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Discussion: Nature Versus Nurture in Language Development

Resources for this week’s question, please use when answering question.

Gleason, J. B., & Ratner, N. B. (2017). The development of language (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

  • Chapter 7, “Theoretical      Approaches to Language Acquisition” (cont’d from Week 2)
  • Chapter 8, “Variation in Language Development:      Implications for Research and Theory” (pp. 196–214)

Chomsky, N. (2011). Language and other cognitive systems. What is so special about language? Language Learning and Development, 7(4), 263–278. doi:10.1080/15475441.2011.584041

Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Ibbotson, P., & Tomasello, M. (2016). Language in a new key. Scientific American, 315(5), 70–75.

Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.


Discussion: Nature Versus Nurture in Language Development

Is language rooted in biology or acquired through social processes? That is the fundamental question that you consider for this Discussion. You may have noticed from your exploration of language development theory last week that theories can more or less be placed upon a spectrum to the degree to which they emphasize biology (nature) or the environment (nurture). Scholars have analyzed data from genetic scientists and anthropologists to locate genetic or evolutionary bases (e.g., adaptations in vocal chords) for language. They have also researched how various cognitive resources such as categorization, attention, or object permanence in the human brain are utilized to produce language. Is nature in itself sufficient for explaining language development? Is there evidence from the literature that you could bring to bear on this issue?

On the other end of the spectrum is the behaviorist, or nurture, argument, which also has undergone scrutiny. Clearly there is a learning component to language since children speak the language(s) that is used in their environment, whether Mandarin, Marathi, or Swedish. Can stimulus response account for the complexity of language and the fact that individuals create original sentences never before modeled for them? Perhaps language development can best be placed in a Venn diagram rather than a linear spectrum, emphasizing the interaction between both nature and nurture.

For this Discussion, you are asked to examine your own language development for evidence in support of nature or nurture, and to support your findings with a theoretical explanation.

With these thoughts in mind:

By Day 4

Post an explanation of the degree to which and how biology and the environment contributed to your personal language learning through age 6. Which language development theory best aligns with your explanation and why? Be specific and provide examples.