Nature or Nurture for children’s language development

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1 March 2016

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To answer the question about if a child develops language through biological preprogramming or through environmental stimulation. Many linguists and scholars debate from the nature-inspired and nurture-inspired perspectives. Both nature and environmental factors interact to help children develop language. It is reasonable that every child has a genetic basis to develop language abilities. However, the environmental stimulation, or nurture-inspired perspective will play a more important role than the nature approach does, given a special case of Genie and the experience factor in language acquisition.

The best example of why nature alone cannot develop language in a child is the special case of Genie shown in the video “Secret of the Wild Child”. Genie was completely isolated when she was a child, so no one interacted with her or taught her to speak. She did not have a way to learn how to speak on her own either. When she was finally removed from isolation, she missed the critical learning period and had trouble communicating like an adult. Even though she did not learn to speak properly, she could still express some ideas after the scientists nurtured her. If she had been around with her family and friends from the beginning of her life, she may have communicated better at an earlier age. According to the article “Nature vs. Nurture Debate in Language Acquisition”1, written by Professor Shanawaz, the adults usually speak to children in a structured and repetitive way. The children imitate the language and their languages formulate a same cultural belief and value system. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory also states that the built-in biases from those “experience” and “culture” factors lead to constraints in those children’s language development process.

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