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Course: MCAT > Unit 4

Lesson 1: Foundations of behavior passages

Theories of language acquisition


Babies begin babbling around the age of 6 months, and graduate to 2-word utterances sometime around 1½ years of age . These phrases are often quite basic, such as “daddy shoe,” or “kitty play,” and tend to make some amount of grammatical sense. Even mistakes made later on, such as using “runned” as the past tense for “run” show a basic understanding of grammar. Yet no one sits down to teach a child how to speak, the way they would teach them to brush their teeth or tie a shoe. Language acquisition seems to be a passive, innate process. Precisely how it happens is the subject of much debate in the linguistic community.
The Nativist approach posits the existence of a “language acquisition device” (LAD) in the brain that allows for language learning. The LAD is not necessarily a physical structure, but is used to explain the idea of a Universal Grammar programmed into our brains that allows five year olds to master the complicated mess that is language. On the other end of the spectrum is the learning theory. This is the idea that we learn language like we learn anything else – by repetition and through reinforcement. The final approach is the Interactionist theory, which says language acquisition comes from the desire to better interact with our environment, and that acquisition is a mix of social and biological factors.
Someone who subscribes to the Interactionist theory would probably disagree with which of the following statements?
Choose 1 answer: