In language studies

April 9, 2019 Teaching

In language studies, poverty of the stimulus is the argument that the linguistic input received by young children is in itself insufficient in explaining their detailed knowledge of their first language. Hence, people must be born with an inherent ability to learn a language.
The expression “poverty of the stimulus” was coined by a linguist Noam Chomsky, in his Rules and Representations (Columbia University Press, 1980).
The concept challenges the idea that children learn a language solely through the teachings of their parents and others. Chomsky stated that children picked up language too quickly and with too few errors to have been taught it all. Some part of the ability to learn language must be innate to help them automatically avoid errors.
English can be used as a good example to support this argument. Children are not taught all of the intricacies as to when they might apply one of the many particular rules in English and when they might not. Despite this, they apply the correct rules almost spontaneously.
Due to this poverty of the stimulus, the fact that linguistic seems to have very little to do with its actual teaching; many linguists believe that some knowledge of language must be ‘wired in’. We must be born with a theory of language. This apparent encoded information helps children identify and fit in the nuances of their mother tongue into a pre-acquired framework, helping them pick up the language at a rapid pace.


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