The influence of Noam Chomsky in child language acquisition

Essay by sahmed10 January 2008

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The influence of Noam Chomsky in child language acquisitionNoam Chomsky dominated the world of linguistics like a colossus for decades after the late fifties. My main aim of this essay is to discuss his influence in the area of child language acquisition and inspect to see if his influence is waxing or waning. After that I will examine the reasons behind the increase or decrease of his influence. I will be relating back every so often to nativism and the great 'nature vs. nurture' debate since Chomsky's reputation significantly depends on it.

Avram Noam Chomsky was born in 1928 and is, as reported by the online Encyclopaedia , "an Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and also is the creator of the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages." Apart from his linguistic work, Chomsky is also famous for his political views.

Although, the field of children's language development includes a whole range of perspectives , the issue that has outweighed the rest is that of whether language ability is 'innate' or not.

This matter which has been long debated concentrates on finding out whether children were born 'preprogrammed' to acquire language or is it merely a matter of cultural product .One of the most influential figures around this debate was Noam Chomsky, who believed in the innate capacity of children for learning language. As Harris (1990:76) explains, "Chomsky suggested that infants are born with innate knowledge of the properties of language." Further elaborating on Chomskys's belief, Sampson (1997:23) says "Chomsky claims that this process of first language acquisition must be determined in most respects by a genetic programme, so that the development of language in an individuals mind is akin to the growth of a bodily organ rather than being a matter of responding...