There Universal Grammar and the Language Acquisition Device (LAD),

There is an ongoing debate about the
origin of language, a debate that parallels the nature versus nurture argument;
whether language, and the ability to communicate coherently within the human
species, is a trait we are all born with as individuals or whether it is a
skill we have grown up to learn, shaped by our life experiences and
interactions with the people in our environments.

‘language as an innate tendency’ side of the argument puts forward the idea of
Universal Grammar and the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), as conceptualised
by Noam Chomsky in 1965. Chomsky believes that humans have an “innate knowledge
of language which serves to restrict the type of grammar that the individual
will develop” (Faloppa, F., (2017a)). Chomsky is also of the opinion that this
Universal Grammar is activated by the LAD, a “hypothetical module in the brain”
which accounts for “children’s innate predisposition for language acquisition”
(Faloppa, F., (2017a)). With this innate ability, humans already possess the grammatical
information needed for producing and comprehending language, all that is left
is the need to learn the vocabulary of our language (Ambridge & Lieven,
(2011) cited in Lemetyinen, H. (2012)).

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concept building further on innateness theory is the idea that there is a
genetic source to language; that a “special ‘language gene’ that only humans
possess” exists, giving humans an innate capacity for producing and
understanding language, even in the form of sign language in children born deaf
(Faloppa, F., (2017b)). The forkhead box protein P2 (FOXP2) is a protein found
to be “required for proper development of speech and language” in humans, and
is encoded by the FOXP2 gene. Any mutations to this gene can lead to severe
speech and language disorders (Lai, C.S., Fisher, S.E., Hurst, J.A.,
Vargha-Khadem, F., Monaco, A.P. (2001) cited in ‘FOXP2’, (2017)). This supports
the idea that language did not happen gradually but quickly as a result of a
crucial genetic mutation (Faloppa, F., (2017b)), suggesting that language is an
instinctual ability.

On the other hand, there is a
plethora of evidence to suggest that the human language is indeed a result of
constant social interactions experienced throughout an individual’s lifetime. George
Yule outlines how humans begun using rhythmical grunts when working together
before they had the ability to speak, in the fourth edition of his book The Study of Language (Yule, G., (2010),

The sounds of a
person involved in physical effort could be the source of our language,
especially when that physical effort involved several people and the
interaction had to be coordinated. So, a group of early humans might develop a
set of hums, grunts, groans and curses that were used when they were lifting
and carrying large bits of trees or lifeless hairy mammoths. The appeal of this
proposal is that it places the development of human language in a social

This suggests that the human language evolved
as a result of humans living and working together in groups for thousands of
years and developing a need to communicate in an organised manner understood by
all involved. However, Yule recognises that this explanation is limited, as “apes
and other primates live in social groups … but they do not seem to have
developed the capacity for speech” (Yule, G., 2010), leading to the assumption
that language is a purely human property.