What is LAD in linguistics

Comparison of the language acquisition theories of Chomsky and Bruner

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Noam Avram Chomsky
II.1 A biographical outline
II.2 Chomsky's theory of language development
II.2.1 Properties of language in Chomsky
II.2.2 The "LAD"

III. Jerome Seymour Bruner
III.1 Brief biographical outline
III.2 Bruner's language acquisition theory
III.2.1 The "basic cognitive equipment" according to Bruner
III.2.2 The aspect of pragmatics in Bruner

IV. Chomsky - Bruner comparison

V. Summary

VI. Used literature

I. Introduction

Language is an abstract sign system that gives things a meaning and thus enables human communication.

Language is an important tool in education. In contrast to the natural sciences or economics, educational science is based on interpersonal relationships. An exchange in the interpersonal area often takes place through language.

Basic requirements for speaking are the ability to generate speech sounds, to structure the language grammatically and to understand language.

But why do we learn language? What makes this possible for us?

The child learns the language of the culture into which it was born with apparent ease. But it is all the more difficult to find out which “mechanism” is responsible for it.

"In order to learn (language) it is not enough just to have the material available ... We have to discover what is necessary to make the system work."[1]

This task, which Noam Chomsky defined, was already trying to solve linguistics and developmental psychology. There does not seem to be one solution, but rather many theories.

Three well-known approaches are the behaviorist, the nativist, and the cognitive. They will be discussed in more detail in the course of my work, but I will specifically address the theories of Noam Chomsky, a nativist, and Jerome Bruner, a cognitiveist.

In the second and third part of my work I would like to try to present these two theories.

In the fourth part I compare the two theories in order to work out the fundamental differences and similarities between the two.

In a résumé I would like to consider the usefulness of the two theories.

II. Noam Avram Chomsky

II.1 A biographical outline

Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in an anti-Semitic working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia. Through his father, William Chomsky, Hebrew teacher on Gratz collage in Philadelphia, who "dealt with medieval grammar texts and the history of the language"[2] he came into contact with linguistics for the first time. He visited a kibbutz, but soon gave up the original plan to go to Israel for a long time because of the Israeli politics of the time. From an early age he dealt with the civil war and the anarchist revolution in Spain.

He studied at the University of Pennsylvaniawhere he is strongly influenced by the "semi-anarchic thinking"Z. S. Harris[3] was attracted.

In 1949 he married.

In 1955 he submitted his dissertation "Syntatic Structures", in which, among other things, criticized traditional linguistics. In the same year he began his scientific career at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), first as an assistant professor and since 1961 as a full professor of linguistics and philosophy.

His linguistic work was recognized in the 1960s and since then he has been considered one of the most important theorists in the field.

In addition, he became one of the most important critics of US foreign policy, global political developments and the power of the media. Again and again he describes and criticizes the relationships between economic exploitation and economic, social and political power and the function of the media under this aspect.

For his linguistic research, Chomsky received several academic honors; however, his political analyzes are largely "hushed up" by those who otherwise praise him for his linguistic knowledge.

II.2 Chomsky's theory of language development

Chomsky is one of the most important representatives of the "nativist position". Scientists who are of the opinion that language develops from an innate knowledge of its basic structure take up a nativistic position. Chomsky calls this innate knowledge LAD (Language Acquisition Device).

The "nativistic position", which mainly looks at the syntactic aspect of language, is the opposite of the "behavioristic learning theory", which primarily deals with semantics and assumes that language is learned from scratch. According to Chomsky, the classical variables of behavioral theories, stimulus, response and reinforcement, are insufficient to explain learning to speak.

“We simply fail to identify them [stimulus, response and reinforcement] in human speech situations. It is not possible to clearly identify the stimulus that leads to a certain utterance (response). And why a certain utterance is followed by another, and then followed by another, cannot be explained by the principle of reinforcement. "[4]

II.2.1 Properties of language in Chomsky

Chomsky starts from linguistic universals in language. These are a "system of language"[5]. Chomsky deduces from their existence that all languages ​​are laid out according to the same pattern, but do not correspond point by point.

For Chomsky, it follows from this in principle the same system that there is a need to create a universal grammar.

"We want to define the" Universal Grammar "(UG) as the system of principles, conditions and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages, and not just by chance, but out of necessity - although of course I am referring to a biological, do not think of a logical necessity. "[6]

The grammar of an individual language should be supplemented by a universal grammar (hereinafter referred to as the UG). The UG should also specify what must be learned in order for the language acquisition to be successful. What has been learned, the generative grammar, must then have the structure of the UG.

"Every human language agrees with UG."[7]

It divides the universal grammar into three aspects:

- the universal semantics,
- the universal phonetics
- and the universal syntax.

He only comments briefly on the requirements for universal semantics by saying that a system of all possible concepts and their relationships to and among one another must be drawn up.

He expresses himself as follows on universal phonetics:

“The theory of universal phonetics seeks to establish a universal phonetic alphabet and a system of phonetic laws. The alphabet defines the set of possible signals from which the signals of a single language are taken. If the theory is correct, every signal in a language can be represented as a sequence of symbols from the phonetic alphabet. "[8]

Chomsky goes into the universal syntax most deeply.

As the first property of the grammar of a language, he mentions that every language has a surface structure and a deep structure, which I will go into in more detail later.

Each language is also structured hierarchically. He compares this with the order schemes of human behavior, since these would also be based on an overarching plan or a hierarchical order. To support this thesis he refers to the research of the neurologist Karl Lashley and his book "Cerebral mechanisms in behavior" from 1951.[9]

It is the same with sentences: They too have abstract, generally applicable patterns. This is another aspect of the nature of language.

Words in sentences can be combined into units and these are then arranged hierarchically.

Take the sentence, for example The boy hit the ball[10]so will boy and the ball felt as a unit, but met the Not. A bigger type of unit would be hit the ball.

These sentence segments, which can be treated as units, are also called "constituents". These constituents are clarified in the following scheme by replacing what belongs together with another word[11]:

Figure not included in this excerpt

According to Chomsky, language follows generally applicable, hierarchical structures.

The sentence is derived through formation rules until it is "generated".

Let's stick with the example above: The boy hit the ball.

This sentence (S) can be written in noun phrases (NP) boy and verb phrase (VP) hit the ball split up. The noun phrase can lead to article (type) the and noun (N) Boy and the verb phrase for Verb (V) met and another noun phrase the ball be derived. Now the second noun phrase is used in the article the and in the noun ball divided, then the sentence is generated.

In summary, this results in six rules:

([Figure not included in this excerpt] means: Can be replaced by)[12]

Figure not included in this excerpt

Chomsky's “generative transformation grammar” is named after this generation.

Since, according to Chomsky, these hierarchical structures are comparable to the order schemes of human activity, we know these hierarchical structures and with the help of the LAD, the innate knowledge of our language, this enables us to learn the language without conscious effort.[13]


[1] N. Chomsky in J. Bruner, 1987, p. 13

[2] H. Weydt, 1976, p. 107

[3] Internet: http://www.uni-essen.de/sesam/klassiker/aufätze/chomsky/chomsky3_3.html

[4] N. Chomsky, 1965, pp. 73f

[5] Sarter, 1980, p.77

[6] N. Chomsky, 1977, p. 41

[7] N. Chomsky, 1977, p. 41

[8] N. Chomsky in Sarter, 1980, p. 78

[9] G. Szagun, 2000, pp. 9f

[10] G. Szagun, 2000, p. 10

[11] G. Szagun, 2000, p. 10

[12] G. Szagun, 2000, p. 11

[13] N. Chomsky, 1977, p. 38

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