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Study Notes

Chomsky: Language Acquisition in Infancy and Early Childhood

BTEC National

Last updated 23 Sept 2022

Language is an example of intellectual development. There are some theorists who believe language is learned and others who believe that language is innate.

Noam Chomsky is a credible linguist and expert in language development. He started his research into language in the 1960s. He suggests that children are born with an innate ability to learn language.

The Key Principles of Chomsky’s Model of Language Acquisition

  • Everyone is born with the capacity to develop and learn any language.
  • Language development is instinctive.
  • Every child has a “Language Acquisition Device”, or LAD for short.
  • The LAD is a tool that is found in the brain; it enables the child to rapidly develop the rules of language.
  • The role of the LAD is to encode the major skills involved in language learning, but with a focus on the encoding of grammar.
  • Grammar is a vital skill needed for children to learn language.

Chomsky disregarded the role of imitation alone - especially if the adult is using a structure that the child themselves has not started to use yet.

Application of Chomsky’s Model of Language Acquisition

Children are often heard making grammatical errors such as “I sawed,” and “sheeps” which they would not have learned from hearing adults communicate. This shows the child using the LAD to get to grips with the rules of language.

Once the child has mastered this skill, they are only in need of learning new words as they can then apply the rules of grammar from the LAD to form sentences.

Chomsky proposed that native-speaking children would become fluent by the age of ten.

He also argued that if children learn two languages from birth, they are more likely to be fluent in both.

Criticisms of Chomsky’s Model

  • There is a lack of evidence to support the theory.
  • The theory offers a hypothetical explanation and we do not know where the LAD is located.
  • The model ignores the importance of social interaction.
  • The model cannot explain why individuals with certain learning disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome have delayed language.

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