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Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device Is From God

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

In the name of God, Compassionate, Merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

"Read!...
Naom Chomsky revolutionised the realm of language with 'ground breaking' theories in his 1960s book, Language And Mind.

Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device (LAD) states that children are born with an inherited ability to learn any human language, i.e. language is inherently programmed at birth.

Now to get to the point immediately (because I do have a way with long-winded words and getting distracted easily by another report or unusual word is my Achilles heel - look, squirrel!), Chomsky bashed in existing theories of learned behaviour by claiming that complex linguistic structures were so accurately used by children at such a young age, that it must be already imprinted on the child's mind.

Chomsky believes that every child has a ‘language acquisition device’ which encodes the major principles of a language and its grammatical structures into the child’s brain. Children have then only to learn new vocabulary and apply the syntactic structures from the LAD to form sentences. He pointed out that a child could not possibly learn a language through imitation alone (which opponents argued) because the language spoken around them is highly irregular with subtle distinctions.

Thus the question arises: where did a child's ability to use complex sentences come from?

(Here enters the religious bit. What? I'm a Muslim.)

Allah says in chapter 96 (Al-`Alaq, The Clot)
"Recite in the name of your Lord who created [man]... Who taught by the pen. [Who] taught man that which he knew not." (Qur'an, 96:1, 4-5)

Verse 5:
عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ -
`Allamal insaana maa lam ya`lam - taught man that which he did not know

Allah says He first created man from clay. Then He imprinted that clay - the human being, with knowledge and abilities that the person was completely unaware of. This is the clay that easily moulds and take shape and Allah is saying this clay, our clay, has been stamped with our ability to communicate before we were born. It is these skills which Chomsky's been talking about. Someone should tell him.

If you think about it, inherited abilities (عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ) are skills that emerge at different stages of your life, only when you're ready (with tameez) and not a moment sooner. Maths, equations, languages, the concepts of relationships and death. The idea of flexing your tongue to learn a completely new language. These are incomprehensible to a young person but when Allah decides for them to understand those concepts, they will.

Further reading: the Linguistic Miracle Of Qalam.
Wiki: Naom Chomsky
Image: flickr

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zkthepoet said...

I love linguistics articles

Azra said...

This is such a timely article for me as I'm contemplating teaching spoken Arabic and German (I don't know either, but want to learn as I go - possible?) to my LittleOne. Off to read the links you mentioned.  Thank you!

Zaufishan said...

Studying etymology and Qur'an is exciting. Masha'Allah.

Zaufishan said...

Studying etymology and Qur'an is exciting. Masha'Allah.

Zaufishan said...

Learn as many languages as possible. Think of our deaf community too - Muslimness | Zaufishan: Learning Sign Language

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Thank you. Have you read Muslimness.com?