Is Terms Innate or Learned?
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Human being
Dec 16th, 2019

Is Terms Innate or Learned?

Keywords: skinner terms theory, chomsky terms theory

How do we learn dialect? Is it an innate capacity or do we must learn dialect? Can we find a complete definition for vocabulary? These questions has been asked and investigated by many psychologists, but to time I have not been able to find any concrete evidence put forward to back up the findings. Making use of the language acquisition theories of Chomsky and Skinner, as a base, I was able to compare of their findings by applying the ideas to genuine situations to look for the practicality of the results. As a result of making these evaluations, I could determine that each theory alone had limits, but I think that if we required areas of each and made one compilation, it is possible that we could eventually determine whether terms is in fact an innate ability or whether it is developed through learning.

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Language can be an innate ability which is not developed through learning

To say that words can be an innate ability and it is not developed through learning, we have to look at the theorist arguments on dialect acquisition. One theorist argued that terminology can be an innate potential, (Chomsky, 1959), another argued that it is acquired by support and repetition (Skinner, 1957), another argued that it was part of the overall development (Piaget, 1969) and yet another argued that it’s learned through discussion (Bruner, 1975). Although each theorist produced differing views on dialect acquisition, the question still remains as to whether language is an innate potential or it is discovered. I am focusing on Skinner’s (1957) Behaviourist Theory and Chomksy’s (1959) Innate Theory as the base on this newspaper.

Let us first go through the definition of dialect. Language, as described by the Webster’s online dictionary claims that it is a systematic method of communicating, by the use of tones or convectional icons. The idea is the fact that terms is facilitated and realized by the use of organised elements. These elements are not limited by auditory but also encompass the use of convectional icons. What therefore are convectional icons? Throughout the evolutionary process, countries have developed their own approach to documents using unique characters or numerals. They also have created signs which have no alphanumeric icons but effectively speak necessary information, for example, a single arrow pointing left could mean, still left change only or keep remaining. Similarly the outline of an individual on the entry doors of washrooms communicate the gender allowed to use the washroom. The icon may have a definitive interpretation, however the interpretation of the mark will determine the correct action.

Another definition found in the Oxford online dictionary, we see where dialect is thought as the technique of human being communication, either spoken or written, comprising the use of words in a organized and convectional way. It is interesting to note the disparity in the two explanations. Whilst the Webster’s description appears generic to any specie, the Oxford definition seems to be specific to communication in humans. Will the Oxford dictionary imply communication is unique to humans? Based on the research done by the theorists we recongnise that humans have a discussion and all other living varieties have their own method of communicating with one another. It is therefore not appropriate to disregard non-human communication expertise.

Looking at the human being interaction and how exactly we have the ability to understand each other, especially as it relates terms development in newborn infants, has encouraged many theories. De Villiers J. G. & P. A. (1978), in their book, Vocabulary Acquisition, the question is asked, “What does a kid bring in to the world with him through inherited knowledge or behavior, and what’s the product of the experience?” (p. 2). It really is clear that both genetics and experience play an important part in dialect development, however the root question remains debatable. The quarrels continue with Osherson, D. N. , Gleitman L. R. , Liberman M, (1995) in their book, An Invitation to Cognitive Science: Language, they state that some parts of the capacity to learn words must be ‘innate’. At the same time, it is similarly clear that dialect is ‘learned’ (Gleitman and Newport, section 1, p. 1)

The hierarchy of terminology, however complicated, is influenced by the environment and activities. In infants we recognise that there is no experience, therefore the development can only be connected or associated with the environment. The direct links that infants have in their first stages are only with their parents or other close members of the family who interact with them on a regular basis. Babies don’t have the capacity to make audible looks which constitute phrases; however they do have to capacity to make other noises which may be interpreted as immediate needs or would like. As the kid develops, the verbal conversation increases and depending on the appropriateness or the effectiveness of the conversation, the development progress will be decided. Which means that how the mother or father speaks to the child or how often phrase or sentences are being used will regulate how quickly the child’s vocabulary is developed.

The comparisons between nature versus nurture have been debated for a long period. The storyplot has been discussed the Egyptian Ruler Psammethichus, who in an attempt to determine which race was more historical, the Egyptian or the Phrygians, took two newborn newborns and positioned them in isolation. They were kept by themselves in a lonesome cottage and no-one was permitted to utter words around them. After two years in isolation the caregiver of the children listened to them say the term ‘becos’ and he eventually reported this to the King. King Psametichus explored the word and found out that the foundation of the dialect was Phrygian for ‘bread’. The discovery made the Egyptians deliver their position of antiquity and conceded that the Phrygians were more historic than these were. (Herodotus, De Slincourt A. , Marincola J. 2003), The Histories). The actual fact that these children experienced no verbal connection at all makes you want to think that babies are delivered with some innate potential for terminology development.

Although this history is very old, we can also look at more recent language trends in children who are placed in isolated conditions. Feral children, often called crazy children, are children who’ve been brought up altogether isolation. They could have some individual contact but they are denied any type of social relationship with other people. These children have been known to develop their own terms as regarding ‘Genie’, who was simply kept in isolation until she was 13 yrs. old. This is a current example of vocabulary development without advice. She had not been trained to speak and was refused any human conversation whilst in isolation and when she was found and tested (Curtis, 1977), it was learned that Genie would never be able to master the rules of sentence structure. Although she possessed good semantic potential, she could not learn syntax and therefore was not able to form complete sentences.

Going back to the theorist arguments, did ‘Genie’s’ lack of communicative capacity give credence to Skinners’ (1957) proposal that terms can be had through a series of habit forming responsibilities? The tests he performed were conducted on rats and birds, which were taught to perform various tasks efficiently. This theory, known as the Behaviourist Theory, proposes that through repetition and subsequent rewards children learn how to talk. In his 1957 publication, Verbal Behavior, Skinner argued that words was like any other form of behavior which is bought through conditioning. Rewards were given once the appropriate behavior was achieved. However looking again at feral children, even with repetition and rewards they still were not able to learn the rules of grammar. The normal diagnosis was these children had passed the critical period hypothesis, which is the level before puberty before the brain becomes particular in it functions. Language functions are assigned to the left brain, however before puberty the language function moves in one side to the next and after puberty this function is assigned to the left brain.

Chomsky (1959) released a criticism of this theory. Chomsky believed that a child’s brain included special terms learning capabilities at delivery which enabled them to communicate from beginning – the Innate Theory. He argued a child was naturally predisposed to learn a dialect. This was possible by hearing speech which is interpreted by the brain which consists of natural ability to use structures and principles. Chomsky’s’ view is that ‘a child is performed to be created with the complete set of linguistic universals plus evaluation procedures, built-in, and that he somehow uses this set in place as a grid through which he filters this vocabulary he happens to hear around him’ (1968a, p. 76). After reading the review it was interesting to notice that Chomsky critised Skinner because he used only family pets as the test things, and because of this the theory was silent on specie limitations. Ironically, Chomsky’s innate theory was predicated on no test subject (people or creature). If we are to accept the innateness of terminology acquisition then we would have to somehow enter the mind of the kid from beginning to determine how the brain interpreted the speech it observed.

Using the feral children Kamala and Amala, both Indian girls which were said to be brought up by wolves can we apply the innate theory? The missionary who found and used them (Singh) tried to rehabilitate them back to their individuals form. Regrettably Amala died soon after being found. Progress was poor and after 3 years, Kamala acquired only mastered about a dozen words. The question then is; where will the innate capability surface? Predicated on the innate theory, these children must have had some capacity to understand human being language, even though these were socialized by wolves in the first periods of development. It had been several years later that Kamala’s vocabulary risen to forty words. Gesell (1940) in his publication, Wolf Child and Individual Child, stated that Kamala’s situation showed ‘just how mentally naked humans are when born and how much we rely on contemporary society to shape us’.


After considering the two ideas I am still left to determine which has more credence than the other. I am almost tempted to conduct my very own research, much like King Psammethichus, the only real risk with doing that might be the impending prison time I may have to provide for offences committed against a minor. I am however able to give my thoughts and opinions on the ideas. I really do not agree that language acquisition is only dependent on an innate ability; there must be some learning which takes place during the early developmental stages. Humans may be given birth to with a pre-disposition for dialect, however there should be some social connection that defines the vocabulary, grammar and speech.

We teach our kids language by utilizing a variety of methods, such as aesthetic assists and verbal reinforcements. If we only suggest to them the visual supports, without explaining what they are witnessing, they will in the end create their own description and perhaps create their own language. The feral children didn’t actually create their own words, instead they adapted to their environment. In the case of Genie, she acquired limited human connection; it is therefore possible that her words development was only predicated on the few words spoken to her during her isolation. The foodstuffs she was served may have just been shoved at her with severe accompanying words of “eat this” or “here”. Making use of Skinner’s theory, the reinforcement may have been the harsh words noticed regularly however, not enough to develop the syntax had a need to form phrases. Here Chomsky’s theory might have been more appropriate, for the reason that there is some amount of innate understanding of human being communication; Genie taken care of immediately human talk although she was not taught.

In the situation of Kamala, who was brought up by wolves, the innate theory is extremely hard. She had to be educated everything as she didn’t understand anything her adoptive parent or guardian said. Skinner’s theory here is more believable. It had been through frequent repetition and reinforcement that she was able to develop some type of vocabulary repository to eventually communicate. What is interesting is the length of time it took on her behalf to grasp a dozen words. In a standard three 12 months old child, you will see they are most communicative and speaking constantly as of this age.

In bottom line, I believe the two theories go hand in hand. You can not have one without the other. We may be created with some amount of innate ability, but it is through repetition and reinforcement that people have the ability to communicate effectively. The necessary sentence structure and syntax potential requires practice and this can only be achieved with being taught. It really is my thoughts and opinions that both Skinner and Chomsky were on the right path but they needed to work together to obtain the vocabulary acquisition theory more credence.

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