Aitchison


It is to be noted that the nature versus nurture debate extends even into the realm of language. The notion that language is an acquisition attained through mere environmental influence seems lacking. However, to think that individuals attain language through biological means alone is erroneous, as well. There is a delicately interwoven union between learning and acquisition.


Aitchison notes that there is an undeniable progression that carries normally developing children through the process of language acquisition and eventual mastery. Infants begin with babbling, incoherent utterances and sounds not indicative of their native tongue. As the "babbling drift" emerges, the infant begins to move toward making sounds found in its language. Children, at first, do not realize the correlation between objects and their names. Objects and their labels are separate entities in the mind of a child newly developing language. Naming insight takes place when children are taught and begin to realize that sounds can also be labels for objects. They, then, begin to adhere broad labels which narrow as vocabulary expands. This would definitely lean toward the argument that language is preordained, or natural, and requires guidance, or nurture, for proficiency.


Pinker makes mention of four major points to support his idea that language and its acquisition are instinctual actions. First, the universality of language is undeniable. There have been no mute tribes found anywhere in the world. None have been reported to be without language. Second, language is essentially the same everywhere; it is used to convey the same thoughts, concepts, and emotions. There is no distinct correlation between socioeconomic class or status and the level of sophistication present in language. Even those who argue that Black English Vernacular is a deviation from Standard English cannot deny the fact that although grammar rules vary, they are clearly established and very much present. Next, Pinker points out the fact that language acquisition occurs at the relatively the same time and rate and in the same order. This holds true for all parts of the world, indicative of the presence of a hierarchical system. Last, Pinker turns to the biological facts about language which suggest instinct or innateness. Non‑humans do not acquire human language when reared in human environments, however, humans acquire human language in environments where they do not hear it spoken. All languages are equally complex yet children can acquire complexity even in the absence of complex input.


Aitchison views slang as a point of contention between parents and teenagers. Parents insist on Standard English while teenagers are more drawn to their revised form. Pinker refers to the spin on standard language as "creole." Pidgin emerged from necessity in mixed language environments, was mixed into a regulated language, and creole was born. He makes mention of the fact that although Stone Age societies existed, there exists no such thing as a "Stone Age language." He maintains that the universal nature of language is dependent on the children who reinvent it.