Emergence of Speech

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Throughout the course of research into the field of language development, researchers have developed many different theories describing the emergence of speech within individuals and how this cognitive ability has arisen within human beings. One traditional theory was presented by famous behaviorist Skinner who suggested that the ability to speak is picked up by observing the behaviors of others (Martorell, Papalia, & Feldman, 2013). However, one opposition to this idea was proposed by famous linguistic researcher Chomsky, who suggested that cognitive ability is actually an innate biological process that has evolved within human beings over time (Chomsky, 2017). Additionally, this evolved ability is based upon the idea of nativism, or the thought that human beings have evolved to born with the ability for language acquisition (Martorell, Papalia, & Feldman, 2013). Chomsky suggests the presence of evolved mechanisms within the brain that support this ability. According to his theory, Chomsky suggests the presence of language acquisition devices, or LADs, that provide children with the natural ability to infer language rules based on what is presented to them in their environment (Martorell, Papalia, & Feldman, 2013). This theory is supported by further evidence observed with the emergence of language. For example, research suggests that children learn and develop language abilities, speaking patterns and phonemes, or basic blocks of language, from the cultures in which they are raised (Gazzaniga, Irvy, & Mangun, 2018). Chomsky maintains that these internal mechanisms are founded upon simple structures in the brain forming a biological process. Throughout the process of evolution, Chomsky suggests that these internal core elements slowly merged together to form the internal wiring for the evolution of the ability to communicate (Chomsky, 2017).

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There are several examples that support Chomsky’s theory or generative language, or the ability to create a unique number of sentences. For example, research suggests that the human brain is capable of storing upwards of 50,000 words (Gazzaniga, Irvy, & Mangun, 2018). As we have the ability to form unique sentences in our daily communication methods, these words must be stored in a database. Researchers suggest that this database, or mental lexicon, of stored words, semantic and syntactic information, and phonemes, supports our ability to quickly hear words, identify them, select responses to match mental representation and form complete sentences (Gazzaniga, Irvy, & Mangun, 2018). Evidence for evolution of generative language can also be supported with the before mentioned idea of language being an evolved process. To expand upon this, children begin with the ability to coo and make noises. As they are exposed to speech patterns around them, these cooing sounds will begin to mock, or copy, the sounds of normal speech around them. As this process continues with the help of LADs, they will soon learn to copy full words and recognize basic sounds of words, which will become stored in their brain forming their own mental lexicon (Gazzaniga, Irvy, & Mangun, 2018; Martorell, Papalia, & Feldman, 2013). With this storage of mental words and the influence of social norms and speech heard in their environment, speakers will soon learn to form unique sentences supported by their perisyvlian language network within the brain (Gazzaniga, Irvy, & Mangun, 2018).

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