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In language acquisition, we have two schools ofthoughts. One school presented the theory called“behaviorism” and the other theory was called“Innate/mentalists theory”.Behaviorist theory:-B.F Skinner put forwarded the behaviorist theory asTHE OPERANT PROCESs. According to thislanguage is an activity a child acquires with externalforce. Child learns whatever his environmentteaches him. To support his theory, he carried outan experiment on an animal.B.F Skinner kept a rat in a box. In that he fixed thebar. A moment came when accidently the rat pushedthe bar. On this act the supervisor served him withfood. The next time he pressed the bar, the foodwas again given to him. From this act he learned
that whenever he wants to have food, he must pressthe bar. Then, the task was made difficult. Skinnerfitted a flashlight in the box of rat. Then the ratlearned that each time the light flashes, he get food.This experiment was made an evidence to supportthat in the same manner a child learns what hissociety wants him to learn. A child imitates no matterwhat he hears from his parents. So, languageacquisition is an act of imitation.According to this concept, stimulus carries aresponse followed by reinforcement which results inrepetition.For instance, a stimulus is produced when a childfeels hungry or lonely. The baby cries in response.The reinforcement is when the mother comforts him.The same process which happens again is called asrepetition. In this way baby learns the new behaviorthat every time he feels hungry, he cries.
Reinforcement is of two types:1)POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT:Positive reinforcement results in increase ofrepetition process. For example, a child cries forcandy, he receives the candy and learns that cryingresults in candy.2)NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT:Negative reinforcement results in reduction ofrepetition process. For example, a child cries forcandy, but he is slapped and he learns that slap isthe consequence of crying. As a result the childceases crying for the accomplishment of his desires.THEORY INNATE/MENTALIST:-IN conflict TO BEHAVIORIST THEORY, Noam Chomskypresented “mentalists theory”.
This theory was of the view that child acquireslearning with his cognitive ability whereas ecologicalfactors are not disturbed in language learning.Man is superior to animals in all aspects of life. Withthe respect of language acquisition also, we cannever apply the rules and principles to languagelearning which are derived from experiments onanimals.Human beings are blessed with the power ofthinking and animals are not. Man has he strongcognitive ability which stores the vocabulary inlexicon and then uses with the formulation of syntax.Child at first learns words in isolation and later onuses them in sentences without knowing their rulesof grammatical structure. Here, the question arisesthat how a child learns to handle irregulargrammatical patterns then? So, the reason is that
language is a matter of maturation rather thanimitation.