Analytical Essay 3

Kristina Kennedy

Tamasi & Kim Ling

22 March 2018

Word Count: 758

The Act of Language Games
One way to answer the question of when and how words get their meanings is by

examining the phenomenon of language acquisition. How and when children learn language, and how language fits into how we perceive the world has been questioned time and time again by philosophers and scientists alike. According to Ludwig Wittgenstein, we learn words via language games – and words have meanings which are inherently determined by use. This poses an interesting challenge to the science of language acquisition, because it challenges how children and people learn to use words that are abstract concepts. However, I would like to pursue a different question here: the question of whether Wittgenstein’s language games are the same thing as John Searle’s concept of a ‘speech act,’ and, if so, what these concepts mean for language acquisition. For the sake of this paper, I am arguing that language games and speech acts are one in the same.

In order to argue that these two concepts are the same, first I would like to delve into the concept of speech acts. Searle believed that every utterance is a form of a speech act, requiring intentionality and social contract (Searle 2009). Additionally, Searle believes that language ties a society together, emphasizing that “once a society has a language, it already has a social contract” (Searle 2009). The meaning of an utterance is a social contract between the speaker and the listener; an agreement on the locutionary and illocutionary force of the statement.

Wittgenstein’s theory of language games has several layers to it. Overall, language games to Wittgenstein is literally just “language, and the actions it is woven into” (Wittgenstein). This ranges from how we as a species first teach language to children, to the subtle nuances of

language in which meaning can be changed slightly (Wittgenstein 1958). According to Wittgenstein, the meaning of a word comes from how it is used, and therefore, a word can have multiple meanings. However, Wittgenstein also believes that each individual has their own internal private language, which is specific to them and cannot be shared with spoken language. Finally, Wittgenstein believes that language games have rules which are determined by the community which speaks the language.

Understanding now both Searle and Wittgenstein’s definitions of speech acts and language games, respectively, what do the two concepts have in common? There are three main parts that I would like to point out here. First, both Searle and Wittgenstein believe that language is a social contract between people (Searle 2009, Wittgenstein 1958). This is perfectly in line with Wittgenstein’s theory of meaning in use – Searle emphasizes the role of intentionality, locutionary/illocutionary force. It is essentially one in the same as Wittgenstein’s notion of meaning in use. Second, both language games, and speech acts emphasize the role of culture within language. Wittgenstein emphasizes the role of community in language games in order to learn the rules to the language games, which is in line with Searle’s belief that language is a social contract (Searle 2009). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, language games are actable on, just as language in Searle’s speech acts is something that must be actable on. In Wittgenstein’s language games, the listener is always responding to or learning from someone else.

However, Searle’s concept of speech acts does not remark upon Wittgenstein’s concept of private and how people go about learning words to abstract concepts (Wittgenstein, 89). Additionally, Searle’s speech acts also fail to address what successful communication is, precisely. According to Wittgenstein, successful communication is an agreement from the

listener of the speaker’s intent (Wittgenstein 1958). Any disagreement on the two is called a miscommunication. Searle’s speech acts only draw upon what speech and language are, but not the concepts of miscommunication necessarily.

But, how does this tie back into the concept of language acquisition? Understanding the two theories helps us to address how we both first learn language, and how we use it in every day life. The concept of language games (which, as discussed in this paper, are analogous to speech acts), forces us to examine what is special about language that helps us use it. The nuances of culture Wittgenstein discusses gives us the rules we develop to learn and use language, from a young age, forward. They help us to frame what meaning is in a new way.

Works cited
Searle, John. What is language?: Some preliminary remarks. Ethics and Politics, XI, 2009. Wittgenstein, Lugwid. Philosophical Investigations. 1958.

Analytical Essay 1

Olivia Morgan


Throughout his work, Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein frequently applies dialogic speech to explain his ideas and explanations of concepts. The dialogical discourse serves as a tool for Wittgenstein to attempt to answer his own questions and formulate his own responses to said uncertainties. The dialogic framework Wittgenstein employs directs readers to his true thoughts on the matters at hand and his utilization of opposing voices allows him to ‘create’ problems that he then decrypts with his own beliefs. This writing tactic may make it more difficult for his readers to follow along, but allows for Wittgenstein to proclaim his current beliefs and thoughts without necessarily providing a resolution for the concepts and ideas presented.

The conversational approach Wittgenstein adopts is present in the first section of his work. The engaging dialogue with the reader and the use of alternate voices propel Wittgenstein’s arguments and act as exposure to thoughts that differ from the beliefs he ostensibly upholds. The incorporation of ideas that are not necessarily supported by Wittgenstein allows him to assert his claims and object those that diverge from his views. In this first section, St. Augustine is brought into the dialogue to assert  an idea that Wittgenstein refutes in one sentence. He gives the reader time to ruminate and understand the ideas he does not support, only to subsequently diminish them in a few words. While he may not be providing an ample explanation as to why his beliefs should be the precedent, he also does not provide the space for it to be questioned. To him, his way of thinking is correct and there is no way to refute that because he has already attempted to disprove the alternative answer. Therefore, this tactic he utilizes may not be the most effective in the long term, but in the moment it forces the reader to acknowledge his side of the concept.

As seen with St. Augustine, a whole paragraph is dedicated to Augustine’s thoughts on language. The next paragraph is a rebuttal to his argument. Wittgenstein states, “(Augustine’s) philosophical concept of meaning has its place in a primitive idea of the way language functions. But one can also say that it is the idea of a language more primitive than ours” (30. He definitely finds fault in Augustine’s idea, but decides to entertain it further in order to outwardly disagree with it once again. Wittgenstein creates a hypothetical scenario, a language-game of sorts, with many moving parts and the idea of language as a network of communication between “builder A and an assistant B” (30). After a detailed explanation of Augustine’s thoughts, Wittgenstein likens St. Augustine’s “conception of language” to an “oversimplified script” (40). Wittgenstein once again downplays the ideas of Augustine in one instance despite explaining his point in a matter of paragraphs.

The dialogical, stream of consciousness framework of this piece gets more interesting once Wittgenstein starts treating himself (his past self) as a new individual with whom to engage in conversation. Wittgenstein talks in third person when he states, “including the author of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicu” (120). The “author” is Wittgenstein himself. He addresses Socrates’s idea of primary elements and how he believes that everything is either a simple thing or a complex thing. Complex things are composed of the simplest things. The ‘old’ Wittgenstein also held this belief. However, Wittgenstein is now not only disagreeing with the concepts stated by one of the most highly regarded philosophers of all time, he is also diverging from his own previously held beliefs. He know believes that it is difficult to regard something as simple and break something complex down into less complex (i.e simple or essential) parts. Who is to say one aspect of an object, phenomenon, etc. is simpler than another or truer than another when no one can comprehend and, thereby, express what is simple? For example, to one person the smallest unit of a flower could be its petals while another may consider it to be the color of the petal. However, even the petal can be broken down into even smaller aspects. In essence cannot all components of a thing or a concept be considered complex? How do you quantify complexity or understand simplicity? Is something truly simple if you are able to label it such? If it can be known well enough to be named then it is not simple. So here in another instance, Wittgenstein finds a way to very quickly counter claims that are hundreds of years old without outwardly declaring it as incorrect.

Throughout his piece, Wittgenstein has found a way to establish his present voice and proclaim his stances without completely turning the study of language upside down by not wholeheartedly or definitively shutting down every conflicting concept. These conversations with differing viewpoints are still able to coexist. These ‘investigations’ Wittgenstein embarks on are still just that. They remain open to new ideas, but Wittgenstein did effectively assert his thoughts on the topics at hand.

Word Count: 827; MLA Citation

Works Cited

Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. Ed. Charles Bally and Albert

Sechehaye. Trans. Roy Harris. Chicago: Open Court.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Trans.G.E.M. Auscombe. Malden: Basil Blackwell, 1953.

Autism and Language

Every sentence we utter has a speech act, but this speech act is only understood due to social convention. (Searle 194) It is this duality that Searle uses to define his view of language. When thinking about those that have a barrier to language, lacking the ease to know and understand, such as those with autism, we have to consider Searle’s viewpoint. Searle’s definition of language, specifically the ideas of speech acts and social contract points to the argument that those on the autism spectrum do not posses language.


The concept of a speech act is fundamental to Searle’s understanding of language. He defines a speech act as an utterance with a certain purpose in language, such as statements, assertions, requests, and commands. (180) There are different types of speech acts based on their purpose: assertive speech acts show the state of the world, directive express desires, and commissive express intentions. (180) Yet, the speech act is only a part of his algorithm. Searle looks at language as a dual understanding of semantic meaning of an utterance and what is called the illocutionary force, or type of speech act discussed above. “We need to distinguish between those communicative acts that involve intentionally representing a state of affairs in the world and those that simply express an animal’s internal state.” (Searle 187) True language is not used to just define internal state; language users have the ability to use the dual component to describe minute details and specific feelings and states. This is our first clue that Searle might not look at those on the autism spectrum as having what he defines as language. It has been found by researchers that autistic children most commonly and successfully use language to ask for something and are at an “increased risk of communicative breakdowns due to impairments in joint attention and reliance on prelinguistic forms of communication that may be ambiguous and difficult to understand.” (Keen 15) They are unable to do more than ask and express more basic statements of language.


For spoken word to become communication, listeners must fully grasp the intention as well as the physical act. One must understand the nuanced meaning, not always is something said directly. We have elements such as sarcasm and idioms that allow us to express ourselves in an alternate way. Searle writes, “simple expressive speech acts, even when performed intentionally are not ‘linguistics’ in the sense…because, though they give vent to intentional or other states of the speaker, they do not represent.” (187) Bring it back to autism, those on the autism spectrum struggle with taking the speech act to the next level of understanding. “For children with autism, the development of intentional and symbolic communication can be a challenging process and some children remain at the prelinguistic stage of communicative development for extended periods.” (Keen 11) As autistic children develop, they have less of an interest to communicate as much as standard children do, so they have less of a chance to develop these language skills during their critical period. (Keen 11) Though autistic children come to understand speech acts: having the ability to ask for things they want or need, they miss the development of the element of language that is more than just stating.


The social contract of language is a combination of pre-linguistic intentionality and speech acts. Searle defines the social contract as influenced by the group as a whole. He writes, “Once a society has a common language, it already has a social construct.” (177) Looking at this definition, those that have the ability to impose meaning and create the norms of language have the power in a social contract. They are the ones controlling our language. This points to another reason Searle would define autistic individuals as not possessing language. Due to the lower attention span autistic individuals possess, they most often use language to meet an end goal and not otherwise. (Keen 13) Not only does Searle say they arguably do not have a language for other reasons, they also do not have the ability to control the social contract. Those with autism arguably cannot impose language upon others, as they still exist in a pre-linguistic system. Searle defines pre-linguistic consciousness as something that “lacks internal and controllable structures in its thought process.” (182) He provides the example that those with a pre-linguistic system struggle with the complex grammatical rules of the language. To fully be one with language, again one must grasp both the meaning and the syntax. The fact that our language exists in a tree-based syntactical system, not linearly, affects those with autism. They will struggle to grasp more complex language, such as inverted sentences, leading to frustration and follow up questions. (Keen 14) This will prevent them from ever fully joining a linguistic circle.


Because Searle ultimately defines language as hand in hand with meaning and intentionality, pragmatics becomes a vital part of his definition. Searle argues that we are born with something, the link between the propositional statement and intentionality that allows us to use language fully and completely to describe both ourselves and the world around us. Language is the base of society, and those on the autism spectrum lack the ability to fully grasp the dual elements Searle uses to describe language as well as control the social contract.




Keen, Deb. “Prelinguistic Communication.” Communication in Autism, by Joanne


Arciuli and Jon Brock. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2014. Print.


Searle, John. What is Language? Some Preliminary Remarks. University of California,


  1. Print.


Human without Human Language: Searlean Perspective of Language and Autism (AE2)

About one in every 68 children in the United States has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Their symptoms vary in severity often including some form of intellectual disability and language impairment (NINDS, 2017). “People with ASD may have very different verbal abilities ranging from no speech at all to speech that is fluent, but awkward and inappropriate” (NINDS, 2017). This can be the result of restricted semantic ability or trouble understanding social contexts and socially accepted behaviors. Lacking these elements of communication, American philosopher John R. Searle would likely assert that these people do not possess human language. This is because Searle’s definition of language necessitates an ability to manipulate sentence structures to change meaning (Searle, 2009, p. 182) and a social contract that is understood and abided by both interlocutors (Searle, 2009, p. 176). To be without these is to be without a complete human language.

Searle differentiates between the prelinguistic and linguistic consciousness in order to determine what makes human language unique. One feature of language he identifies as unique from prelinguistic forms is semantically loaded syntactic structure (Searle, 2009, p. 182). The ability to use semantics offers a person with a fully functioning grasp on language the ability to create “indefinitely manipulatable structures with semantic content” (Searle, 2009, p. 182). This means that topics and ways of discussing them should be infinite. People with ASD, however, demonstrate a tendency to discuss the same topics repeatedly (NINDS, 2017) and a restricted ability to produce complex syntactic structure. In one study (Lee et al., 2017), people with ASD and people with typical development were asked to tell a story based on a picture. The narratives of those with ASD used fewer instances of complex syntax and more instances of incomplete syntax. Those with ASD may also have trouble with sentences that contain embedded clauses and focus more on key words than grammar when attempting to understand a statement (Vicker, 2009). Though production is not always linked to competence, one can provide insight into the other and provide circumstantial evidence. Lacking the ability to link semantics to syntax and choosing instead to maintain focus on specific topics, does not demonstrate a complete ability to understand and utilize syntax and semantics in the way that Searle describes. Because this is an essential component language has that prelinguistic consciousness does not, a person cannot have a complete language without having this skill.

According to Searle, it is not sufficient that a communication is used to convey meaning based on standardized rules and structures. In order for that communication to achieve Searle’s threshold for language, “it necessarily involves social commitments, and that the necessity of these social commitments derives from the social character of the communication situation” (Searle, 2009, p. 193-194). While pre-linguistic consciousness has intentionality and even can have ways of communicating that intentionality, there must be a commitment to the statement being made. There must be an illocutionary force attached to the words being said and that will be understood through the social conventions that dictate meaning in a given situation (Searle, 2009, p. 196). Those with ASD, however, do not meet this criterion. In a study (Berenguer et al., 2017) where parents completed the Children’s Communication Checklist Second Edition by rating aspects of communication, children were scored on, among other skills, their coherence and use of context. Children with ASD showed a lower pragmatic competence than typically developing children of their age. These symptoms present in children may shift as they age, but very rarely disappear (NINDS, 2017; Vicker, 2009). People with ASD may demonstrate difficulty with conversational context and figurative language (Vicker, 2009) both of which can generally be understood by typically developing people. Without showing understanding or use of the social conventions Searle proposes, these people cannot fully develop language.

Searle lays out a definition of language that excludes people with ASD from meeting all the qualifications. They fall short of demonstrating a complete operation of syntactic structure to communicate semantic intentions and show a lack of pragmatic comprehension in social settings required for the use of language. The definition divides humans into groups of those with language and those without. Since Searle sees language as part of the biology of being human with some genetic component (Searle, 2009, p. 174, 177), where does that leave those who are human but without human language? Following Searle’s argument would suggest that the genetic mutation that causes ASD (NINDS, 2017) also causes one to lose their humanity. He attempted to avoid this kind of question by proposing a hypothetical “hominid” similar in all regards to humans but lacking linguistics consciousness (Searle, 2009, p. 177), but the avoidance of this question leaves cracks in Searle’s definition and explanation of language.


Berenguer, C., Miranda, A., Colomer, C., Baixauli, I., & Roselló, B. (2017). Contribution of Theory of Mind, Executive Functioning, and Pragmatics to Socialization Behaviors of Children with High-Functioning Autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders48(2), 430-441.

Lee, M., Martin, G. E., Hogan, A., Hano, D., Gordon, P. C., & Losh, M. (2017). What’s the story? A computational analysis of narrative competence in autism. Autism, 1362361316677957.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). (2017). Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet. 

Searle, J. R. (2009). What is Language? Some Preliminary Remarks. Etica & Politica11(1), 173-202.

Vicker, B. (2009). Social communication and language characteristics associated with high functioning, verbal children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Indiana Resource Center for Autism. Retrieved from

Analytical Essay #3

Samantha Tall

A Reanalysis of Chomsky’s Use of Internal and External Language

Noam Chomsky’s What is Language revisits his definition of Language. Chomsky reexamines his concept of universal grammar and concludes that the acquisition of Language is domain specific; meaning that the Language process is naturally endowed within the individual. He also defines Language as either internalized (I-Language) or externalized (E-Language). He argues that only internalized Language is important in regards to the study of Language.  By doing so he rejects the branch of linguistics known as Corpus Linguistics. In this paper, I will argue that Chomsky’s idea that only internal Language matters hinders the domain specific perspective of Language that he presented. By arguing against the study of external Language, it weakens his argument considering that corpus studies, as seen through Charles Yang’s corpora experiments, have also suggested domain specificity. Thus, considering that other empirical studies have demonstrated that external Language also support the domain specificity argument, Chomsky is tasked with reexamining if Language only exists domain specifically at an internal level.

Chomsky defines Language as “two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and conceptual-intentional for mental process” (Chomsky, 2015, p. 4). He also defines internal Language as “I-language- “I” standing for internal, individual, and intensional” meanwhile “E-language” stands for “external language which many -not me- identify with a corpus of data or with some infinite set that is weakly generated” (Chomsky, 2015, p.4). Even though Chomsky attempts to say that he does not define external Language as corpora he contradicts himself later in the same paragraph by saying that “it is not clear whether” these “weak generations” from corpora are “even definable for human language” and corpora “at best” is a “derivative from the more fundamental notion of I-language.” (Chomsky, 2015, p.4). This contradiction by Chomsky suggests that because it is not definable for human Language it automatically falls into the E-Language category regardless of it derives from I-language.   The reason he dismisses E-Language is because he believes that “most use of language use by far is never externalized. It is a kind of internal dialogue” (Chomsky, 2015, p.14). The internal dialogue is the Universal Grammar device he believes that all Language users are biologically endowed with. However, just because Chomsky viewed it as being biological he did not assume that all humans have full Language at birth but rather the Language acquisition device “operates on experience acquired in an ideal community and constructs from it, in a determinate way, a state of language faculty” which suggests the support of domain specificity (Chomsky, 1990, p.60). While Chomsky’s theory that Language acquisition is a domain specific process may be correct, his complete omission of external Language is problematic. His stance on the Language acquisition device requires that some input is necessary in order to gain complete competence in grammar. Thus, external Language is vital in both the production and study of internal Language, therefore by rejecting external Language he is establishing a logical paradox.

Ironically, even though Chomsky is not in support of the study of corpus linguistics it is perhaps one of the few empirical branches of linguistics that shows statistical support that Language acquisition is domain specific. Charles Yang’s study in Ontogeny and phylogeny of language evaluates ten language samples from young children and compares the diversity of noun-pairs to that of the Brown Corpus. He finds a “paradox” in which the ten children samples exhibit more grammatical diversity than that of the adult Brown Corpus (Yang, 2013, p. 2). Due to this finding, he then goes on to study a “memory model” from “1.1 million child-directed English utterances in the public domain” (Yang, 2013, p. 3). Ultimately, he finds that “some components of child language follow abstract rules from the outset of syntactic acquisition” and that “memorization in language” does not explain grammar patterns in children (Yang, 2013, p3.). Yang’s study supports Chomsky’s proposal of a domain specificity in acquisition. However, the manner in which Yang finds and presents his findings is exclusively through the external interpretation of Language which Chomsky rebukes as being definable for Language. This signifies not only that domain specificity may be a plausible theory, but it also suggests that Chomsky needs to reconsider his initial suggestion that only I-Language interpretation is important. It might be in Chomsky’s best interest to revise his interpretation of language and incorporate E-Language. He does not have to give E-Language the same amount of power that I-Language has but to absolutely reject E-Language is challenging in that it calls into question the legitimacy of the domain specific argument from Chomsky’s universal grammar perspective. Not only would the incorporation of E-Language into his definition strengthen his initial domain specific argument, but it would also legitimize the study of corpora. If he does not want to include E-Language, he can solve the problem by saying that corpus data is explicitly part of I-Language rather than ambiguously defining it and then contradicting himself.

In conclusion, Chomsky’s needs to incorporate E-Language into what he deems as important in terms of analyzing Language. As seen through Yang’s study, it is evident that domain specificity is present when analyzing E-Language. To strengthen his argument further, Chomsky needs to address the paradox, from the logical dilemma, he creates when he says that universal grammar requires input yet disregards E-Language completely. The best way to do so would be to integrate E-Language in into his definition to further strengthen, rather than weaken, his view.

Words: 896


Chomsky, N (2015) What is Language?. Columbia University Press, What kind of creatures are we?, (pp. 1-25)

Chomsky, N (1990) “Language in mind” in David H Mellor (ed.), 56-80.

Cook, V., & Newson, M. (1996). Chomskys universal grammar: An introduction. (pp.75-132) Oxford: Blackwell.

Mellor David (1990) Ways of communicating. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press

Yang, C. (2013). Ontogeny and phylogeny of language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(16), 6324-6327;

Kitara Smith Analytical Essay #3 3/8/18

Language is Not Innate

Social interaction is when humans communicate with one another to share ideas. Initial linguistic input is more broadly defined as language an infant is exposed to. Adults have a modular, language, that is culturally shaped. Through education and experiences, abilities become a module. This biologically determined modular lets us learn language but that does not mean the language is innate. Innateness implies humans do not require social interaction to learn a language, it is just something a person is born knowing. Pinker and Tomasello both agree humans are born with a cognitive device, biologically determined, but disagree on the innateness of this device. Pinker believes we are born with a language acquisition device (LAD) whereas Tomasello believes we are born with a non-modular general cognitive device. Domain specificity supports the LAD and the idea of poverty of the stimulus. This is where social interaction is helpful but not necessary. However, domain general supports the non-modular cognitive device where humans are born with parameters to use the social interaction that fully develops the grammar. Therefore, social interaction from parents is important in order to master grammar. Pinker believes that humans are born with a domain specific LAD to learn language, but LAD does not incorporate the role of social interaction. On the other hand, Tomasello’s general cognitive device includes the important role of social interaction which is necessary to master grammar. Social interaction is necessary for language acquisition.

Pinker supports the hypothesis of domain specificity (LAD) -that we have a mental capacity for language where social interaction is not necessary- but language is not innate. Pinker believes there are levels that need to be unlocked in the brain as humans develop but has no evidence to back up this hypothesis. “Children develop complex grammars rapidly without formal instruction and give consistent interpretations to novel sentence constructions that they’ve never encountered” (Pinker, 22). With no formal evidence for proof, the environment is necessary for children to gain information to form syntactical sentences. Language is social not necessarily biological. In contrast, Pinker supports “language as an evolutionary adaptation.” (Pinker, 24). However, language is not an instinct because we still have to learn how to communicate by interacting with other humans. If there is no other person to communicate with, then a human will not develop syntactic language. Also, different people from different cultures learn different sentence structures, so it does not make sense that learning language does not require social interactions with specific cultures. “Sophisticated linguistic form in a non-industrialized people has an applicative sentence construction different from others” (Pinker, 27). Babies from one culture hear frequencies more than babies from another culture so will say certain phonemes before others based on what they are exposed to the most. Babies do not prefer a speech sound; therefore, we have a general cognitive device. On the other hand, Pinker believes a person’s success is innate. “Web spinning does not depend on having had the right education or aptitude for architecture” (Pinker, 18). I do not agree with Pinker’s comparison of words to webs because a person’s language is highly influenced by culture and their environment.

Tomasello supports the hypothesis of domain general cognitive device, where humans are not born with a modular. Humans are born with abilities that may develop into a modular through experience; but by depriving people access to high quality education, they will also be deprived of learning the grammar and syntax used in the majority of society. Imitation does play a part in the dialect and spelling of a language. Children develop a dialect from people they hear in their culture. Pinker may not support that imitation is necessary to develop language; however, social interaction does matter because different languages have different sentence structure. Therefore, a child’s acquisition will be slower or faster than children from other languages since some languages are more complex than others. Language is complex so there has to be some form of training or learning to master this faculty. Theories require supported by research. “Pinker only relied on logical arguments or formal considerations, not behavioral observations in the scientific study of human behavior. Therefore, he could not account for many natural language phenomena nor his argument that abstract syntax cannot be learned by observing language use” (Tomasello, 1995, 131). In order to support a claim, there needs to be some sort of factual evidence. Pinker relied on Chomsky’s evidence of this concept, and his experimental evidence is more theoretical than scientific. In an experiment, “children generalized variations they observed in recurrent tokens of the same utterance. They created novel utterances for themselves via usage based syntactic operations where they began with an utterance level schema and modify it for the exigencies of the particular communicative situation” (Tomasello, 2001, 61). In other words, children hear people around them and reproduce those syntactic sentences by imitation, then adjust the grammar according to the current situation. This is the expression and understanding of communicative intentions as a result of social interaction.

The cognitive device supports the claim that social interaction is necessary to master grammar whereas LAD does not believe social interaction is required to learn a language. Although domain specific LAD is seen as something we are born with to acquire language, the domain general cognitive device can be used to acquire language because social interaction is important when learning a language.

Word count: 895





Work’s Cited

Pinker, Steven. “An Instinct to Acquire and Art.- Chatterboxes.” The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind, vol. 71, no. 3, 1995, pp. 15–35. Penguin Books, doi:10.2307/416234.

Tomasello, Michael. “Language Is Not an Instinct.” Cognitive Development, vol. 10, no. 1, 1995, pp. 131–156., doi:10.1016/0885-2014(95)90021-7.
Tomasello, Michael. “First Steps toward a Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition.” Cognitive Linguistics, vol. 11, no. 1-2, 2001, doi:10.1515/cogl.2001.012.

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