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Language Acquisition: Learned or Innate and "hard wired"

What evidence suggests the Universal Nature of Human Languages (e.g., "hard wired" innate or learned controversy)?

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1. What evidence suggests the Universal Nature of Human Languages (e.g., "hard wired" innate or learned controversy)??

To linguists, real language is grammar, the structure that every language is built on. In this sense, this universal grammatical structure is the universal nature of human language. Grammar, then, is universal and innate.

Excerpts (http://www.nsf.gov/news/frontiers_archive/7-96/7species.jsp)

1. Historical Evidence

According to the book of Genesis, there was a time in human history when we all spoke one language. "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech." (Genesis 11:1). Their one language allowed the people to work together without hindrances. They began to build the Tower of Babel:

"And the Lord said, "Behold, the people is one and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, so they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:6-8)

2. Empirical Evidence for Universal "Innate" Structure of Grammar

a. Evidence based on studying abstract logic

Today, the people of the world use more than 6,000 different languages and innumerable dialects. The unity is gone (e.g., unlike in the beginning as suggested in Genesis). We no longer understand each other. However, many linguists believe that we actually do speak one language. While words are important, they're just the beginning. To linguists, real language is grammar, the structure that every language is built on.

For the last thirty-five years linguists have been on a quest to define the universal qualities that make up every natural language. The quest has attracted researchers from neurobiology, psychology, computer science, anthropology, and philosophy. At stake is not only a better understanding of languages, but, by extension, an explanation of how our brains work. To understand what these researchers are looking for, it may be helpful to imagine all of the world's languages as a housing subdivision. The houses all appear to be different. Builders used brick for one and wood for another. Over the years, owners have added porches and finished attics. But by looking past the brick and additions, you would see all of the houses started with the same floor plan.

For some linguists, that floor plan is called universal grammar--a term credited to MIT linguist Noam Chomsky who first championed the idea in the 1950s. Linguists believe that universal grammar and its interaction with the rest of the brain is the design mechanism that allows children to become fluent in any language in the first few years of their lives. "It's a ...

Solution Summary

This solution examines research What evidence that supports the Universal Nature of Human Languages (e.g., "hard wired" innate or learned controversy). References provided.

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