Re: We don't learn language

Subject: Re: We don't learn language
From: Loryn Jenkins <loryn -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 08:48:22 +1000

>>I hate to dignify this off-topic thread with a response, but I feel I must
clarify some misconceptions.

My wife studied lingusitcs, speech language pathology and audiology. As a
result I have become familiar with speech acquisition theory. One of the
prominent comes from Noam Chomsky at MIT. According to his theories, we are
all encoded with the ability to speak language; the only wild card is the
language that we actually speak. Since we hear English from our parents, for
example, we speak the language English.

That said, your children do *not* learn language per se. It's more of an
absorption. When as one person stated, she said "mama" or "daddy" to her
children, she was more likely responding to cues she got from her children.
During the babbling stage, children elicit many sounds. When they say a
that sounds like a word to adults *we* mimic it back to them.

Only children who kept in a black box or have serious mental abnormalities
fail to learn language. Witness that the poorest child in in the most
underdeveloped countries still speak. They may be living in horrible
conditions with virtually no intellectual stimulation with a crack-addicted
mother, yet they stil acquire language. How could this be if all children
was listen to your prompts?

Language acquisittion theory discounted the idea of learning language years
ago. Now let's get off this thread and back to tech writing where we belong.

Ron Miller
rsmh -at- aol -dot- com<<

"Language acquisition theory" doesn't *do* anything Ron. People *do*
things. You're quoting theories from which many American linguists have
based their linguistic 'outlook'. They accept the underlying imperatives of
Chompsky's work, and then work within that framework. Hence any research
thus produced is skewed by those theories. This 'skewing' occurs in *all*
research, including mine, due to the philosophical perspective one takes at
the outset of one's research.

OK, virtually all humans speak. Good. Because virtually all humans speak
doesn't mean that no one needs learn language. This proposition seems

There are other theories on language acquisition than those based on
Chompskyan material. For those who are interested, I refer you to MAK
Halliday's work on language acquisition. He did a longitudinal study a
child's language acquisition. It makes very interesting reading.

And yes, just so you're all aware of my philosophical bias, I think many of
Chompsky's imperatives are **CRAP**. If you want an excuse for being
racist, just think about where Chompsky's theories could logically end:
people biologically determined in their abilities and capabilities,
(biologically, racially ...)

This is an extremely interesting topic. For humans. For techwriters. Those
who wish to gag the debate, and force us into accepting *a* particular
philsophy do us disservice.

Loryn Jenkins
BA Linguistics
Contract Technical Writer

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