Language incorrect grammar that they hear. Nativists believe that

Language is the quintessential trait that divides us as humans from any
other species on earth. For centuries, linguists have tried to solve the puzzle
of how language is actually acquired, birthing the historic debate of Nature VS
Nurture. Are we born with the ability to learn language, or is it a learned
behaviour just like learning to walk? I aim to discuss in detail the three main
theories associated with language acquisition, in order to gain a better
personal understanding and form my own opinion.   

Primarily, the Nativist theory questions what abilities a child is born
with in order to be able to acquire language. This theory suggests that we are
born with the innate ability to recognise and use grammar, and that from birth children
are biologically programmed to learn language. The main theorist surrounding
this ideology is Noam Chomsky , an American linguist who proposed the idea of
the LAD (Language acquisition device), a hypothetical part of the brain that has
the capability to understand and produce language without training. For
Chomsky, only the LAD can explain how children are able to correct grammar from
the fragments of sentences and incorrect grammar that they hear. Nativists believe
that when children learn language, they do not simply repeat the sentences that
they hear, which Behaviourists believe to be true. Instead, Nativists insist
that infants recognise rules, and create entirely new sentences from these,
hence why some sentences are innovative and unique to them. Chomsky claims that
the rules of language are already imprinted onto a child’s mind via the LAD,
meaning that they only have to learn the vocabulary of a language and go from
there. He also identifies that the language spoken by adults is irregular,
therefore a child could not just imitate it in their own speech. Further
evidence supporting Nativists would be under/overextension in child speech, for
example adding ‘ed’ on the end of past tense verbs i.e ‘wented’. Obviously this
is not something a child would have imitated, and although it is grammatically
incorrect is still demonstrates the childs knowledge of grammatical rules.

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Although some could argue that the rules of language can be taught, to
this Nativists reply that it would be impossible because nobody actually knows
them, they are totally unconscious. There are however, linguistic universals, the
certain features shared across universal languages i.e nouns and verbs. Credited
largely  to Noam Chomsky, linguistic
universals support nativist ideologies, as they serve as evidence that all
humans have a similar genetic nature in which they have acquired language. Different
languages that were birthed at entirely different parts of the globe share
patterns in their structure, whether it be grammatical or syntactical. In an
interview, Chomsky once made the point that if we were to take an infant from a
remote tribe in Papua New Guinea where the language has not been influenced for
approximately 40,000 years, and flew them to the USA and raised them there,
they would grow up to speak like a child from the USA. This implies then, that
all human brains have the same biological endowment for language. In the later
years of his career (1985,1986), Chomsky expanded his original ideas with a
theory that recognises the complexities of language. The ‘Government and
binding theory’ (or the ‘principles and parameter theory’) highlights that
although there are linguistic universals, languages also vary in a number or
parameters and that language acquisition consists of learning the correct
version of any parameter from hearing the adult speech. For example, comparing
word order in English and in Japanese (Messer, 2000). In English sentences are
usually ordered SVO, whereas in Japanese they are ordered SOV. Any child exposed
to English speech would have their word order parameter set for SVO, whereas a
Japanese child would have the same parameter set for SOV. This is evidence of the
same unconscious parameters being used in different environments, showing two
grammars within the rules of Universal grammar. Chomsky defines universal
grammar as “the system of principles, conditions and rules that are elements or
properties of all human languages” (Cook,1985). Universal grammar consists of fundamental
ideas  that apply to grammar in all known
languages and therefore sets the limit to which languages are able to differ.  

On the contrary, although Chomsky’s research is held in high regard
there is also a lack of pragmatic dimension within his work. The emphasis on
grammatical rules in Nativist theory fails to take into consideration pragmatics.
Pragmatic understanding is important for the social interaction theory, which claims
that language acquisition is driven almost entirely by interaction and
communication. In addition to this, the Nativist theory also ignores environment,
and the impact this has on a child learning semantics, the accent they will
have, and the grammar of their first language.

Renowned linguists such as Bruner and Vygotsky strived to stress the
social nature of language, and its importance of interaction with others. Unlike
nativists, social interaction theorists questioned how children and others
interact and the impact this has on their development of cognition. Social
interactionists believe that language is not an abstract skill and that during childhood,
the need to communicate with others is the driving force behind language
acquisition. They debate that exposure to language is insufficient to acquire
it, and that it is a skill learned by interacting with others. A small example
of this would be that whilst a television exposes children to language, it
doesn’t necessarily help them learn it as there is no interaction involved. This
is why many children’s television shows now include interaction i.e Dory the
Explorer which presents questions and leaves a short pause for the child to be
able to participate.