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Essay/Term paper: Language

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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Language is an abstract concept which is acquired early in life by the vast majority of children through an intricate process. There are many different theories concerning the acquisition of language that have been considered, and these are constantly being refined, along with the technology which enables researchers to further investigate the process. Bilingualism has also been a complex area of interest which has elicited various theoretical viewpoints.

There are various aspects which are true to every language. These include: phonology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. The phonology of a language includes a set of phonemes: the different sounds, and the rules governing the combination of these sounds which can be found within the language. The semantics involved in a language deals with the meanings of the sentences, words, and grammatical markers (morphemes) in the language. The syntax concerns the rules about organizing the morphemes into sentences, and pragmatics are the communication skills involved in the use of the language (Shaffer, 1999, p.352-353). These are merely the basics required for language acquisition. Knowledge of the nature of communication, in addition to the fashion in which the language is acquired are also integral.

The acquisition of a language has instigated a controversy regarding the process through which it is acquired. The empiricist perspective, inspired by B. F. Skinner in 1957, states that children learn language by imitating caregivers who model and reinforce their speech (Shaffer, 1999, p.355). Also during the 1950's, Noam Chomsky hypothesized that languages are too complex to be learned by imitation (Shaffer, 1999, p.356 & Brownlee, 1998, p.48). Therefore, humans are born with a "language acquisition device" (Shaffer, 1999, p.356 & Brownlee, 1998, p.53) and a "universal grammar" (Brownlee, 1998, p.48) which predisposes them to the ability to learn languages and apply the grammatical rules to the languages which they hear.

The large interest in the area of language has been elicited as a result of the intricacy of the acquisition process of a language, and the fact that all children appear to have the ability to acquire and understand such an abstract concept. The study of language, as the study of any subject, is an ongoing process, as illustrated by various researchers over the years. These studies have evolved form mere theoretical statements about language to involved studies which have caused the previous hypotheses to be rejected. This is largely due to the evolution of related technology which has facilitated research in the area.


Bialystok, E. (1999). Cognitive complexity and attentional control in the bilingual mind.

Child Development, 70 (3), 636-644.

Blakeslee, S. (1997, July 15). When an adult adds a language, it's one brain, two systems.

The New York Times, C4.

Bower, B. (1997, July 12). Brain shows signs of two bilingual roads. Science News, 152,


Brain's singular way with language. (1995, April 1). Science News, 147, 202.

Brownlee, S. (1998, June 15). Baby talk. U.S. News & World Report, 124 (23), 48-55.

Chatterjee, C. (1997, November/December). Are bilinguals of two minds? Psychology

Today, 30, 9.

Hart, B & Risley, T. (1992). American parenting of language-learning children:

Persisting differences in family-child interactions observed in natural home

environments. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1096-1105.

Shaffer, D. (1999). Developmental Psychology (5th ed.). United States: Brooks/Cole

Publishing Company.


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