Thesis: Chomsky Noam

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[. . .] This dissimilarity is due to the application of various transformations, pronunciation, and word insertion rules. Transformational-generative grammar can also be distinguished by the difference between language proficiency and language performance ("Linguistics," 2009).

Transformational linguistics has also a strong influence on psycholinguistics. It is particularly influential in the study of language acquisition by children. The "Minimalist Program" formulated by Chomsky in the 1990s was an attempt on his part in which he tried to make the symbolic representations of the language facility straightforward and simple ("Chomsky, Noam," 2009).

Universal Grammar Theory

Difference between Universal Grammar and Universal Language

In order to understand universal grammar, it is first necessary to differentiate it from universal language. Universal grammar and universal language are quite distinct with a conceptual point-of-view. The term 'universal language' is used to refer to linguistic systems formed, or reformed. Universal language is also set to be created by philosophers as a language that is capable of expressing ideas in a perfect and appropriate manner. They also try to find a universal language that can aid in discovering "new connections between the diverse aspects of reality." On the other hand, universal grammar refers to the innate knowledge of grammatical structures. Though the two concepts intersect with each other at some points, there are diversities that set them apart (Thomas, 2004, p. 5).

Definition

According to the Theory of Universal Grammar in linguistics, all human beings possess certain primary grammatical ideas which they don't have to learn. It is a fact that human beings understand grammar with a natural aptitude. This theory describes and explains the ways about the procedure and working of language acquisition in humans. Universal Grammar Theory suggests the most basic rules that are to be followed by all the languages (McGuigan). In other words, universal grammar supports the fundamental insight that languages spoken all around the world by human beings have similar significant properties but can be differentiated with their obvious unlikeness (Thomas, 2004, p. 2). This theory about the common grammar rules instinct in human nature has been prevailing since the 13th century. Several philosophers since then have strived to design a perfect language from the core. However, Noam Chomsky was the prolific linguist who propounded the most famous theory of the idea of a universal grammar in the 1950s (McGuigan).

Chomsky's Universal Grammar Theory

According to Chomsky, all humans practice and use a universal grammar that is hardwired into their brains. He also believes that every language that is spoken by humans has been sprouted on top of that universal grammar. Chomsky also states that the native languages are learnt and acquired by the children by using the universal grammar as a support structure (McGuigan). It has been widely theorized that children possess an intrinsic understanding and comprehension of the basic grammatical structure that is common to all human languages. In other words, children take it for granted that any language encountered by them is of a definite constrained type. This inherent knowledge of the commonly used grammatical structures is frequently referred to as universal grammar. Many hold the opinion that the "productivity" of language is dependent upon the knowledge of language when used with formal grammar. An innumerable number of sentences can be generated by humans (even sentences not said by anyone previously) with a restricted set of grammar rules and a finite set of terms. Thus, every language has innate and fixed grammatical principles that characterize the differences among the languages spoken in the world. Keeping this in mind, it can be easily understood why a child who learns a language is only required to get hold of the essential lexical items i.e. words, grammatical morphemes and idioms. The child is also needed to find out the parameter settings that are proper and correct. Thus, every child learns a language with an inexplicable rapidness. This fact suggests that logical errors never crop up when a child starts learning his first language (Berger, 2005).

Noam Chomsky has reconstructed the general concept of universal grammar. The creative linguist introduced universal grammar as "a system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages not merely by accident but by necessity" (Thomas, 2004, p. 3). Here, the term 'accidental' refers to the characteristics of a given language that universal grammar does not govern. In short, their presence or absence does not influence the broad-spectrum definition of a human language. There is a vast difference between the 'accidental' and 'necessary' elements and their properties are needed to be distinguished from each other. However, the 'accidental' properties are not to be considered, at any point, as unnecessary to the universal grammar structure. (Thomas, 2004, p. 4). According to him, universal grammar is a theory of principles that are inborn and represent the beginning phase of language acquisition. He believes that universal grammar develops the knowledge of language. He states that "All languages are cut to the same pattern." Universal grammar, says Chomsky, explains the possibilities and impossibilities of a language. The discovery and detection of the particular patterns of a language are the tasks that the linguists undertake. The contents of universal grammar are to be acknowledged and particularized by the linguists. This account of universal grammar has been propounded and worked to an unparalleled echelon by Chomsky and his fellow workers (Thomas, 2004, p. 3).

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia (2009), language acquisition is "the process of learning a native or a second language." Developmental psychologists and psycholinguists study the acquisition of native languages. It is still not understandable that how children gain knowledge of speaking. It has, however, been observed that children repeat whatever they hear. It is by imitation that they learn the sounds and vocabulary of their mother language. On the other hand, they are not taught grammar particularly. Noam Chomsky, thus, has put forwarded the theory that children rapidly acquire the ability to speak grammatically structure sentences. His theory is also being supported by many advocates of transformational grammar. The deep-structure of universal grammatical rules allows the children to learn the grammar of the language they hear most in the surroundings. These universal rules, as stated above, are in correspondence with the innate capacity of the human brain ("Language Acquisition," 2009).

It is difficult for people to become fluent in a second language as compared to the native tongue. Childhood's earliest phase of an individual has been regarded by some linguists as a critical period. It is after the passing up of this stage that the brain starts losing most of its ability of understanding and absorbing new languages. This is the reason why Chomsky has insisted that childhood is the best period to learn a new language and its grammar rules ("Language Acquisition," 2009). Chomsky has particularly insisted on the linkage of language and mind. He explains that the knowledge of human mind is opened up with the knowledge of language. The exceptional linguist has thus described language as an elemental part of human psychology (Lechte, 1994, p. 52).

Conclusion

The ideas that have been propounded by Noam Chomsky have greatly influenced the researchers who have done extensive investigation on children's acquisition of language. On the other hand, most researchers oppose the theories put forwarded by Chomsky. However, it is widely accepted that the philosophy of language and mind has been strongly affected by the naturalistic approach of Chomsky to the study of language (Berger, 2005).

References

Berger, V. (2005). Famous Psychologist: Noam Chomsky. Retrieved January 2, 2012 from http://www.psychologistanywhereanytime.com/famous_psychologist_and_psychologists/psychologist_famous_noam_chomsky.htm

Cowie, F. (1999). What's Within?: Nativism Reconsidered. New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 2, 2012, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=54457478

Lechte, J. (1994). Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers: From Structuralism to Postmodernity. London: Routledge. Retrieved January 1, 2012, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=103622027

Language Acquisition. (2009). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved January 4, 2012, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=117028793

Linguistics. (2009). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=117029895

Matthews, P. (2001). A Short History of Structural Linguistics. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved January 1, 2012, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=105804322

Structuralism. (2009). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved January 1, 2012, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=117047628

Thomas, M. (2004). Universal Grammar in Second Language Acquistion: A History.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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