Title: The Theory of Universal Grammar ( By Anntina Fyvonnequehz) Introduction The Theory of Universal Grammar has been expounded in Lightbown and White (1987, White (1989), and Ellis (1994), among others. It derives from Chomsky’s conceptualization of the nature of the linguistic universals that comprise a child’s innate linguistic knowledge. According to Chomsky (1976), there is a ‘system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages’.
What constitutes knowledge of language? According to Robert Matthews knowing a language is a matter of knowing the system of rules and principles that is the grammar for that language.
To have such knowledge is to have an explicit internal representation of these rules and principles, which speakers use in the course of language production and understanding. Speakers might be said to know the principles and rules of what linguists call universal grammar.
That is, they might be said to know “that all human languages have phrase structure and transformational rules, or that the grammar of every language contains the rule S > NP+VP.
” How is knowledge of language “acquired”? From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, it describes language acquisition as a process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive, produce and use words to understand and communicate. This capacity involves the picking up of diverse capacities including syntax, phonetics, and an extensive vocabulary. This language might be vocal as with speech or manual as in sign.
Language acquisition usually refers to first language acquisition, which studies infants’ acquisition of their native language, rather than second language acquisition, which deals with acquisition (in both children and adults) of additional languages. The capacity to acquire and use language is a key aspect that distinguishes humans from other organisms. While many forms of animal communication exist, they have a limited range of nonsyntactically structured vocabulary tokens that lack cross cultural variation between groups. Strengths and Weaknesses of Universal Grammar Theory
According to Chomsky, children learn language so efficiently and so fast because they know in advance what languages look like. They were born with a substantial amount of innate knowledge. Children seem to know that language is rule governed. They know that a finite number of principles govern the enormous number of utterance they hear going around them. Children also have an instinctive awareness that languages are hierarchically structured i. e the knowledge that several words can go in the same structural slot as one (Aitchison. 1998).
A child might say : I like Pippy Or I like My Pippy Or I like My Old Pippy However, an innate knowledge that language is rule-governed, that it has a hierarchical structure, that it makes use of structure-dependent operations by no means explains the whole of language acquisition especially second language acquisition. Universal grammar does not attempt to lay out many blanket statements that hold true for every single language on Earth. If it did that, after all, we would expect most languages to be roughly the same.
Instead, we find an incredible range of languages. Instead, what a universal grammar seeks to do is to lay out propositions of the form, “If X is true, then Y will be true. ” These structures lay out how all languages develop when faced with certain basic principles. Using these structures, students of universal grammar can attempt to state what word order a language might choose, what phonemes will be present, and other foundational traits of the language. Another argument commonly leveled against universal grammar is that the theory itself is not actually falsifiable.
Although it claims to be able to predict what new languages will be like, the sample size is small enough that when new languages are discovered the rules laid out must sometimes adapt to fit the new data. This would seem to undermine its validity as a strong predictive theory, making it more a cohesive set of observations about what we already know to be true. Aitchison. 1998 stated that many researcher disputed Chomsky’s theory as they believed that children are born with some sort of process mechanism which enables them to analyse linguistic data.
These researchers ( Slobin 1971) in Aitchison 1998 suggest that: The child’s mind is somehow ‘set’ in a predetermined way to process the sorts of structures which characterize human language… That is not to say that the gramma- tical system itself is given as innate knowledge, but that the child has innate means of processing information and forming internal structures, and that when these capacities are applied to the speech he hears he succeeds in constructing a grammar of his native language. (Slobin 1991c:56)
Children learn a language as social need as they need to interact to other children. According to the everyday needs approach (Aitchison 1998) , children are by nature sociable little animals who need to interact with other humans. Besides they also have other need such as food. They are therefore concerned primarily with interacting with other people and with getting what they want. So they acquire speech in order to meet this need. Therefore, it is not surprising that children develop language in parallel form, even though they have never met one another.
Children are said to be to primarily concern with the external world—finding out and getting what they want. As children attempts to learn about and manipulate some aspect of their environment, they look for ways to talk about it. Therefore language is said reflect the preoccupation of the children at each stage. The child learning a language obviously attains very complex and rich knowledge in a very short time. Hearing some sentences and other utterances, the child becomes able to produce virtually an infinite number of others, many with structures that he or she has never heard before.
There is a poverty of stimulus relative to the fantastically rich outcome. Language knowledge including universal grammar, the parameter settings, and the lexicon, becomes the child’s in a very short span despite the fact that linguists working in the field for decades have only just begun to enumerate what this knowledge consists of. How does this occur? UG Theory, therefore, assumes the autonomy of grammar. It claims that grammar constitutes an autonomous body of knowledge which is independent of other cognitive systems such as perception, memory, or problem-solving.
This contrasts with holistic positions, which view language as part of communication. According to such positions, it is impossible to consider grammatical form independently of function because form is determined by function. Chomsky and his followers claim otherwise. Gregg (1989: 26) argues that ‘one can understand form independent of function; however, function is not enough to explain form. ‘ He suggests that phenomena like grammatical gender, third-person singular -s, and vowel harmony have no identifiable function.
Of course, there is more to language than grammar – this not disputed – but the point is that grammar exists as a significant and autonomous phenomenon which must be studied in its own right. Universal Grammar and Second Language Acquisition The application of UG Theory to SLA has centered on whether ‘the logical problem of language acquisition’ is the same as for L1 acquisition or needs to be restated. According to some, such as Cook (1988), the goal of a theory of L2 acquisition is the same as that of L1 acquisition – to account for how acquisition is possible given the ‘poverty of the stimulus’ (i. . the inadequacies of input describe above). According to others, however, the problem is somewhat different. Bley-Vroman (1989) points out that whereas all children acquire the grammar of their mother tongue, there is considerable variation in L2 acquisition, with most learners failing to achieve full competence. He argues that the logical problem of foreign language acquisition is to explain ‘the quite high level of competence that is clearly possible in some cases, while permitting the wide range of variation that is possible’ .
In essence, this debate concerns whether UG is or is not available to the L2 learner. A number of positions have been advance -a complete access position (Flynn 1987) a no-access view (for example, Clahsen and Muysken 1986); a partial-access position (for example, Schachter (1988) suggests that learners may have access to principles but not to the full range of parameters, while White (1989) has suggested that learners have access to those universals and parameters evident in their L1); and a dual-access position ).
Although the process of learning and acquisition is still under debate, a number of studies show that regardless of the learners’ first language background, a second language acquisition order is similar to a first language acquisition order. Krashen’s acquisition-learning theory has much in common with both the communicative approach to language study and Noam Chomsky’s theory of generative grammar. The idea of “comprehensible input” is simply another way of saying that students learn languages best when they are learning about things that interest them. This idea is the essence of the communicative approach.
Krashen’s Natural Order Hypothesis says that we acquire the rules of grammar in a logical order. This is similar to generative grammar’s hypothesis that the basic foundations of human grammar are deeply embedded in the human brain. So as a teacher I need to know that Chomsky Universal Grammar theory is almost the same as Krashen’s Acquisition-Learning hypothesis which revolves around the concept of “comprehensible input,” a term which essentially means “messages that can be understood. ” Comprehensible input is best received when the learner is hearing something that he or she wants or needs to know.
According to Krashen language learning is different from language acquisition, emphasizing that while learning is a formalized process, such as that which occurs in a classroom, acquisition happens informally, when a person is relaxed. He identifies a “silent period” during language acquisition, a time during which the student listens but is not comfortable speaking. This hypothesis help me as a teacher so I can teach my student in learning their second language better. The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis acknowledges that students learn faster as they are given more comprehensible input.
Inversely, a lack of comprehensible input delays language acquisition. I will give more understandable input in learning their grammar as this is also in accordance with the current syllabus use in our schools in our country . I will try to give more materials about culture because according to theories mentioned as students are immersed in a culture in which they do not know the language, they have an intense need and desire to speak that language. Such students are not interested in grammar lessons from a book but, instead, want to hear “comprehensible input” about that culture that teaches them what they need to know to urvive. In a nut shell, Chomsky’s Universal Grammar help to explain some of the ways children learn language but the theory did have its own weakness as it did not cover how children can understand and expand the vocabularies learnt. Anyway other researcher like Krashen did help to enlighten me as a teacher on how I can help my students in learning and mastering their second language acquisition. References 1. Matthews, Robert. “Does Linguistic Competence Require Knowledge of Language? ” Epistemology of Language. Ed. Alex Barber. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2003 2. ttp://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Language_acquisition 3. Aitchison, J. (1998) The Articulate Mammal 4th edn, New York: Routledge 4. Rod Ellis. Appraising second language acquisition theory in relation to … filebox. vt. edu/users/sojuprin/Portfolio/Resource/… 5. White, Lydia. 1990. “Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar”. In Lydia White, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 6. Scahchter, Jacquelin and Virginia Yip. 1991. “Grammaticality Judgements: Why does . anyone object to subject extraction”. In Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 7 .
Krashen, Stephen D. 1987. Applications of Psycholinguistics Research in the Classroom”. . In Michael H. Long and Jack C. Richard (eds) Methodology in TESOL: A Book of Reading. New York: Newbury House Publishers, Inc 8. Krashen, Stephen D. 1988. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. New York: Prentice-Hall International Inc. 9 . Krashen, Stephen D. and Tracy D. Terrell. 1988. The Natural Approach. New York:. Prentice-Hall International Inc. 10. Cook, V. J. 1988. Chomsky’s Universal Grammar: An Introduction. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
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