Linguistic Theories In The Classroom

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Linguistic Theories in the Classroom
Stuart Edmund Davies
Thongsook College

This paper attempts to offer an insight into two of the greatest linguistic theories of the mid 1900’s. It looks at Skinners early behaviorist’s theory and compares it with Chomsky’s Universal Grammar. In addition, it also attempts to establish which of the theories fit into today’s modern classroom. The study shows Skinner’s theory is far less complex and easier to incorporate and that Chomsky’s theory is overly complex and possibly detrimental to learners of a second language.
Keywords: Chomsky, Skinner, Behaviorist’s Theory, Universal Grammar
Linguistic Theories in the Classroom
Throughout the early 20th century linguists proposed many different theories about how language is acquired. This paper looks at Skinners early behaviorist’s theory where he surmised that language is learned by repartition and reward and that social context plays a crucial part in the learning process. As a comparison, it focuses on Noam Chomsky’s revolutionary theory of Universal Grammar (UG) that argues that language in innate. This paper also attempts to highlight which theory is best suited for teachers who teach learners of English.
Literature Review In the late 1950’s, Skinner’s behaviorist theory of language acquisition was fully accepted and linguists agreed that language acquisition came from “external influence” (Kurzweil & Hawkins, 1983). Skinner argued that, “children acquire language based on
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