, the linguist Chomsky and  psychologist B.F. Skinner had two theories of how we learn language.


            Noam Chomsky believed that all humans have knowledge of the general grammar of their native languages from birth.  This means children don't need to learn the general grammar rules because all children are able to put words into the right grammatical order from birth.  In other words, Chomsky believes that the children are born with a natural inborn ability to speak simple sentences. So children do not need to be taught their native language.


            In contrast, B. F. Skinner believed that children must learn native   language grammar, and children need to learn through the experience of communication with their peers and environment.  Children usually learn the sounds and vocabulary of their native language through their imitation of others in the environment.


            Chomsky's and Skinner's theories are contrasting. Chomsky believed that humans have an inborn capacity for a native language.  Skinner believed that children learn from their experience and imitate from their environment.  Consequently, Chomsky's theory is that children can speak automatically, but Skinner's theory shows that children learn by copying language from their parents or environment.


            Both theories make sense to me. The two theories complement each other. Language acquisition is a knowledge and understanding of grammar, and language is also acquired through communication with our environment. Therefore, without an innate ability, we can't develop our native language skills and also without development of environment, we can't take advantage of an innate capacity. In other words, we need to have both innate ability and learning for language acquisition.


            The capacity for language acquisition is in our brain. Our brain comes with wires to learn a native language. The language acquisition is very important for our lives. If we can't communicate with each other then we will need to use the sign language just like monkeys. So we need to learn with our innate brain capacity.




            To do this project, I read about two interesting theories by Noam Chomsky and B.F, Skinner. These two scientists were interested in language acquisition. They demonstrate how important language acquisition is for humans.


            All humans grow up with a native language so I believe that humans have an innate capacity for language acquisition. All humans have knowledge by their experience from birth. We experience learning language through all our lives and we acquire knowledge of language in our natural environment. I learned once more the importance of language acquisition.  I also learned that all humans have the capacity to learn and get more knowledge for language acquisition. Furthermore, the human's capacity can achieve the second language, too.


            I enjoyed working with the psychology group because we all worked and helped each other. I thought that group working would be difficult, but we all participated in our group working on the essay. I never had a chance to work with a group before, and I learned how to communicate with our group. I could get more information from different viewpoints so I could get myself to write more clearly for my essay. The experience of working with a group was good for me at least.  On the other hand, the bad point is that we should be able to meet more frequently in our groups.