Nature vs nurture debate in child language acquisition research

Instructions: There are five questions in this test and you must respond to three of them. Your response to each question should be around 400-500 words. Please be sure to include an introduction and a conclusion to frame your response. You should also cite relevant literature where appropriate and list all cited works at the end of each response using the APA format.

Please note that this is an open book exam. Thus, you can consult any printed reference materials (e.g., notes, articles, books) during the exam. However, use of electronic devices is not allowed. As you will have two hours to complete the test, you are advised to spend about 30-40 minutes on each question. Please budget your time so that you will have time to check through your writing.

Exam questions:
1. One of the major debates in child language acquisition research is the nature vs nurture debate. While nativists argue that children have innate linguistic knowledge, anti-nativists believe that child language learning draws upon domain-general cognitive processes. What evidence do researchers from the two opposing camps propose to support their ideas? What is your take on the nature vs nurture debate?
 Textbook, chapter 1
 Introduction to language and linguistics, chapter 6
The nature vs nurture debate in child language acquisition research centers on whether children’s language development is primarily driven by innate linguistic knowledge or by general cognitive processes that are influenced by their environment and experience.

Nativists argue that children have an innate capacity for language and that they are born with a “language acquisition device” (LAD) that enables them to learn any human language. They propose that this innate capacity is supported by evidence of universal grammatical principles that are present in all human languages, as well as the rapid and effortless language learning that occurs in young children.

Anti-nativists, on the other hand, argue that children’s language development is driven by general cognitive processes that are influenced by their environment and experience. They propose that children learn language through exposure to and interaction with language in their environment, and that the ability to learn language is a product of the general cognitive abilities that are present in all humans.

There is evidence to support both perspectives. For example, research has demonstrated that young children are sensitive to the grammatical structure of their native language and that they are able to learn a second language more easily when exposed to it at a young age. This is consistent with the nativist perspective that children have an innate capacity for language. On the other hand, research has also shown that children’s language development is influenced by the quality and quantity of their language exposure, as well as the social and cultural context in which they are raised, which is consistent with the anti-nativist perspective that language learning is driven by general cognitive processes.
2. One well-established finding in SLA research is that learners tend to follow a predictable path in L2 development. Discuss major research findings in support of this view and consider: 1) how we could explain these findings and 2) the implications of these findings for L2 teaching.
 Textbook, chapter 2
 Key issues in SLA, chapters 2 & 6

3. Compared with child L1 acquisition, adult L2 acquisition is marked by wider individual variation in learning outcomes. Discuss three main individual difference factors that may have an influence on L2 acquisition and consider how teachers should deal with these differences in classroom practices.
 Textbook, chapter 3
 Key issues in SLA, chapter 8

4. While immersion provides a facilitative context for L2 learning, studies have shown that immigrants may face serious challenges in L2 learning. Discuss the challenges that immigrant L2 learners may be faced with and explain the role of identity in L2 acquisition in immigration contexts.
 Textbook, chapter 2 (learning conditions)
 Alternative approaches to SLA, chapter 3

5. Pragmatic competence is an important aspect of L2 competence as it is the ability that allows learners to use the target language in an appropriate manner. In your response to this question, describe the four main aspects of L2 pragmatic competence and reflect upon the pedagogical implications of research on L2 pragmatic development.
 Textbook, chapter 2 (pragmatics)
 Teaching and testing L2 pragmatics and interaction, chapters 2 and 3

Coursework assignment – theorised authobiography

As you progressed through the course, there should be some topics and ideas that made you think more deeply about your experience as a language learner or teacher. Please write an essay that describes a particular aspect of your language learning or teaching experience and reflect upon your experience using theories or studies that you encountered during the course.

1. Word count: 500-800
2. An in-depth focus on a specific topic, rather than multiple topics
3. An equitable balance between theory and autobiography
4. A reference list of 3-5 citations in APA style.
5. No specific requirements for formatting.

The assignment is due on Friday 13th January.

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