Dictionary of Arguments


Philosophical and Scientific Issues in Dispute
 
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Language Acquisition Nativism Upton I 2
Language Acquisition/Nativism/Upton: Def nativism/language development: the nativist position argues that the environmental input from language is insufficient for infants and children to acquire the structure of language. Proponent: Noam Chomsky. Language acquisition device/LAD/Chomsky/Upton: thesis: there is a “universal grammar” that applies to all human languages and is pre-specified (Chomsky, 1979)(1); Pinker, 2007(2)).
VsNativism: >Language Acquisition/Empiricism.


1. Chomsky, N (1979) Human language and other semiotic systems. Semiotica, 25: 31–44.
2. Pinker, S (2007) The evolutionary social psychology of off-record indirect speech acts. Intercultural Pragmatics, 4(4): 437–61.



Upton I 74
Language acquisition/Nativism/Upton: [environmentalists assume that] gradually, the child learns the association between the word and the object and tries to imitate the sounds made by the mother – resulting in reinforcement, repetition and so on. Cf. >Myth of the museum. NativismVs: Nativists such as Noam Chomsky argue that this is too simple an explanation for what is essentially a complex behaviour. In particular, learning theory cannot explain how children are able to construct novel sentences or the ease with which children learn the rules of grammar. There is evidence, for example, that parents do not reinforce or explicitly correct syntax or other grammatical errors (Brown, 1973)(1). Chomsky (1979)(2) argues that there must therefore be an innate mechanism for language learning. He calls this the language acquisition device (LAD). >Language Acquisition/Chomsky.


1. Brown, R. (1973) A First Language: The early stages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Chomsky, N. (1979) Human language and other semiotic systems. Semiotica, 25: 31–44.


Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011
Stability Developmental Psychology Upton I 4
Stability/Change/developmental psychology/Upton: Theorists who believe in stability in development often argue from a nativist stance, emphasising the role of heredity for the development of psychological characteristics. We inherit aspects of our personality, for example, in much the same way that we inherit eye colour. From this perspective we cannot change our psychological self, only learn to control it. >Nativism. Empiricism: From an empiricist viewpoint, stability in psychological characteristics stems from the impact of early experiences that cannot be overcome. An individual is shy not because of a genetic predisposition, but because during early experiences of interacting with others they encountered considerable stress, leading them to avoid social interaction. >Periods of development/psychological theories, >Psychoanalysis/psychological theories.
Upton I 5
VsNativism/VsNativism: The alternative viewpoint is that there is potential for change throughout the life span. Later experiences are believed to be able to influence development just as early ones do. The majority of contemporary theorists accept this perspective. For a discussion: Baltes (2003)(1) argues that, while adults are able to change, their capacity to do so is less than that of a child and diminishes over time. On the other hand, Kagan (2003)(2) argues that personality traits such as shyness have a genetic basis; yet he also provides evidence that even these inherited traits can be subject to change over time.


1. Baltes, P. B. (2003). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: selection, optimization and compensation as foundation for developmental theory, in: Staudinger U. M. and Lindenberger, U. (eds) Understanding Human Development. Boston: Kluwer.
2. Kagan, J (2003) Biology, context and developmental enquiry. Annual Review of Psychology, 54: 1–23.


Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011