Chomsky’s Theory of Universal Grammar

4 April 2015
This paper is a discussion of the ideas espoused by Chomsky that the capacity for language acquisition is something we are born with.

This paper provides a detailed evaluation of Chomsky’s theory of Universal Grammar and innate Language Acquisition Device, which is central to the field of linguistics and psycholinguistics. It reviews the controversies surrounding Chomsky’s theory and discusses alternative theories.
Language acquisition is undeniably biologically programmed as children all over the world, from varying cultures and linguistic environments produce the same levels of language at the same stages. Chomsky proposes that this is a direct result of Universal Grammar, which is an inherent part of every human mind. However, his theory of an innate Language Acquisition Device provokes controversy on two grounds. First is the debate between nature and nurture, with many theorists criticizing Chomsky for dismissing any environmental factors. Second, is the dispute as to whether language acquisition is an independent innate faculty as Chomsky claims, or part of the child’s wider cognitive development. Such disagreements demonstrate the enormous impact Chomsky’s theory has had on the field of linguistics and reflects how the Universal Grammar theory is for many the central pillar in our understanding of language. (Cook, V. Inside Language. Arnold. 1997, p249)

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