Thus, the nativists claim that language acquisition is innately determined and that we are born with this built-in device, which predisposes us to acquire language. This mechanism predisposes us to a systematic perception of language around us. Eric Lenneberg (1967 cited in Hayes 2000), in his attempt to explain language development in the child, assumed that language is a species – specific behaviour and it is ‘biologically determined’. Nativists do not see imitation as important as this does not explain a child saying “I brushed my tooths” as this does not appear in older companions language. Nativists also point out that parents do not sit down with their children and teach them grammar (Slobin 1975) found that parents pay little attention to the grammatical correctness of their children’s language.
Empiricists’ account of language development and acquisition can be explained using principles as operant conditioning, classical conditioning and observational learning. Skinner argued that children learn language as parents selectively reward or punish only those behaviours which they recognise as appropriate, grammatically correct utterances. Basically saying that language learning occurred through a stimulus response feedback process. This model of learning supposed that imitation was a necessary precondition for language learning. Learners would receive language input through listening as stimulus, and learn through imitation of this input. Imitation, together with the effects of corrective feedback acting as reinforcement, would lead to the successful internalisation of new language items which would be added to the learner’s grammar.
Listening had a key role in the empiricists’ view of language learning, both as the channel for the input of the stimulus, and also for the reinforcement of learning. Another Theorist in the empiricist band, Bandura, argued that language learning takes place primarily by processes of observation and imitation. Simply put, children overhear language being used and they imitate the behaviour of these models (Oates 2000). Farrar (1992 as cited in Harley 2001) found children were more likely to repeat adults’ utterances, suggesting they paid particular attention to them.
There are three basic components to Piaget’s theory for the Interactionists case and these are; Types of knowledge (physical, logical-mathematical, and social-arbitrary), Stages of development and processes that enable the transition from one stage to another. At each successive stage, it’s not just a matter of doing something better, but of doing a different thing altogether. Interactionists stress the importance of both the social support that parents provide the young language learner, as well as the social contexts in which language-learning child is instructed. Bruner (1983) argues parents provide their children a language acquisition support system or LASS. The LASS is a collection of strategies that parents employ to facilitate their children’s acquisition of language. One of these strategies is scaffolding, the deliberate use of language at a level that is slightly beyond what children can comprehend .
With parental support, scaffolding leads the children to acquire complex language more quickly than they might on their own. Child Directed Speech (CDS), sometimes called ‘Baby Talk’ or ‘Motherese’, is a special style, parents speak in a higher pitch, stress important words, and talk more slowly to their infants. and has been extensively studied over the past 30 years. Motherese is not only found in English, but Russian, Japanese Arabic and French, it is probably true in all languages. Very young infants show a clear preference for infant-directed speech. Gets an infant’s attention & increases the chances of their understanding the message (Hayes 2000).
Children who are deaf are not exposed to oral language, and although they begin to babble at about the same age as hearing children, they stop babbling early and experience great difficulty in learning to speak unless hearing aids correct the hearing loss. Even with a great deal of training, deaf children can not master the natural prosodies of speech. They tend to have a higher-than-average pitch, speak more slowly, and pause for breath more often. They have difficulty articulating consonants and vowels, particularly the voicing differences between consonants (such as /t/ and /d/), nasals, and diphthongs. Oral speech is not the only (or even primary) way for deaf children to communicate: many learn a system of manual communication. Indeed, several studies have shown that the desire to communicate is so great in many deaf children that they will spontaneously develop their own signs and sign combinations in order to communicate.
There have been some criticisms on the models of language development. Within the Nativist linguists have failed to specify the nature of universal grammar. Many linguists have speculated that this may not be possible, gr ammar is not learned as rapidly as one might expect if a great deal of innate knowledge is assumed. There is also little neurological evidence to support the existence of a biologically based LAD. Presumably there should be some pattern of damage that hinders our ability to learn a language.
Empiricists model has also been criticised for a number of reasons. Firstly it is simply not possible for parents to reinforce or punish all of the possible utterances a child will use. Studies of parent-child interaction show that parents reward grammatically incorrect utterances that are truthful. The language that children hear contains too few examples for them to learn the correct rules. Furthermore children over regularise consistently as they learn word endings, creating new construction that they have not heard before nor have been reinforced to produce, such as good, gooder, and gooded. It is difficult for empiricists to explain such creative learning deVilliers & deVilliers (1992 as cited in Hayes 2000) criticize some aspects of interactionists by suggesting that parents rarely offer their children direct feedback on the appropriateness of their grammar.
Linguistic & social practices vary widely across cultures. Some cultures do not use anything like the practices described above and yet, their children still learn language at a similar rate to Western children. Each of the three theoretical perspectives adds something to the study of language. Nativist models highlights the fact that now all aspects of a language can be learned in the time that humans typically do and thus, that an innate language mechanism must be a part of our equipment. Empiricists model provides some thoughts on plausible mechanisms that might underlie the acquisition of at least some facets of human language. Interactionists theories highlight the important role of the social environment and the important role social input has in structuring our language-learning.