What Factors Affect Language Acquisition

What factors affect language acquisition? Which factor do you believe has the largest influence on language acquisition? Explain why. Your initial response is due by Day 2.

It appears that there is a critical period in which language can be easily learned, and that outside of that critical period language is much harder to learn. The study used in the book by Jackit Johnson and Elissa Newport seemed to show that for people that we learning English as a second language the critical period was from 3 to 16 (Willingham, 2007). Up until the age of 16, the amount of exposure to the English language increased the understanding of English grammar; however, after the age of 16, the amount of exposure did not improve grammar. I was fascinated to learn that we are biologically and genetically predisposed towards language. For instance, the vocal cords of many primates are not capable of producing the fine-grained linguistics that is necessary for language. Also, it appears that the predisposition to learn a language is innate. We do not have to be taught language. We learn it through observational learning, but we have to learn to write through teaching. That seems odd to me now that I think about it. Why can’t we learn to write and read by observing other people write and read? I suppose because speaking largely happens in the objective world and writing and reading, even though they find expressed in the objective world, are largely a subjective, mental exercise. I also thought that the study of deaf children was rather interesting. In the first generation the children we able to create their own language, but it was not until the second generation that they were able to module the language through syntax. I am not quite sure why. I suppose you have to have a language before you can have grammar and syntax. Thoughts…


Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal. New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall. 

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