Wednesday, 22 June 2016

General Concepts of Language Acquisition: Chomsky’s Nativist Position

Reflect Express your opinion of the theory developed in Chapter III ¨General Concepts of Language Acquisition¨ we have discussed in class. Consider the following questions: Do you agree? Do you disagree? What points are the most interesting? What questions are not answered? Does it convince you? Discuss its weaknesses. Write a couple of paragraphs.

It is not known if Chomsky’s Nativist Position has provided the final answer of the question about what is going on inside our minds when we produce language. However, I consider Chomsky’s theory very interesting for several reasons. I strongly agree with the poverty-of-the-stimulus argument which explains that if what we say does not come from the outside, it must be inside the mind. This concept made me reflect about the meaning of the verb produce, in consequence and after I looked it up in the dictionary I have chosen to highlight the following definition: -to produce: to bring into existence by the mind or by creative ability. Chomskyan notion of creativity states that people regularly understand and produce sentences that they have never heard before. Children hear the ¨primary linguistic data ¨, they process this data within their black box, called the Language Acquisition Device (later Universal Grammar), and they acquire linguistic competence in the language, a ¨generative grammar¨. Nevertheless, I must say that I also agree with Cook when he points out that even though linguists can formulate quite reasonable and strong empirical hypothesis regarding this internal structure, it is not possible to open the child’s mind to confirm their deductions.

Chomsky’s metaphor of ¨The Black Box¨ to represent our mind is extraordinarily simple, but also complex at the same time, because it implies that we are born with the Universal Grammar in our mind. Acquiring language means processing from not having any language, zero state, to having full competence, steady state. I definitively believe that his theory of Universal Grammar went beyond expectations because it is a collection of principles and parameters that account for similarities and differences for any languages, which shows their outstanding adaptability. Regarding the goals of linguistics in terms of levels of adequacy, the Universal Grammar theory integrates acquisition with the description of grammar by making explanatory adequacy central; the description of the grammar goes hand in hand with the explanation of how it is learnt. Chomsky wanted to know what happens inside the mind, he was concerned with the internal language, the language of the mind. He was interested in the linguistic competence (the knowledge of language), not in pragmatic concepts (how we behave socially). I agree with his point of view because I also believe that what is important to analyse is the knowledge we have at the end of the process inside our minds, the internal language not the external.



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