August 29, 2019

Dell Hymes, an influential sociolinguist, anthropologist, and folklorist.

Dell Hymes Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: Dell Hathaway Hymes
  • AKA: Dell Hymes; Dell H. Hymes
  • Date of Birth: June 7, 1927
  • Place of Birth: Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Zodiac Sign: Gemini
  • Date of Death: November 13, 2009
  • Died at Age: 82
  • Place of Death: Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
  • Place of Burial: NA
  • Cause of Death: Kidney failure & Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: American
  • Father: Howard Hathaway
  • Mother: Dorothy (née Bowman) Hymes
  • Siblings:
  1. Brother: Corwin Hymes
  • Spouse:
  1. Virginia (née Dosch) Wolff (m. 1954)
  • Children:
  1. Daughter- Vicky (Wolff) Unruh (by Virginia’s first marriage) (spouse: David)
  2. Son - Robert Paul Wolff Hymes (by Virginia’s first marriage) (spouse: Debora Worth)
  3. Daughter- Alison Bowman Hymes
  4. Son- Kenneth Dell Hymes (spouse: Leisl Patton Hymes)
  • Alma Mater: Reed College; Indiana University.
  • Dell Hymes is known for: pioneering the connection between speech and human relations and human understandings of the world.
  • Dell Hymes is criticized for: NA
  • Dell Hymes was influenced by: Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, Harry Hoijer, Roman Jakobson, Erving Goffman, Ray L. Birdwhistell, and Harold Garfinkel, Harvey Sacks, Emanuel Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson.
  • Dell Hymes’s Works Inspired: Richard Bauman, Henry Glassie, and Lee Haring.
  • Research Interests: Anthropology, Native American mythology, ethnopoetics.

Career History

  • Hymes' first faculty position was at the Harvard University where he remained five years.
  • In 1960, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley and served there for five years.
  • Dr. Hymes joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1965 as professor of folklore and linguistics and of anthropology.
  • From 1975 to 1987, he served as the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
  • He left Pennsylvania in 1987 to serve on the faculty at the University of Virginia in both the anthropology and English departments. He retired from Pennsylvania in 1998 as an emeritus professor.


"We have then to account for the fact that a normal child acquires knowledge of sentences not only as grammatical, but also as appropriate. He or she acquires competence as to when to speak, when not, and as to what to talk about with whom, when, where, in what manner. In short, a child becomes able to accomplish a repertoire of speech acts, to take part in speech events, and to evaluate their accomplishment by others. This competence, moreover, is integral with attitudes, values, and motivations concerning language, its features and uses, and integral with competence for, and attitudes toward, the interrelation of language with the other code of communicative conduct."- Dell Hymes, “On communicative competence”
“The specification of ability for use as part of competence allows for the role of non cognitive factors, such as motivation, as partly determining competence. In speaking of competence, it is especially important not to separate cognitive from affective and volitive factors, so far as the impact of the theory on educational practice is concerned; but also with regard to speech design and explanation” - Dell Hymes, “On communicative competence”
"The concept of performance will take on great importance, in so far as the study of communicative competence is seen as an aspect of what from another angle may be called the ethnography of symbolic forms, the study of the variety of genres, narration, dance, drama, song, instrumental music, visual art, that interrelate with speech in the communicative life of a society and in terms of which the relative importance and meaning of speech and language must be assessed - Dell Hymes, “On communicative competence”

Major Works

Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology (1964)
"In Vain I Tried to Tell You": Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics (1981)
Reinventing anthropology (1972)
Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice (1996)
Now I Know Only So Far (2003)
American Structuralism (1975)
Breakthrough Into Performance (1973)
Essays in the History of Linguistic Anthropology (1983)
Language in Education: Ethnolinguistic Essays (1980)
The use of computers in anthropology (1965)
On Noam Chomsky: Critical Essays (1974)
Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach (1974)

Did You Know?

  • Between 1944 to 1945 Hymes attended public schools in Oregon.
  • After one year of his enrollment at Reed College, Hymes joined the army and served two years as clerk in South Korea during the World War II.
  • After the war he returned to Reed in 1947 and studied under legendary anthropology professor David French and his wife Kay Story French.
  • In 1950, Hymes earned his bachelor’s degree in literature and anthropology from Reed College.
  • He earned his Ph.D. in linguistics from Indiana University in 1955.
  • He coined the term “Communicative competence” in reaction to Noam Chomsky’s (1965) concept of “linguistic competence”.
  • He postulated the SPEAKING Model.
  • He was one of the first to call the fourth subfield of anthropology "linguistic anthropology" instead of "anthropological linguistics".
  • He served as the president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1982, of the American Anthropological Association in 1983, and of the American Folklore Society.
  • In 1972, Hymes founded the journal Language in Society and served as its editor for 22 years.
  • In 2006, he was awarded the Gold Medal of Philology.
  • Hymes’ first marriage was a failure and ended in divorce.
  • He got married for the second time in 1954 to Virginia Dosch Wolff.
  • Hymes and Virginia were married for 55 years until his death in 2009.
  • Hymes adopted Virginia’s two children by her first marriage.
  • His wife, Virginia Hymes, was also a sociolinguist and folklorist.
  • Like Hymes, Virginia went on to work for more than half a century on Native American cultures and languages.
  • It is alleged that during his tenure at the University of Pennsylvania he was involved in sexually harassing a number of women.
  • In 1981, Hymes published his seminal work, 'In Vain I Tried to Tell You': Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics.
  • Hymes is best known for his pioneering work in ethnopoetics.


Dell Hymes

Dell Hymes with Virginia

Dell Hymes

July 11, 2019

Michael Halliday is a British linguist and teacher.

Michael Halliday Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday
  • AKA: M.A.K. Halliday
  • Date of Birth: 13 April 1925
  • Place of Birth: Leeds, Yorkshire, England
  • Zodiac Sign: Aries
  • Date of Death: 15 April 2018
  • Died at Age: 93
  • Place of Death: Sydney, Australia
  • Place of Burial: NA
  • Cause of Death: Natural causes
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: British
  • Father: Wilfred Halliday
  • Mother: Winifred Halliday  née Kirkwood
  • Spouse(s):
  1. Trenchu Wong (m. 1947)
  2. Irene (‘Pat’) Woolf (m. 1952)
  3. Anne McLaren
  4. Brenda Stephen (m. 1961)
  5. Ruqaiya Hasan (1931–2015) (m. 1967)
  • Children:
  1. By Woolf: Son- Andrew Daughter- Polly
  2. By Ruqaiya Hasan: Son - Neil
  3. By Anne McLaren: Daughter- Caroline
  4. By Brenda Stephen: Daughter- Clare
  • Alma Mater: University of London; Peking University; University of Cambridge.
  • Michael Halliday is Known for: developing Systemic Functional Linguistics
  • Michael Halliday is criticized for: NA
  • Michael Halliday was influenced by: Vilém Mathesius (Prague school) Wang Li, J.R. Firth, Benjamin Lee Whorf
  • Michael Halliday’s Works Inspired: Ruqaiya Hasan, C.M.I.M. Matthiessen, J.R. Martin, Norman Fairclough

Career History

  • 1954–1958: Assistant Lecturer in Chinese, Cambridge University
  • 1958–1963:Lecturer in General Linguistics and Reader, University of Edinburgh
  • 1963–1970: Director of Communication Research Center, University College, London
  • 1964: Linguistic Society of America Professor, Indiana University
  • 1965–971: Professor of Linguistics, UCL
  • 1972–1973: Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
  • 1973–1974: Professor of Linguistics, University of Illinois
  • 1974-1975: Professor of Language and Linguistics, Essex University
  • 1976–1987: Foundation Professor of Linguistics, University of Sydney
  • 1988: Emeritus Professor of University of Sydney


  • Philological Society (United Kingdom)
  • Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States
  • Linguistic Society of America
  • Australian Linguistics Society.
  • Applied Linguistics Association of Australia


“It is part of the task of linguistics to describe texts, and all texts, including those prose or verse, which fall within any definition of literature and are accessible to analysis by the existing methods of linguistics.” - Michael Halliday, The Linguistic Sciences and Language Teaching

Major Works

The linguistic sciences and language teaching (1964)
Intonation and Grammar in British English (1967)
A course in spoken English (1970)
Explorations in the functions of language (1973)
Language and Social Man (1974)
Learning how to Mean: Explorations in the Development of Language (1975)
Halliday: System and Function in Language: Selected Papers (1976)
Cohesion in English (1976)
Language as a Social Semiotic (1978)
Lexical Cohesion (1979)
Readings in Systemic Linguistics (1981)
Learning Asian Languages (1986)
An Introduction to Functional Grammar (1985)
Spoken and Written Language (1985)
New Developme5nts in Systemic Linguistics: Theory and application (1988)
Language, Context, and Text: Aspects of Language in a Social-semiotic Perspective (1985)
Writing science (1993)
Discourse in Society: Systemic Functional Perspectives (1995)
Construing Experience through Meaning (1999)
On language and linguistics (2003)
The Language of Early Childhood (2002)
On grammar (2002)
The Language of Science (2000)
Linguistic Studies of Text and Discourse (2002)
Computational and Quantitative Studies (2004)
Lexicology and Corpus Linguistics (2004)
Studies in Chinese Language (2005)
Language and Society (2007)
Language and Education (2007) 
Lexicology: A Short Introduction (2007)
Intonation in the Grammar of English (2008)
The Essential Halliday (2009)
Halliday in the 21st Century (2013)
Aspects of Language and Learning (2016)
Text Linguistics: The how and why of Meaning (2014)
An Introduction to Relational Network Theory: History, Principles, and Descriptive Applications (2017)
Verbal Art and Verbal Science: The Chess Moves of Language (2018)

Did You Know?

  • Michael Halliday’s father, Wilfred Halliday, was a dialectologist, an English teacher and a poet of the Yorkshire dialect, having deep predilection for grammar and Elizabethan drama.
  • His mother, Winifred Kirkwood, was a French teacher; during the First World War she held the position of Editor of The Gryphon, the official newspaper of the University of Leeds.
  • Halliday attained a B.A. in Chinese language and literature from the University of London.
  • He completed postgraduate work in linguistics, first at Peking University and later at the University of Cambridge.
  • Michael Halliday obtained his Ph.D. in 1955 from Peking University.
  • Halliday has honorary doctorates from University of Birmingham (1987), York University (1988), the University of Athens (1995), Macquarie University (1996), Lingnan University (1999) and Beijing Normal University (2011).
  • Michael Halliday founded the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney in 1976.
  • While serving at the University of Sydney, Halliday founded the Sydney School.
  • After his retirement from the University of Sydney in 1987 he became the Emeritus Professor in the same university.
  • The Department of Linguistics of the University of Sydney honoured Halliday with the founding of the Halliday Medal upon his retirement; in 2014, Halliday presented the award personally at the School of Literature, Art and Media’s prize-giving ceremony.
  • Halliday’s works particularly concerned with applying the understanding of the basic principles of language to the theory and practices of education.
  • Halliday married several times in his life.
  • Halliday has four grandchildren: Bianca, Nicole, Rhona and Cameron.
  • After the demise of his beloved wife, Ruqaiya Hasan in 2015, he suffered terribly from the loss.
  • He died at Uniting Wesley Heights Nursing Home in Manly, New South Wales, Australia.

July 10, 2019

Richard Hudson is a British linguist and a retired professor.

Richard Hudson Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: Richard Anthony Hudson
  • AKA: Richard Anthony "Dick" Hudson; Richard (Dick) Hudson;  Dick Hudson; Richard Hudson
  • Date of Birth: September, 18 1939
  • Place of Birth: Sussex, England, United Kingdom
  • Zodiac Sign: Virgo
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: British
  • Father: John Pilkington Hudson (1910 – 2007)
  • Mother: Gretta Hudson née Heath (1910-1989)
  • Siblings: 2
  1. Brother-John Colin Hudson (1938 – 2004)
  2. Brother- George Bryan Stephens Heath
  • Spouse: Gaynor Evans
  • Children: 2
  1. Daughter - Lucy
  2. Daughter-  Alice
  • Alma Mater: Loughborough Grammar School, Leicestershire; Corpus Christi College; Cambridge, School of Oriental and African Studies
  • Richard Hudson is known for: his theory of Word Grammar.


“Sociolinguists don’t set out to produce Grand Theories, so there are no schools of sociolinguistics. They’re also very self-critical on matters of method and data, and are forever wishing that their sociology was better. There are theories, but most sociolinguists are rather down-to-earth people with rather practical concerns and not much time for theory. At this stage in its development the subject probably has the right priorities—mainly collecting and cataloguing fairly low-level data.” - Richard Hudson, Interview with Richard Hudson by Joseph Hilferty

Major Works

English Complex Sentences: An Introduction to Systematic Grammar (1971)
Arguments for a Non-Transformational Grammar (1976)
Sociolinguistics (1980)
Word Grammar (1984a)
Introduction to Linguistics (1984b)
English Word Grammar (1990)
Teaching Grammar: A Guide for the National Curriculum (1992)
Word Meaning (1995)
English Grammar (1998)
Language Networks: The New Word Grammar (2007)
An Introduction to Word Grammar (2010)
Oxford Teaching Guides: How to Teach Grammar (2019)

Did You Know?

  • Richard Hudson is the second child born to John Pilkington Hudson and Mary Gretta Hudson.
  • His father was a horticulturalist and bomb-disposal officer.
  • Apart from staying in New Zealand from 1945 to 1948, he has lived in England for most of his life.
  • At present Hudson resides in North London.
  • He joined University College London in 1970 and spent the whole of his working life there as Lecturer, Reader then Professor of Linguistics.
  • Although retired in 2004, at present he holds the position of an Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at University College London.
  • He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
  • Hudson did his doctoral thesis on the grammar of Beja, a Semitic language spoken in north-eastern Africa.
  • His 1980 publication, Sociolinguistics is considered as a classic book in the field of Sociolinguistics.
  • Professor Hudson has done wide-ranging work in the area of syntax.

July 4, 2019

Ronald Wardhaugh is a Canadian retired professor of linguistics.

Ronald Wardhaugh Quick Facts



Full Name: Ronald Wardhaugh
Date of Birth: 1932
Place of Birth: Canada
Nationality: Canadian
Ethnicity: White
Known for: his book An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Major Works

  • English for a Changing World Level 1 (1984)
  • How Conversation Works (1985)
  • An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (1986)
  • Reading: A Linguistic Perspective (1969)
  • Introduction to Linguistics (1971)
  • The Contexts of Language (1976)
  • Investigating Language (1993)
  • Language and Nationhood  (1983)
  • Languages in Competition: Dominance, Diversity, and Decline (1987)
  • Understanding English Grammar (1995)
  • Proper English: Myths and Misunderstandings about Language (1999)


“When two or more people communicate with each other in speech, we can call the system of communication that they employ a code. In most cases that code will be something we may also want to call a language.”

― Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
“… sociolinguistics is concerned with investigating the relationships between language and society with the goal being a better understanding of the structure of language and of how languages function in communication; the equivalent goal in the sociology of language is trying to discover how social structure can be better understood through the study of language, e.g., how certain linguistic features serve to characterize particular social arrangements.”
― Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

“While people do usually know what language they speak, they may not always lay claim to be fully qualified speakers of that language. They may experience difficulty in deciding whether what they speak should be called a language proper or merely a dialect of some language.”
― Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
“Taboo is the prohibition or avoidance in any society of behavior believed to be harmful to its members in that it would cause them anxiety, embarrassment, or shame. It is an extremely strong politeness constraint. Consequently, so far as language is concerned, certain things are not to be said or certain objects can be referred to only in certain circumstances, for example, only by certain people, or through deliberate circumlocutions, i.e., euphemistically. Of course, there are always those who are prepared to break the taboos in an attempt to show their own freedom from such social constraints or to expose the taboos as irrational and unjustified, as in certain movements for ‘free speech.’”

― Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Did you know?

  • Ronald Wardhaugh held the position of professor from 1975 to 1995 in the Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto.
  • Wardhaugh served in various capacities, such as Assistant Professor (1966 to 1968), Associate Professor (1968 to 1972), and Professor of Linguistics (1972 to 1975) in the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  • He held the position of Chairman in the Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto from 1975 to 1986.
  • In 1995 the University of Toronto conferred him the position of Emeritus Professor.
  • His book  An Introduction To Sociolinguistics (1986) has been widely deemed to be the most resourceful and comprehensive work on sociolinguistic literature.

June 13, 2019

Peter Roach (b.1943) is a British phonetician.

Peter Roach Quick Facts


Birth Name: Peter John Roach
AKA: Peter Roach
Date of Birth: June 30, 1943
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Zodiac Sign: Cancer
Nationality: British
Ethnicity: White
Marital Status: Married
Spouse: Helen (m. 1966)
  • Son: Sam
  • Son: Matt
Peter Roach is known for: his works on phonetics.
Alma Mater:
  • School: Priory Grammar School, Shrewsbury
  • Graduation: Oxford (Brasenose College)
  • Post Graduation: Manchester University; University College London


“Languages have different accents: they are pronounced differently by people from different geographical places, from different social classes, of different ages and different educational backgrounds. The word accent is often confused with dialect. We use the word dialect to refer to a variety of a language which is different from others not just in pronunciation but also in such matters as vocabulary, grammar and word order. Differences of accent, on the other hand, are pronunciation differences only.” – Peter Roach, English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Course

Major Books

1992: Computing in Linguistics and Phonetics, ed. Roach, Peter
2001: Phonetics
2009: English Phonetics and Phonology
2011: The Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones, ed. Roach, P., Esling, J. and Setter, J.

Did you know?

  • In 1968 Peter Roach was appointed to the Linguistic Science Department of the University of Reading as a lecturer and taught phonetics there till 1978.
  • Roach attained his PhD while working in the University of Reading.
  • He then joined the University of Leeds as Senior Lecturer in Phonetics in the Department of Linguistics & Phonetics.
  • From 1986 to 1992 Roach was the Secretary of the International Phonetic Association.
  • Roach moved to the Department of Psychology at Leeds University and was appointed as Professor of Cognitive Psychology.
  • In 1994 Roach returned to the University of Reading as Professor of Phonetics and Director of the Speech Research Laboratory.
  • At the University of Reading he was the Head of the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies for four years.
  • Upon his retirement in September 2003 from the University of Reading, Roach was conferred the Emeritus Professor title of Phonetics.
  • He is an author of nearly 70 publications.
  • His book English Phonetics and Phonology has been widely considered as one of the most practical and comprehensive text in the field of phonetics.
  • Roach is an old car enthusiast.
  • Although retired, now Roach spends much time in correcting the phonetic entries on Wikipedia.

May 11, 2019

A research proposal is put forwarded by a researcher to his supervisor/external examiner with a view to outline his proposed area of study. The basic goal of a research proposal is to justify about the feasibility of the research topic. The prospective researcher should keep in mind that his proposal would only be accepted if it is presented thoughtfully. A unique topic may also be rejected due to poor proposal writing skill. Therefore, it is the quality of writing rather than the quality of the topic that determines the viability of a project proposal. Therefore, in order to get a research proposal approved, the researcher must take care that his proposed methodology is outlined in a convincing manner.

Contents of Research Proposal

Research proposal does not have any fixed format. Research content varies depending upon topic. Moreover, different disciplines, donor organisations and academic institutions adhere to different formats and requirements. However, every research proposal comprises several common components. The researcher has to opt the appropriate component based on his research problem. Regardless of one’s research area and the methodology he chooses, all research proposals must encompass the following points:
  1. Introduction: This section should describe in clear terms the research area and findings from previous studies. Moreover, the research proposer should structure his Introduction in such a way that the supervisor may have a very good idea of what the central issue of his proposal will be. The introductory parts should include the following points –
    1. The justification or background of the study.
    2. A clear statement of the problem.
    3. What is the field of study about and what is missing from it.
  2. The resources: This section should include all the information about various resources that the study will require:
    1. The source of the resources.
    2. Academic preparation for the research. It must be demonstrated that the groundwork has already been done.
    3. The proposed place of research.
  3. The significance of the research project: In this segment the researcher has to provide appropriate rationale for choosing the particular place for his research. The significance of the study justifies why the research is important:
    1. in a particular field of study, and a wider field of study, and
    2. in the context of the country.
  4. Plan after completion: This section should describe in detail about the benefits that the country or the place of work will receive after its completion.

  5. The timeframe: A detailed timetable scheduling all aspects of the research should be prepared. This will include time taken to conduct background research, questionnaire or interview schedule development, data collection, data analysis and report writing.

  6. Methodology: This section is very important because it tells the Research Committee how the proposer plans to tackle his research problem. This section should be quite detailed – many funding organisations find that the most common reason for proposal failure is the lack of methodological detail. In this section the proposer need to describe the following factors:
    1. Dependence on primary, secondary and other materials
    2. The steps to be followed
    3. The format of the paper
    4. Style sheet or the method of documentation to be followed
  7. Bibliography: At the end of his paper, the researcher has to provide a list of all the sources he used to gather information for the paper. The list of the sources should be arranged in alphabetical order by the first word. The list should consist all the available –
    • Books
    • Journals, and
    • Other materials.

April 28, 2019


The manner in which a child acquires language is a matter long debated by linguists and child psychologists alike. During the twentieth century there has been a great deal of psycholinguistic research into how this process takes place. These research findings have revolutionized the way many linguists regard the language learning process. However, the interpretation of these investigations has always been under dispute and it consequently divided linguists into adherents of two contradictory hypotheses: behaviorism on one side and innatism on the other. The following segment presents a comparative study between these two diametrically opposite theoretical accounts of language acquisition, along with a brief inquiry into their theoretical assumptions.


The behaviourist perspective dominated the study of learning throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Behaviorism is an approach to language acquisition based on the proposition that behaviour can be researched scientifically without recourse to inner mental states. It is a form of materialism, denying any independent significance for mind. It stands on the basic premise that children learn a language in the way in which other habits are learned and that change in observable behaviours are crucial in language learning. The behaviourist perspective’s significance for psychological treatment has been profound, making it one of the pillars of psychological language acquisition theory.


Two years later, however, behaviourism came under bitter criticism when the American linguist Noam Chomsky (1959) proposed a completely different view of language acquisition. His innatist view was a direct challenge to the established behaviourist theories of the time, rekindling the age-old debate over whether language exists in the mind before experience. He argued that every human child possesses innate knowledge of language structure to detect and reproduce language. That is, language acquisition depends on an unobservable mechanism called Language Acquisition Device or LAD. Young children learn and apply grammatical rules and vocabulary as they are exposed to them and do not require initial formal teaching. The theory, in fact, has laid out an explanation of human language faculties that has become the model for investigation in other areas of psychology.

Diametrically opposite Views

Considering the theoretical principles of Behaviourism and Innatism individually, it seems that each theory accounts for different aspects of language. Both the behaviourist and the innatist theory provided some fresh insights into the psychological theories of language learning. The proponents of both schools contributed much to explain the possible logical explanation for language acquisition. But they moulded their models from different standpoints. Skinner’s behaviourism and Chomsky’s innatism are very much contradictory when they are judged in terms of their individualistic theoretical bases. The theories, indeed, stress on two distinct hypotheses of language acquisition. This divergence has created a gulf between the theories. Several differences arise between the behaviourist and the innatist theories of language acquisition which can be encapsulated in the following way :

Behaviourism Innatism
Acquisition is an outcome of experience Acquisition is an outcome of condition
Acquisition is a stimulus response process Acquisition is a congenital process
Children learn language by imitation Children learn language by application
Language learning is practice-based Language learning is rule-based
Language acquisition is the result of nurture Language acquisition is the result of nature
Stresses on observable behavior Stresses on internal thought processes
Human mind is a blank slate Human mind is no tabula rasa
Knowledge exists outside of individuals Knowledge exists inside individuals
Learning is determined by the environment Learning is determined by the individual
Learning requires formal guidance Learning requires no formal assistance
Considers the child as a passive recipient Considers the child as an active participant
Language learning is a mechanical process Language learning is a creative process
Is a theory of behaviour, not of knowledge Is a theory of knowledge, not of behaviour
Language is akin to other forms of cognition Language is a separate module

The Verdict

From the above comparative study it is obvious that the theories differ from each other in a myriad of ways. The study furthermore demonstrates that innatism is much more comprehensive and consistent than that of behaviourism.  The innatist perspective offers the promise of enhanced learning and creative thinking, both of which are vital for the child’s psycho-linguistic development.

Nowadays, however, it is hardly possible to espouse any of these two options directly. Psychological research has recently progressed in the direction of regarding the human being as a mixture of genetically determined capacities and knowledge gained by experience (Konieczna). The human child indeed, acquires language from his/her environment by imitating behaviours of other members of society. But the innatist theory exclusively ignored this issue and viewed language acquisition as the special product of LAD. Chomsky, the chief proponent of innatism opined that exposure to language is a marginal prerequisite for the activation of the LAD, and is irrelevant to the actual learning process. But this innatist claim is not entirely satisfying because history (e.g. Genie, Victor) evince that the child cannot learn language if he/she is isolated from society or human contact. Ruth Clark pointed out that:

“Situation has a fuller role to play in language learning than Chomsky implies, though not precisely the role assigned to it by the behaviourists” (Barman, Sultana, and Basu 31).

It might be possible that children are required a biological trigger for language acquisition but the genetic trigger could not be activated if there is nobody around them, from whom they could learn behaviour. That means language acquisition requires situational stimuli plus LAD:

Language Acquisition

In conclusion, neither account should be totally dismissed. They should be seen as complementary rather than contradictory. Statements about their validity should be examined carefully in the light of new available data.


Barman, Dr. Binoy, Zakia Sultana, and Bijoy Lal Basu. ELT: Theory and Practice. Dhaka:
FBC, 2006. 24-38.

“Behaviourism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. CD-ROM. US: [Britannica Store], 2003.

 “Behaviorist Learning Theory.” Innovative Learning. 2008. 20 Sep 2008
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Clark, Herbert H. and Eve V. Clark. Psychology and Language: An Introduction to Psychology.
n.p.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. 258.

Cook, V[ivian] J[ames]. Chomsky’s Universal Grammar: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988. 1-2.

Foley, Mary Ann. “Cognitive Psychology.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd ed. England:
Longman-Pearson, 2001. 68-69.

“Innatism.” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 September 2008
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Konieczna, Ewa. “First Language Acquisition”. Uniwersytet Rzeszowski. 2008. 20 September 2008 <http://>.

“Learning Theories/Behavioralist Theories.” Wikibooks. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
20 September 2008 <>.

Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. New York: Norton, 1997.

--- .The language instinct. New York: Perennial-Harper, 1995.

Scovel, Thomas. Psycholinguistics. Oxford: OUP, 1998. 17-18

 “Second Language Teaching and Learning.” Macquarie University: Australia’s Innovative University.
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Varshney, Dr. R.L.  An Introduction of Linguistics & Phonetics. Dhaka: BOC, n.d. 306-311.

Yule, George. The Study of Language. 2nd ed.  Cambridge: CUP, 1996. 177.

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