miércoles, 8 de octubre de 2014


                                    FIRST LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

-         How do you feel that children acquire their first language?
-         What are your views of Chomsky’s theory of first language acquisition? 

     The aim of this essay is to express my ideas towards first language acquisition and my views of Chomsky’s theory of First Language Acquisition (F.L.A). In order to do this, I will focus on chapter 3 from Vivien Cook “General Concepts of Language Acquisition”.
     In my opinion, children behave as if they were sponges, since they acquire language from the environment. That is to say, children need to be exposed to the social context in which they are immersed. This context could be composed by parents, peers, caretakers, neighbours and relatives. In my view, this input is essential for children to acquire an L1 because, in an isolated situation, children would not be able to cope with all the language they are supposed to produce.
     According to Chomsky, children unconsciously need the three types of evidence while acquiring the language. These are positive, direct negative and indirect negative evidence.  “Positive evidence” is the one in which the occurrence of particular sentences in the speech children hear tells them which sort of language they are encountering and so how to set the parameters; “direct negative evidence” is the one in which children might say an incorrect sentence and an adult immediately correct it; and “indirect negative evidence” shows that certain forms do not occur in the sentences the children hear. With all these evidences children can set a parameter to a particular value.
    Chomsky claims that direct negative evidence is not necessary for language acquisition, but indirect negative evidence may be relevant. He also states that imitation is not the only necessary requirement to produce language but also creativity. The former is only about repeating, parroting pieces of language. The latter is about creating new structures of language, which is basically what humans do.
     Having mentioned Chomsky, when I first encountered his theory of F.L.A, I was stunned because I felt children behave as if they were robots. Eventually, I discovered I was mistaken; I read his theory in depth and realized that instead of being robots and merely repeating pieces of language, children carry a Language Acquisition Device (L.A.D). Children hear a number of sentences said by adults, that is to say, the primary data; then they process this data within the L.A.D.; and finally they acquire linguistic competence in the language. Hence, this device is in charge of processing the input in order to produce the appropriate output. Chomsky says that this device constructs the postulated grammars from the given data.
     I feel that Chomsky was a pioneer as regards neuro-linguistics because he was the one who demonstrated and defended his theory throughout his life. From my point of view he was controversial at that time but that does not mean he gave up his ideas. I consider that he has made a relevant contribution to the field of linguistics with concrete evidence and with the new notion of creativity, the capacity of understanding and producing sentences that people have never heard before.

     In conclusion, children acquire a first language from the evidence they encounter, so without any evidence at all, they will acquire nothing. Knowledge of language needs experience to mature, without it nothing would happen. As Chomsky has very well said, language acquisition is the maturing of the mind according to a preset biological clock.   


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