Back to: Pedagogy of English – Unit 3
Psychological, Social, and Philosophical bases of language acquisition mean viewing language from a psychological, social, and philosophical perspective. It is the study of the cognitive elements of speech and language. It is mainly concerned with how language is processed and represented in the brain. This is known as psycholinguistics. The term was introduced by Jacob Robert Kantor, an American psychologist. Alan Garnham defines,
“Psycholinguistics is the study of the mental mechanisms that make it possible for people to use language. It is a scientific discipline whose goal is a coherent theory of the way in which language is produced and understood.”
Social Bases Of Language Acquisition and Language Learning
A language is an essential tool for communication purposes. It is used for promoting peace and order in society. It is used for displaying authority and power, and for the obtainment of goals and objectives. However, language can also be destructive to society if it is used inappropriately. Language must be used following the conformity that governs the society so that conflicts can be avoided and the boundary of individual differences can be met.
Sociolinguistics refers to the study of the sociological aspects of language. This approach is concerned with the role language plays in the maintenance of the social roles in a community. It includes the impact of cultural norms, expectations, and context on the use of language, and the impact of society in its entirety on language.
The connection between language and society is deeply rooted. Language is used to perform various functions in society and society uses it in the same manner. The inexistence of both will have an impact on one another.
Language is crucial for social interaction in every society regardless of location and period. Language and society have a reciprocal relationship because language shapes society and social interactions shape language. A language is a tool for interaction that humans use to communicate with other humans. Therefore, language cannot be separated from society. Through language, human beings can relate and interact with others and create communication in the community.
Language is the main means of human communication and building relations. The first step towards creating a society is through communication. To communicate, a common language is needed. In the absence of language, human beings cannot relate to and understand each other. Through communication, relationships are built, families are built, and the community grows into a bigger society and nation. Hence, language is essential for society and vice versa.
Philosophical and Psychological Bases of Approaches to Language Acquisition and Language Learning
The two main theories of language acquisition on psychological and philosophical bases include the following:
B.F. Skinner’s Behaviorist Theory Of Language
B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist theory of language was the widely accepted language acquisition theory during the late 1950s and 1960s. He believed that language is acquired under reinforcement principles. He argued that children acquire language through reinforcement practices and they associate words with meaning. He stated three main principles which include the following:
- “Behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effective.”
- “Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced (“shaping”)”.
- “Reinforcements will generalize across similar stimuli (“stimulus generalization”) producing secondary conditioning.”
Noam Chomsky’s Theory Of Innateness
In 1957, Chomsky introduced the concept of language acquisition device (LAD) which was used to account for the language acquisition competence of human beings. He believed that the acquisition of the first language is the function of the human brain or an innate structure. The introduction of UG or Universal Grammar is also credited to Chomsky.
Chomsky believed that humans are born with:
- LAD, a set of language learning tools.
- LAD is an abstract part of the human mind which enables humans to acquire and produce language.