Is Language Inherited?

DNA_methylationAs with any human trait, language evolves and changes to fit the particular person or their current setting. This can be true with body language, hair growth and style, as well as facial expressions and morals. But not everything given can be inherited.

Styles are made, whereas hair growth is chosen by genetics; the same goes for language. Particular words may not be passed down via genetics, but rather used for a particular time and setting; understanding a language, however, may be based on genetics.

Noam Chomsky, American linguist, claimed that “certain linguistic structures” already have been encoded in the child’s brain. This is to say, any child in any culture should have nearly the same advantages when it comes to working out words and irregular language rules compared to a dog or cat.

A recent study, published in Current Biology, also shows how humans start developing an ear for language as early as their time in the womb. Due to this, children tend to prefer the specific languages spoken during this time and during the early years of their childhood development.

“Many people used to believe what behaviorism and empiricism say about language acquisition.” Huachuan Wen, researcher and faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, wrote in his paper Chomsky’s Language Development Theories: Rescuing Parents out of Dilemma. “Chomsky fiercely challenged such beliefs by developing his belief of language being innate to humans.”

Although evidence suggests that Chomsky is correct, there are still some that question or wish to oppose his view. Some evidence to suggest this theory could be proved false by the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) model which, while hypothetical, explains children’s leanings toward language development. LAD does not necessarily prove that language can be genetic, but rather that language could very well be learned and passed down through habit and social construct.

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