The tabula of human nature was never rasa.
Language is defined as the “Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.” Yet this alone cannot sum up the importance and vastness of this magnificent gift human own.
Language is one of the most amazing features of human culture and personality; its roots have remained unchanged since the start of civilization. It is the basis of all communication in the world and in it’s best is the most complex form of expression.
Language has always been assumed to be blatantly cultural lying at the heart of human social evolution, but this could not be farther from the truth. Language owes as much to instinct and innateness as it does to culture. Darwin once described language as an “instinctive tendency to acquire an art”; this view of language was re-revealed to the world through Noam Chomsky, in his book, Syntactic Structures. Chomsky argued that language is shaped through culture, but the underlying ability to learn and understand it, is innately built into the human psyche.
Chomsky concluded that there were obvious underlying similarities in all languages, bearing witness to a “Universal Human Grammar”. We always use this ability to learn and use language, but we are not consciously aware of it.
Vocabulary cannot be innate, because if it were were, we would all speak one, unvarying language. But lets take for example, a child; as it learns vocabulary, innate mental rules tell that child how to properly use that vocabulary. Lets take, for instance the sentence, “Sa
mmy will buy groceries from the store”. You can turn that sentence into a question by moving the will” to the front, making the sentence, “Will Sammy buy groceries from the store.
” Young children can comfortably use this rule, even though never having been taught about the grammar involved in making a sentence like that, they just seem to know the rule.
As psycholinguist Steven Pinker put it, “to learn a human language, requires a human language instinct. Language is not learned through imitation; if it were then why would children who have been using the word “went” for a year or so, start saying “goed”. The truth is that children start learning to speak themselves, at a much younger age regardless of our help. Children are a large part of developing a language; this was shown in a famous experiment conducted by Derek Bickerton. In the experiment Bickerton studied a group of foreign workers that were brought together on Hawaii.
In Hawaii they developed a pidgin language (mixture of words and phrases allowing for simple communication) so that they could easily communicate with each other. The language lacked consistent grammatical rules and complex but simple in what it could express. This changes as a new generation of children learned the language, they shaped it and innately gave it rules and grammar, making it more complex and turning it into a Creole. If this instinct is genetic then it would seem that the language gene might turn off as we age and minimize our ability to learn languages which explains while people find it hard to learn a language after a certain age.
Scientists think they have identified the gene for language. They have located it on chromosome seven.
This gene gives the brain the ability to understand and learn underlying rules of grammar. When the gene or parts of the brain are damaged language disorders sometimes develop. One such disorder is Williams Syndrome, which is caused by a mutation in a gene on chromosome 11. Affected children have very low intelligence, but have an addiction to using language. They constantly ramble, using very rich and long words, long sentences and complex syntax. But besides this the child is mentally retarded and cannot comprehend anything outside their form of silent language.
Parts of the brain, when damaged can also hinder language ability. Damage to the Wernicke’s area of the brain. People with Wernicke’s disorder produce a rich but senseless stream of words, so you can conclude that the Wernicke’s area of the brain instructs the brain what speech to generate.
Broca’s aphasia occurs .