Sunday, November 9, 2008

Language acquisition

Language acquisition is the study of the processes through which learners acquire language. First Language Acquisition studies the infants' acquisition of their native language, whereas Second Language Acquisition deals with acquisition of additional languages in both children and adults.

One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes capacities specific to language acquisition, often referred to as universal grammar. For fifty years, linguists Noam Chomsky and the late Eric Ingeberg have argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning.

Other researchers, including Elizabeth Bates, Catherine Snow, and Michael Tomasello, have hypothesized that language learning results only from general cognitive abilities and the interaction between learners and their surrounding communities. Recent work by William O'Grady proposes that complex syntactic phenomena result from an efficiency-driven, linear computational system. O'Grady describes his work as "nativism without Universal Grammar." One of the most important advances in the study of language acquisition was the creation of the CHILDES database by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow.



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