This essay assesses the importance of the innateness hypothesis during the process of
first language acquisition. The innateness hypothesis is the hypothesis, presented by
Noam Chomsky, that children are born with knowledge of the fundamental principles
of grammar. Chomsky asserts with his theory that this inborn knowledge helps
children to acquire their native language effortlessly and systematically despite the
complexity of the process. Acquiring language is likely the single most difficult
process of a child’s maturation period. Yet children do not seem to know how much
knowledge they are acquiring and processing. In this essay, this process is analyzed in
the context of Chomsky’s theories of universal and generative grammar and the
language faculty. The process of first language acquisition is surveyed from the very
first weeks of a child’s life up until the time that grammar is finalized.
It is widely debated how children master knowledge of their native language.
Criticism of Chomsky’s theory is discussed as well as Piaget’s constructivist and
Skinner’s behaviorist theories of language acquisition. Finally, the critical period is
discussed and compared to cases of abnormal language acquisition. It turns out that
the innateness hypothesis, although still not accepted as fact, has stayed resilient and
this thesis argues that it remains the strongest hypothesis to describe the way children
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