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Today, the most common theories of language acquisition are behaviorist perspective, innatist perspective, and cognitive perspective. Each of these theories incorporates numerous perspectives, smaller theories, approaches, and hypotheses to explain how the first and second language learning process develops, and what the regularities and consistent patterns of this process are. The following literature review aims at observing the main aspects of these theories.
In the book “Language”, Sapir has defined the behaviorist perspective as the theory that views language acquisition as the process of imitation, habit formation, and reinforcement (27). Sapir has also stated that language acquisition occurs through a process of a habit formation (29). Overall, Sapir’s work describes behaviorist perspective as the theory that focuses on the process of first language acquisition by infants who master their first linguistic skills by repeating after their parents. Lightbown and Spada have stated that the behaviorist perspective became the theoretical foundation of the Audiolingual method of second language teaching (58).
Innatist perspective is described by Ellis and Shintani in their book as the theory having its foundation on the principle that humans are born with innate awareness of the principle of Universal Grammar (147). The concept of Chomsky’s Universal Grammar is explained by these scholars as the human cognitive ability to learn grammar intuitively. Krashen’s Acquisition theory agrees with Chomsky’s Universal Grammar on the idea that human language acquisition does not require learning conscious grammatical rules (Gass and Mackey 94).
Comprehensible Input concept implicates that listeners can understand the message of a piece in a foreign language even if they do not understand all words mentioned in it (Gass and Mackey 97). The Natural Order Hypothesis argues that acquisition of grammar structures both in the mother tongue and foreign language learning occurs in a predictable order (Gass and Mackey 95). Monitor hypothesis assumes that the Monitor or the inside Editor helps the new language learner alter one’s utterances based on the learned knowledge (Gass and Mackey 95). Affective Filter hypothesis states that the second language acquisition can be prevented through the system of filters such as boredom, fear, anxiety, and resistance to change (Gass and Mackey 98).
Cognitive perspective is defined by Mitchell, Myles, and Marsden in their book as the theory that states that second language acquisition is a conscious cognitive process that involves the purposeful use of learning strategies (48). The Interaction hypothesis is one of the major theories that falls in the cognitive perspective theory group. It states that second language learning requires the face to face communication with the fluent language speaker. The Noticing hypothesis is another influential theory in this group. It argues that the second language acquisition requires that the learner notices the new language grammar structures before one can proceed to make progress in learning (Larsen-Freeman and Long 67). The role of practice is central according to this group of theories as Larsen-Freeman and Long have stated (68).
In conclusion, the theories of behaviorist perspective, innatist perspective, and cognitive perspective overview the aspect of the language acquisition process. The majority of these theories have provided important theoretical foundation for the development of the modern-day language learning methodologies. This paper has reviewed six scholarly sources to observe the three theories along with the major hypotheses that these theories comprise.
Ellis, Rod, and Natsuko Shintani. Exploring Language Pedagogy through Second Language Acquisition Research. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Gass, Susan M., and Alison Mackey. The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Larsen-Freeman, Diane, and Michael Long. An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research. London: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Lightbown, Patsy M., and Nina Spada. How Languages are Learned. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Mitchell, Rosamond, Florence Myles, and Emma Marsden. Second language Learning Theories. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Sapir, Edward. Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.