Theories Of Language Acquisition Essay


Discuss about the Theories of Language Acquisition.



Human being alone uses language for the purpose of communicating thoughts and feelings. It is solely a human trait and for all human being at least one language is a must for survival. However with the advancement of civilization, with the spread of international relations, one language often does not suffice. In the modern world tending to globalization even more than two languages are necessary for functioning successfully. So it is important to know that the process of knowing languages is not always the same. Language experts are of the view that words like ‘acquire’ or ‘acquisition’ should be [i]used in case of the first language acquisition means unconscious picking up of a language in a natural setting. People are constantly exposed to the first language at home, in general or the society or even at school and thus develop the habit of listening and speaking in it without any formal instruction in it. So it may be right to say that ‘acquisition’ happens to be sub-conscious process in all important ways that identical in first language acquiring that children utilize as the process.

Theories of Language Acquisition

Most of the theories among human beings about development of language is in padt proposed and that still continues currently. These theories naturally arose through key disciplines for instance linguistics and the psychology. Linguistic as well as Psychological thought has influenced deeply each other as well as result regarding theories of language acquisition, similarly (STEMMER, 2005).

Over the past five decades, numerous theories are put forward towards explaining the method by which children gain knowledge to speak and understand a language (Wardhaugh, 2007). The theories are:

  • Skinner’s Behaviourist Theory
  • Vygotsky’s The Zone of Proximal Development
  • Piaget’s The Cognitive Theory
  • Chomsky's linguistic theory
  • The Discourse Theory
  • The Speech Act Theory
  • Krashen’s the language Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis

Skinner’s Behaviourist Theory

Language is based on the foundation of a set of rules or structures the most important theorist related with language acquisition theory is B.F. Skinner. This psychologist developed his theory whilst carrying a sequence of tests on animals. Behaviouristic analysis merely asserts that the acquisition of language happens to be set of the practice product. Generally, the study has affected with regard to broad learning theory and named behaviourism. Behaviourism rejects native’s account of inherent knowledge since they are observed as innately unscientific and illogical. According to these psychologists, the knowledge happens to be result of communication with respect to surroundings due to conditioning of stimulus-response.

While the Educational implications of Behaviouristic analysis, focuses on the individual pace of learning as well as the learning objectives it can be defined very specifically in terms of behaviour and contributes to programmed learning, but again this theory has certain weaknesses and limitations (Anon 2016). These are namely:

  • The theory could not be employed merely by replicating individual expressions. The errors made by children expose that they are not only imitating but dynamically applying the rules.
  • The theory observes the language student as a tabula rasa or a clear slate with no fixed knowledge.
  • Children are frequently unable to replicate what a grown-up says; particularly if the adult expressions include a construction the child is unable to comprehend.
  • The resulting teaching methods and theory have the limitations that S-R simple associations cannot only describe the acquisition and offer the strong foundation regarding the methods of teaching language. The huge majority of children develop through similar phase of language acquisition. There seem to be a specific series of steps which can be referred to as the developmental milestones. This series seems to be mostly unaltered by the behaviour the children get or the kind of society where he or she is growing up.
  • There is proof for a critical phase of language acquisition. Those children who have not attained language control by seven will certainly never completely catch up. The above theory fails to explain this factor.

Vygotsky’s the Proximal Development Zone

L.S.Vygotsky happened to be psychologist whose theory on human conscious activities provided him to inspect function that been played by language while moulding human behaviour. He was mostly famous regarding his socio-cultural theory of development that believed that through interaction with culture one’s development primarily occurs (van der Veer, 2002). According to him, development of the individual without the reference to cultural and social context is impossible to understand as these are embedded within such developments. His social interaction theory includes and nurture arguments that a child is influenced by their surroundings in addition to the language contribution that they obtain from their care-givers, through the process of scaffolding. Unlikely to Piaget he mainly focussed on development mechanisms that exclude the development stages distinguishable. This concept of Vygotsky put forward development of cognitive mechanisms or ZDP or Zonal Proximal Development as relative lack between actual level of competence and level of development that potential under adult supervision or in assistance with more competent friend ("A Discussion of Language Acquisition Theories", 2011). Or, a child first requires being to social interaction exposed that help them to their inner resources build eventually.

Weaknesses and limitations of this theory:

  • What that Vygotsky intended is not comprehensible with talking about inner resources.
  • The implication of speech egocentric that stressed in development of language and the thought overemphasizes the role of egocentric speech
  • Vygotsky does not succeed to explain the function of self in this method.
  • Though our social background offer support in favour of acquisition of the language, it directly does not offer knowledge to obtain the language is essential and possibly this is where inherent abilities of child appear in playing.

Piaget’s the Cognitive Theory

Jean Piaget the Swiss psychologist, who was well-known for his four-stage cognitive theory for the development of children, incorporated the development of the language. Though, children do not imagine like adults and therefore before they can start to grow language they should first actively build their own knowledge of the situation through their communications with their environment. Piaget asserts that a child needs to understand a idea and concept prior to acquiring that particular language which convey that idea or concept. Object permanence is one more occurrence that is often mentioned in the cognitive theory (Institute of Historical Research (IHR), 2016). The cognitive theory draws awareness to the increase in a child’s vocabulary, signifying a connection between object durability and the knowledge of objects.

Limitations and weaknesses of Cognitive Theory

  • The cognitivists assert that the language acquisition is automatically achieved but it is not comprehensible how it can be automatically done.
  • As a child continues to grow and develop, it becomes tougher to discover apparent links between intellect and language. Particularly syntax does not rely on common intellectual growth.
  • It is not a fully organized and unified theory; it is loosely organized
  • There are Controversial issues: regarding necessary reinforcement for both learning and performance, self-efficacy as just an additional result of expectancy.
  • If self-efficacy expectations are condition specific how they narrate to a broader personality.
  • Fails to explain why some self-efficacy viewpoint are apparently not related to behaviour for example stop smoking
  • Relies too much on self-reports
  • Neglected areas like changes and maturation over the lifespan
  • Minimal attention is given to conflict, motivation and emotion
  • Findings are very initial (Kose, 1997)l.

Chomsky's linguistic theory

Nearly two decades after some psycho linguists begin to question about the presence of Universal Grammar it is argued that the categories like verbs and nouns are evolutionarily, biologically and psychologically improbable and the sector called for an explanation that can describe the acquisition procedure without inherent categories (SLA, 2012). Chomsky thought that every human language distributes common principles, for example all languages include nouns and verbs which was the task of the child to find how the precise language he or she listens to, express these fundamental principles.

The problems, limitations and weaknesses with Universal Grammar theory

  • It can be thought that Universal Grammar’s specific plan is to give descriptions for the workings of language. Yet Universal Grammar’s proponents have to deal regarding the acquisition in order to explain for language itself. Thus this “Acquisition part” is considered to be of importance that is secondary.
  • Secondly, Chomsky considered merely the core section of grammar in English language that is syntax and ignored the peripheral grammar, which is, a language precise rule that is the definite languages rules that can’t therefore be concluded.
  • Third happens to be the function that chiefly describes language as process of communication, which here discarded totally.
  • Fourthly, this theory depended on children who were exposed in the direction of language that takes no consideration of the communication among children and the caregivers. Neither does it identify the cause as to why a child may want to articulate about the purpose of language.
  • The most significant and final problem is related to one that methodological one. Owing regarding statement that Chomsky was anxious just explaining and describing ‘competence’, the researches with delivering the research empirical of acquisition of Second Language likely hood is limited (Lamb, 1967).

The Theory of Discourse

This Theory of discourse is result of the theory of the language exercise. This theory put stress on development of language that need to be within framework examined regarding how learners determine meaning and language capacity with working on communication. Del Hymes’ account of competence of communicative for example, echoes the main beliefs of the theory of discourse. Thus, competence communicative incorporate the vocabulary and the grammar knowledge, the rules of speaking knowledge, regarding how to respond as well as use various kinds of social conventions and language acts and to utilize language suitably knowledge.

This assumed, that language acquisition effectively takes place at a time when language students “know” when and how to employ the language in a variety of situation and while they have productively “cognized” a variety of structures of proficiency like grammatical competence.

The Discourse Theory is also with many weaknesses.

  • It exaggerates the responsibility of external aspect in the course of language acquisition as well as it offers little substance to inner learner approach which is an intrinsic method.
  • The Theory of the discourse is related to behaviouristic analysis of acquisition of language with the aim of environmental input and factors or positive stimulus which is on the centre of the acquisition process.
  • This Theory, though more complicated than Skinner’s observation in giving details for a composite formation of communication. But it exaggerates the role of “knowledge of capability as well as functions” that in obtaining the language, thus to observe fails the principles universal those facilitate and guide acquisition of the language.

The Theory of the Speech Act

The Speech Act Theory asserts that saying of the something is technique or method of doing something. In the theory of the speech act, we see meaning in the utterances of kinds two. First, it is the meaning that prepositional while secondly is the meaning related to diction, while the former refer to the fundamental literal sense of the statement expressed by precise structures or words. The second refers to the “cause” that the written and spoken text have on the reader or the listener.

Krashen’s Monitor Model:

Although theories are chiefly concerned with giving explanations concerning how the language is obtained, no single theory is able to present a comprehensive explanation concerning the entire process of the second language acquisition. Every one of theories offer a diverse approach in the intricate procedure of the second language acquisition and this section of SLA is still at its nascent stage. However Krashen’s Monitor Model Theory has made a huge contribution in the additional development of SLA and let us reviews in details as to how emphasis is to be given first to acquisition and gradually shifted to learning.

Krashen’s Monitor Model is an instance of the nativist hypothesis and provides mainly a comprehensive explanation of language acquisition ("Doyle, Arthur Conan | Questions and Answers | Page 4 | Authors D-G", 2016).

The models shape the foundation that of Natural Approach that is the comprehension-based approach in the direction of second and foreign language ideas. The model includes five hypotheses namely;

    • The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
    • The Natural Order Hypothesis
    • The Input Hypothesis
    • The Monitor Hypothesis
    • The Affective Filter Hypothesis

The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis

This happen to be fundamental most of all the hypotheses. According to Krashen this theory of acquisition of second language (SLA) recommends that two independent system existence of the language performance

The system acquired –or Acquisition is the subconscious process product.

  • The learned system -or the learning is formal instruction product which comprises of a process conscious that results in knowledge conscious regarding the language.

The Natural Order Hypothesis

The above hypothesis states that, the grammatical structures acquisition which progresses in a fixed sequence. Specific structures grammatical or morphemes are achieved ahead of others in acquisition of first language next to with the comparable standard SLA in order.

The Input Hypothesis

The Input hypothesis conveys acquisition in addition to the learning. Here Krashen mentions that one obtains best language during the input understanding which is ahead of their present level of capacity. The second language teacher must continuously send considerable amount of roughly tuned messages, moreover it ‘must’ develop chances for the students in order to access the structures to recognize with and express the meaning.

The Monitor Hypothesis

Based on stated earlier, the learners of second language have two ways of internalizing end language. Firstly the ‘acquisition’ that is an intuitive and subconscious method regarding creating the language structure. Secondly the conscious process of learning in that learners focus forming and figuring out the rules and are aware usually of this process. However, ‘monitor’ is a phase within this process. Krashen considers ‘fluency’ in the second language action occurs owing to ‘what we have already acquired’ and not based on ‘what we have learned’: Krashen thus proposes the three conditions for its exercise:

  • Here focus should be given on the form rather than on the meaning
  • there should be enough time
  • the learners must identify the rules.
  • they must preplanned the speech

The Affective Filter Hypothesis

This is associated with the learner’s emotional state, Krashen opines that inputs ought to be attained in less-anxiety contexts as the acquirers amidst a little affective filter collect additional inputs and work together with confidence.

However Krashen is criticized on numerous grounds. Some of them are:

Firstly, Criticism in Krashen’s theory is based on the way his theory is constructed along with the evidence used to support it.

Secondly, his theory has made a huge number of declaration about a wide range of the SLA phenomena, several of which appear to be empirically false, which thus invited researchers criticism of the idea.

Thirdly, his theory was directly tied to suggestions for classroom application consequently it appeared significant to test, which again is not always possible.

McLaughlin (1978) found it insufficient in that a few of its essential hypotheses and assumptions are not evidently defined. As an effect, they are not voluntarily testable.

Krashen by no means sufficiently described learning, acquisition, conscious or else subconscious; and with no such explanation, it is very difficult to separately decide whether the issues are or “acquiring” or “learning” the language (Horner, 1987).

According to Gitsaki, Krashen is clear his conditions with enough accuracy while Seliger (1979) mentions that Krashen’s theory points out that the theory is too complex. Moreover, Krashen is unsuccessful to give details the procedure of acquisition, or else why the learned information will not be available in similar method as the acquired information is.


A language acquisition has been one of the essential subjects in cognitive science, however it has, in addition, been the most controversial one. So often the chief questions, remains unanswered as to what exactly is the process that changes the child’s expression into grammatically accurate one in addition to adult-like speech. To sum up it may be stated that the objective of language acquisition study needs to explain how a child develops to be competent enough to understand and produce language, attain language "milestones “and choose the suitable processing strategies.

Plenty of grammar programs should be introduced based on the points covered from simple to difficult by the educator is the best method that should include supply logical input of situations that contain messages that to hear children wishes. These techniques compel do not early acquisition in the second language, however permit children to create when prepared they are ; identifying that development comes by communicative providing as well as comprehensible input, rather than forcing production and correcting.

Some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration associated with language acquisition are:

  • Frequent exposure to the language in a natural setting.
  • Low anxiety levels
  • Motivation that creates an urge for knowing the language
  • No conscious, deliberate effort and no formal instruction.

However, amidst a variety of theories developing language acquisition these theories have one object in common which is that all of them consider that the language acquisition happens to be one vital aspect that seperates human from the other living animals. Therefore it is by accepting diverse how language characteristic are attained we can enhance our understanding of the main vehicle through which we can communicate.


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