Skip to main content

What is the 'language instinct'?

In the early 1960s the linguist and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky developed a theory which became known as universal grammar. The posited that we are born with the innate capacity to master a language.

In all but the rarest cases (involving sensory deprivation) this enables us communicate fluently in a specific language, regardless of the particular characteristics of that language.
Chomsky taught that language is much like walking. Although humans learn by example, he proposed that we are all born with a fundamental understanding of the underlying mechanisms of language. Chomsky’s …universal grammar, is the reason why humans can recognize grammatically correct yet nonsensical phrases, such as “colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Source
The specifics of this ‘universal grammar’ have been endlessly debated, disputed and challenged — with Chomsky himself recently opposing aspects of his own theory. What still remains clear, however, is the central idea that language acquisition what Steven Pinker calls a ‘language instinct’.

In other words children are born with the capacity to internalize grammatical structures and syntax of whichever language(s) they grow up speaking.

Read More

Language Level: Upper intermediate/Advanced CERf C1
Which countries do not have an official language? * What is Globish?


Popular posts from this blog

Top 10 most quoted lines of poetry in English?

Mark Forsyth (The Inky Fool) has analysed Google Search query result data for lines of verse requested online. Here is the Top Ten:

What is the origin of the word alphabet?

Why is English not the official language of England?

58 countries list English as an official language - but not the UK. The world's lingua franca or second language is not, technically, the 'official' language of its birthplace. The de factoofficiallanguage of the United Kingdom is English,[3][4] which is spoken by approximately 59.8 million residents, or 98% of the population, over the age of three.[1][2][10][11][12] An estimated 700,000 people speak Welsh in the UK,[13] an official language in Wales