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Noam Chomsky

An introduction
Avram Noam
Chomsky (born He attended Oak
December 7, 1928) Lane Country Day
is an American School where at He has received
linguist, philosopher, the age of ten he numerous awards
cognitive scientist, wrote a paper on and honorary
logician and political the spread of degrees, including
commentator fascism after the Membership in the
Spanish Civil War. American
Academy of Arts From 1951 to
and Sciences. 1955 he did
doctoral research
at Harvard and in
1955 received his
PhD from Penn
with a thesis on
He wrote numerous
books on linguistics
and linguistic theory
Chomsky has including Aspects of
He is also the been described the Theory of Syntax
eighth most as the ''father of and Topics in the
cited source of modern linguistics Theory of Generative
all time, and is and a major Grammar in 1966.
considered the figure of analytic
''most cited philosophy".
living author.'
Noam Chomsky’s Theories
Insights of Chomsky’s Nativist Theory
• Shows the way children acquire language and what
they have learnt from it.
• Language is an innate faculty
• We are born with a set of rules about languages in our
• The universal grammar (subject-verb-object) is the
basis upon which all human languages are build.
Innate Hypothesis 1
• All children with all levels of knowledge can acquire
• Children can acquire languages effortlessly
• Children can acquire language in relatively short
period of time
• Language is a complex system
• A child does not have to be formally taught to acquire
Innate hypothesis 2
• Children discover the system of language from an
unsystematic and small amount of data
• Language acquisition requires a very little imitations.
• Reinforcement has a very small role in acquisition
• Language acquisition is a very active process ( children
say things that they have never heard from their
In short,
• Infants are born with a Language Acquisition Device
• Exposure to language is all that is needed for a child
discover the system of language (set of rules).
Major Claims of Chomsky’s
Nativist Theory
The principles of language are inborn and not learnt.

The process of language acquisition itself is independent of cognitive

development, individual differences, form of language input, etc.

Language learning is viewed as a process of hypotheses-testing leading

to rule formation.

Input data is required to trigger the process of rule formation (but the
mental processes are given priority over the role of environment).
Evidence supporting the claim (Cook, 1988)
1. A language learner is exposed to both correct and incorrect
language; however, the language system that is developed
consists of correct language rules.
2. A language learner can produce and understand the
sentences that he/she has never encountered in his/her
learning environment.
3. Ability to acquire language is independent of intelligence,
personality, etc.
4. The pattern of acquisition is comparable for different
individuals, languages and cultures.
Language Acquisition Device
What is LAD?
• a system of principles that children are born with that helps
them learn language, and accounts for the order in which
children learn structures, and the mistakes they make as
they learn.
The three major
functions of LAD are to
help the learner to:

Attend to the language Make hypotheses Develop its

he/she is exposed to about the language grammatical system
• LAD does not require any specially modified language input
as it is triggered by any linguistic input that a human being is
exposed to.
• Noam Chomsky (1965) also introduced another concept to
support the claim that language acquisition ability is inborn:
the concept of Universal Grammar (UG).
In 1977, Bard and Sachs published a study of
a child known as Jim, the hearing son of deaf
parents. Jim's parents wanted their son to
Chomsky's work on language Language does not develop as
learn speech rather than the sign language
was theoretical. He did not study quickly as Nativist theorists
they used between themselves. He watched a
real children. The theory relies predict. It is a more gradual
lot of television and listened to the radio,
on children being exposed to process. This theory also does
therefore receiving frequent language input.
language but takes no account not put into account the many
However, his progress was limited until a
of the interaction between different languages spoken
speech therapist was enlisted to work with
children and their carers. throughout the world.
him. Simply being exposed to language was
not enough. Without the associated
interaction, it meant little to him/