By Sofyan Essarraoui
By Sofyan Essarraoui
Marrakech – Among the most controversial issues in linguistics lays the question of language emergence.
The purpose of this article is to bring this issue to light and stress that language emergence is not an instance of stimulus response. Language emerges in all humans at roughly the same time. More precisely, it emerges completely at the age of five.
Language emergence is not triggered by external factors like hunger, affection, or thirst. If one believes this, then the emergence of language in children would vary according to the richness of the environment and according to the variation in geographic dimensions. Furthermore, one cannot expect all children to acquire their languages at roughly the same time, bearing in mind different variables like the environment and geographical location. Hence, language does not emerge because it is necessary for human survival, but rather because of brain growth or maturation.
To cite more evidence for language acquisition, Lenneberg wrote an article in which he developed six characteristics to argue against the view that perceives language as a stimulus response.
To begin, language emerges before it is necessary for human survival. The point is that language does not emerge because its virtue that humans can live or maintain their survival. If this were the case, children before the age of five (the period where children largely acquire their first language) would not, by any means, be able to survive.
It is also worth mentioning that children who are raised in a multilingual environment are not forced to acquire more than one language, for they can survive by a sole language. Language emergence is therefore triggered by what Lenneberg calls biologically triggered behavior (BTB).
More evidence in favor of this claim is that language emergence is not the result of a conscious decision. If one tries to figure out when he or she first learned the word SKY, any attempt would surely be in vain. In this sense, language emerges tacitly or unconsciously.
Also, external factors or forces do not trigger language emergence. In a wider sense, children do not decide, for instance, that if it rains, they will start to acquire language but if it does not, they will not.
From what has been said, the first and the most obvious conclusion is that language emergence is not triggered by stimulus. If one believes so, children should be expected to solely acquire the basic vocabulary that enables them to maintain their survival. However, this is not the case for children have acquired a number of limitless lexicons and they are still acquiring new vocabulary on a daily basis. This reveals clearly that language emerges not as a result of stimulus-response, but rather its emergence is the result of biologically triggered behavior.
Sofyan Essarraoui is a first year master’s student in Linguistics and Advanced English Studies at Cadi Ayyad University Marrakech.