2.1. Theoretical Framework
2.1.1. The acquisition of language is extremely complex, therefore many theorists have studied and researched it meticulously. Through countless hours of observation and tests, there have been many theories created. Amongst those theories are very compound; the behaviorist theory and the nativist theory. There were two theorists, Skinner and Watson, who studied the development of language in young children, which became known as the behaviorist theory. Thus, they and others who believe solely in this theory are known as behaviorists. Behaviorists believe that organisms come into the world as “blank slates.” That means that when babies of all species are born into the world they do not have any knowledge whatsoever; they do not know anything and they cannot do anything. Also, behaviorists believe that their theory’s basic principles apply to all species.
One very important principle of the behaviorist theory is that the role of the environment is of utmost importance in proving their theory. They believe that the process of learning has only occurred if there has been a change in behavior. Also, behaviorists basically study the relationship between stimuli and responses, and actual mental processes are not studied. They believe that the actual study of learning must focus on events that can be observed and measured.
The behaviorist theory strongly applies to the acquisition of language. Behaviorists assume that language is a set of verbal behaviors learned through operant conditioning. Therefore, they believe that learning can occur from punishment and reinforcement. For example, when a young baby is learning to talk, he or she may accidentally stumble across the sound of “dada.” Of course, parents tend to act very jovial when this occurs and praises the baby. As a result, this positive reinforcement makes the baby react by repeating “dada” over and over.
2.1.2 Language Acquisition Device (LAD): Avram Noam Chomsky (1965) viewed competence primarily as something related with abstract grammatical knowledge. He held that linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker and listener in completely homogeneous speech community, which knows its language perfectly, and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest and errors in applying his knowledge of the language in actual performance (Chomsky. 1965). According to Chomsky, rudimentary form of language is stored in human brain. Language is a competency that is unique for man. We perceive language as the ability to comprehend and speak ideas. Even when two persons possess the same knowledge, observable difference is noted in their capacity to express the knowledge. Chomsky emphatically argues that the mind possess a distinguishable factor that could be termed as ‘the language factor and it has well defined structure and system’.
The value of language cannot be fulfilled merely by familiarizing with a few words or sentences. A question is often posed. Does language influenced thought or does through establish its authority over language. But Chomsky considers the two to be mutually complementary. When a structure is being taught, the purpose should be got constructed in the child’s mind as an idea. This means, what is to be retained in the mind is not mere words or sentences but the ideas constructed. For Chomsky, the focus of linguistic theory was to characterise the abstract abilities speakers possess that enable them to produce grammatically correct sentences in a language.
Chomsky considered language as a highly abstract generative phenomenon. He arrested that human beings are born biologically equipped to learn a language and proposed his theory of a language Acquisition Device (LAD) – an inborn mechanism or process that facilitates the learning of a language. According to Chomsky, there are infinite numbers of sentences in any language; all possible sentences would be impossible to learn through imitation and reinforcement. In his view, to study language is to study a part of human nature manifested in the human mind. One of the fundamental aspects of human language according to Chomsky is its creative nature. He argues that something specifically about human language must be innate, that is available to us by virtue of being human, specified somehow in our genetic make-up. Chomsky has shown that the mind cannot limit itself to strict animation of behaviour.
2.1.3. Social Interaction: Jean Piaget emphasized the importance of social interaction to intellectual development. Piaget saw interaction as the key to how we overcome the instability of the symbols we individually construct. Piaget tied the role of social interaction to the importance of language. Piaget tied the role of language in the development of conceptual and logical understandings. He made language an integral part of his ideas on intellectual development. Piaget linked the role of social interaction in intellectual development to the role of language. According to Piaget, language is inherently a social factor partly because of the conventional nature of words and this conventional nature of words is crucial for conceptual development. Piaget offers an avenue for extending Vygotsky’s approach to the inter play of conceptual and semiotic aspects in intellectual development. Piaget argued that formation of mental structures underlying feelings of logical necessity requires social interaction using a conventional sign system. Piaget theorised that language was simply one of children’s ways of representing their familiar worlds, a reflection of thought, and that language did not contribute to the development of thinking. Cognitive development, he argued, proceeded that of language.
2.1.4. Social communication theory: This is regarded as socio-cultural theory or the socio historical approach in psychology. It is the highlight of Lee Vygotsky’s work, which is embodied in the literature on socio cultural theories of learning mathematics, has gained increasing importance in theorizing how students learn mathematics. Vygotsky saw that students internalized complex ideas (Daniel, 1990), but he extended the general constructivist approach by arguing that the internalization of knowledge could be better achieved when students were guided by good, analytic questions posed by the teacher. Unlike Chomsky and Piaget, Vygotsky’s central concern was the relationship between the development of thought and that of language. He was interested in the ways in which different languages might impact on how a person thinks. Vygotsky’s theory views language first as social communication, gradually promoting both language itself and cognition. According to Vygotsky, a word devoid of thought is a dead thing, and a thought unembodied in words remains a shadow. He emphasized word as a microcosm of human consciousness and argues that thought finds reality and form in speech. The speech structures mastered by the child become the basic structure of his thinking.
The structure of the language one habitually uses influences the way he perceives his environment. A child first seems to use language for superficial social interaction, but at some point, this language goes underground to become the structure of the child’s thinking. In Vygotsky’s view point, language is critical for cognitive development. He argues that language in the form of private speech guides cognitive development. The corner stone of Vygotsky’s theory are the social significance of education and its relation to societal involvement. According to him, language and culture play essential roles both in human intellectual development and in how humans perceive the world.
The main difference between the ideas of Vygotsky and his contemporaries was regarding emphasis on an individual’s interaction with his social environment. An expert teacher is central to Vygotskian theory. The teacher’s role is to identify the student’s current mode of representation and then through the use of good discourse, questioning or learning situations, provoke the student to move forward in thinking. The recognition of a student’s representation or thinking was seen as his/her zone of proximal development and the teacher’s actions for supporting learning was described as scaffolding. When working in the zone of proximal development particular attention is paid to the language being used since the language of the student influences how he will interpret and build understandings (Bell and Woo, 1998). Within a Vygotskian approach, it is seen to be important that teachers use and build considerable language and communication opportunities within the classroom environment in order to build mathematical understandings.
According to Vygotsky, cognitive skills and patterns of thinking are the products of the activities practiced in the social institutions of culture in which the individual grows up. A clear understanding of the interactions between thought and language is necessary for the understanding of intellectual development. Language is essential in forming thought and determining personality features. One essential tenet in Vygotsky’s theory is the notion of the existence of what he called the “Zone of proximal development”, Zone of proximal development is the difference between the child’s capacity to solve problems of his own, and his capacity to solve them with assistance. Zone of proximal development includes all the functions and activities that a child or a learner can perform only with the assistance of someone else. The person in this scaffolding process, providing non-intrusive intervention, could be an adult (parent, teacher, caretaker, language instructor) or another peer who has already mastered that particular function. An essential feature of learning is that, it awakens a variety of internal developmental processes which are able to operate only when child is in the action of interacting with people in his environment and in co-operation with peers. By explaining human language development and cognitive development, Vygotsky’s social interactionist theory serves as a strong foundation of the modern trends in applied linguistics. It lends support to less structured and more natural communicative and experiential approaches & points to the importance of early real world human interaction in foreign language learning.
2.1.5. Reinforcement: Another leading theorist pertaining to language acquisition is B.F. Skinner, a man who opposes Chomsky’s linguistic theory with his behaviorist approach. Skinner believes that behaviour explains the speaker’s verbal activity as an effect of environmental contingencies. According to him, reinforcement of appropriate grammar and language would therefore lead to a child’s acquisition of language and grammar. Skinner’s thesis is that external factors consisting of present stimulation and the history of reinforcement are of overwhelming importance, and that the general principles revealed in laboratory studies of these phenomena provides the basis for understanding the complexities of verbal behaviour.
According to Skinner, a child acquires verbal behaviour when relatively unpatterned vocalizations, selectively reinforced gradually assume forms which produce appropriate consequences in a given verbal community. Skinner considers communication of knowledge or facts is just the process of making a new response available to the speaker. A basic assumption of his theory was that all language including private, internal discourse was a behaviour that developed in the same manner as other skills. He believed that a sentence is merely part of a behaviour chain each element of which provides a conditional stimulus for the production of the succeeding element (Fador, Bever and Garrett). The probability of a verbal response was contingent on four things: reinforcement, stimulus control, deprivation, and adverse stimulation. The interaction of these things in a child’s environment would lead to particular associations, the basis of all language. Skinner proposed that language could be categorized by the way it was reinforced. Whether the speech was internal or dialogic, reinforced positively or negatively, all language can be considered behaviour that is conditioned and learned. When Skinner wrote verbal behaviour, he attempted to explain the most complex human behaviour communication. This included all forms of language comprehension from dialogue to thought. Though tribute to the behaviorist paradigm, Skinner’s book generated more questions and concerns than it is explained. His show response coupled with both a growing disdain for the behaviorist paradigm and the influence of technology, and information processing led to the strengthening of the cognitive movement on psychology and other social sciences.
2.1 6. Monitor Model
Stephen Krashen compiled several theories about language, theories which today are the most often used to describe learning a second language. A monitor can be anyone or anything that corrects your language errors and pressure you to improve.
The following are the primary ideas to take away from his theories:
1. Acquiring a language is largely subconscious because it stems from natural and informal conversations.
2. Learning a language is very much conscious effort and relies heavily on correction, which is more formal. Grammar is largely learned in a predictable series and order.
3. Acquiring a language occurs when it is provided through comprehensible input, such as talking or reading.
The primary take away from the theory is that acquiring and learning a language are different, but they can have similar elements. Error correction is essential for both acquisition and learning.
While none of these theories may do much to help you actually learn a language, it can make you feel better to know that even the knowledge of learning a language is up for debate. You may feel one or two of them more closely works for the way you think, and that can help you better understand how to use that theory to your advantage.
2.2. Conceptual Review of Literature
2.2.1. The Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis
Many linguists, including Noam Chomsky, contend that language in the sense we ordinary think of it, in the sense that people in Germany speak German, is a historical or social or political notion, rather than a scientific one. For example, German and Dutch are much closer to one another than various dialects of Chinese are. But the rough, commonsense divisions between languages will suffice for our purposes.
There are around 5000 languages in use today, and each is quite different from many of the others. Differences are especially pronounced between languages of different families, e.g., between Indo-European languages like English and Hindi and Ancient Greek, on the one hand, and non-Indo-European languages like Hopi and Chinese and Swahili, on the other.
Many thinkers have argued that large differences in language lead to large differences in experience and thought. They hold that each language embodies a worldview, with quite different languages embodying quite different views, so that speakers of different languages think about the world in quite different ways. This view is sometimes called the Whorf-hypothesis or the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, after the linguists who made it famous. But the label linguistic relativity, which is more common today, has the advantage that makes it easier to separate the hypothesis from the details of Whorf’s views, which are an endless subject of exegetical dispute (Gumperz and Levinson, 1996, contains a sampling of recent literature on the hypothesis).
The suggestion that different languages carve the world up in different ways, and that as a result their speakers think about it differently has a certain appeal. But questions about the extent and kind of impact that language has on thought are empirical questions that can only be settled by empirical investigation. And although linguistic relativism is perhaps the most popular version of descriptive relativism, the conviction and passion of partisans on both sides of the issue far outrun the available evidence. As usual in discussions of relativism, it is important to resist all-or-none thinking. The key question is whether there are interesting and defensible versions of linguistic relativism between those that are trivially true (the Babylonians didn’t have a counterpart of the word ‘telephone’, so they didn’t think about telephones) and those that are dramatic but almost certainly false (those who speak different languages see the world in completely different ways).
2.2.2. A Preliminary Statement of the Hypothesis
Interesting versions of the linguistic relativity hypothesis embody two claims:
Linguistic Diversity: Languages, especially members of quite different language families, differ in important ways from one another.
Linguistic Influence on Thought: The structure and lexicon of one’s language influences how one perceives and conceptualizes the world, and they do so in a systematic way.
Together these two claims suggest that speakers of quite different languages think about the world in quite different ways. There is a clear sense in which the thesis of linguistic diversity is uncontroversial. Even if all human languages share many underlying, abstract linguistic universals, there are often large differences in their syntactic structures and in their lexicons. The second claim is more controversial, but since linguistic forces could shape thought in varying degrees, it comes in more and less plausible forms.
2.2.3. Sapir and Whorf’s Hypothesis
It will help to see why the linguistic relativity hypothesis captivated so many thinkers if we briefly consider the more arresting claims of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Sapir was an American anthropological linguist who, like so many anthropologists of his day, was a student of Franz Boas. He was also the teacher of Whorf, a businessman and amateur linguist.
Unlike earlier partisans of linguistic relativism, Sapir and Whorf based their claims on first-hand experience of the cultures and languages they described, which gave their accounts a good deal of immediacy. I will quote a few of the purpler passages to convey the flavor of their claims, for this was partly what galvanized the imagination of so many readers.
Sapir’s Relativity Theory: In a paper published in 1929 Sapir tells us: Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection (1929, p. 209).
Our language affects how we perceive things: Even comparatively simple acts of perception are very much more at the mercy of the social patterns called words than we might suppose. …We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation (p. 210).
But the differences do not end with perception: The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached (p. 209). The linguistic relativity hypothesis gained its widest audience through the work of Benjamin Lee Whorf, whose collected writings became something of a relativistic manifesto.
Whorf presents a moving target, with most of his claims coming in both extreme and in more cautious forms. Debate continues about his considered views, but there is little doubt that his bolder claims, unimpeded by caveats or qualifications, were better suited to captivate his readers than more timid claims would have been. When languages are similar, Whorf tells us, there is little likelihood of dramatic cognitive differences. But languages that differ markedly from English and other Western European languages (which Whorf calls, collectively, “Standard Average European” or SAE) often do lead their speakers to have very different worldviews. Thus, we are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated. We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds–and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds (p. 213).
The passages from Sapir and Whorf bristle with metaphors of coercion: our thought is “at the mercy” of our language, it is “constrained” by it; no one is free to describe the world in a neutral way; we are “compelled” to read certain features into the world (p. 262). The view that language completely determines how we think is often called linguistic determinism. Hamann and Herder sometimes seem to equate language with thought, and in these moods, at least, they came close to endorsing this view.
2.3. Empirical Review of Literature
2.3. 1. Versions of Linguistic Relativism
Any serious discussion of the linguistic relativity hypothesis requires us to answer three questions
1. Which aspects of language influence which aspects of thought in some systematic way?
2. What form does that influence take?
3. How strong is that influence?
For example, certain features of syntax or of the lexicon might exert a causal influence on certain aspects of visual perception (e.g., on which colors we can discriminate), classification (e.g., on how we sort things by their color), or long-term memory (e.g., on which differences among colors we remember most accurately) in clearly specifiable ways. If there is such an influence we would also like to know what mechanisms mediate it, but until we have clearer answers to the first three questions, we are not well positioned to answer this.
Human languages are flexible and extensible, so most things that can be said in one can be approximated in another; if nothing else, words and phrases can be borrowed (Schadenfreude, je ne sais quoi). But what is easy to say in one language may be harder to say in a second, and this may make it easier or more natural or more common for speakers of the first language to think in a certain way than for speakers of the second language to do so. A concept or category may be more available in some linguistic communities than in others (e.g., Brown, 1956, pp. 307ff). In short, the linguistic relativity hypothesis comes in stronger and weaker forms, depending on the hypothesized forms and the hypothesized strength of the hypothesized influence. Various aspects of language might affect cognition:
i. Grammar: Languages can differ in their grammar or syntax. To take a simple example, typical word order may vary. In English, the common order is subject, verb, object. In Japanese it is subject, object, verb. In Welsh, verb, subject, object. Languages can differ in whether they make a distinction between intransitive verbs and adjectives. And there are many subtler sorts of grammatical difference as well. It should be noted that grammar here does not mean the prescriptive grammar we learned in grammar school, but the syntactic structure of a language; in this sense, a grammar comprises a set of rules (or some equivalent device) that can generate all and only the sentences of a given language.
ii. Lexicon: Different languages have different lexicons (vocabularies), but the important point here is that the lexicons of different languages may classify things in different ways. For example, the color lexicons of some languages segment the color spectrum at different places.
iii. Semantics: Different languages have different semantic features (over and above differences in lexical semantics).
iv. Metaphor: Different languages employ different metaphors or employ them in different ways.
v. Pragmatics: It is increasingly clear that context plays a vital role in the use and understanding of language, and it is possible that differences in the way speakers of different languages use their languages in concrete settings affects their mental life.
For the most part discussions of the linguistic relativity hypothesis have focused on grammar and lexicon as independent variables. Thus, many of Whorf’s claims, e.g., his claims about the way Hopi thought about time, were based on (what he took to be) large-scale differences between Hopi and Standard Average European that included grammatical and lexical differences (e.g., 1956, p. 158). Subsequence research by Ekkehart Malotki (e.g., 1983) and others suggests that Whorf’s more dramatic claims were false, but the important point here is that the most prominent versions of the linguistic relativity hypothesis involved large-scale features of language.
2.3.2 Testing the Linguistic Relativity Hypotheses
In light of the vast literature on linguistic relativity hypotheses, one would expect that a good deal of careful experimental work had been done on the topic. It has not been. Often the only evidence cited in favour of such hypotheses is to point to a difference between two languages and assert that it adds up to a difference in modes of thought. But this simply assumes what needs to be shown, namely that such linguistic differences give rise to cognitive differences. On the other hand, refutations of the hypothesis often target implausibly extreme versions of it or proceed as though refutations of it in one domain (e.g., color language and color cognition) show that it is false across the board. Much of the most rigorous investigation of the linguistic relativity hypothesis involves color language and color cognition. In the 1950s and 60s, this was an area where linguistic relativity seemed quite plausible. On the one hand, there is nothing in the physics of light (e.g., in facts about surface spectral reflectances) that suggests drawing boundaries between colors at one place rather than another; in this sense our segmentations of the spectrum are arbitrary. On the one hand, it was well known that different languages had color terms that segmented the color spectrum at different places. So since nothing in the physics of color could determine how humans thought about color, it seemed natural to hypothesis that color cognition followed the grooves laid down by color language.
Color was also an auspicious object of study, because investigators could use Munsell color chips (a widely used, standardized set of chips of different colors) or similar stimulus materials with subjects in quite different locations, thus assuring that whatever differences they found in their dependent variables really did involve the same thing, color (as anchored in the chips), rather than something more nebulous.
Brent Berlin and Paul Kay’s work (1969) on basic color terms did much to raise the quality of empirical work on the linguistic relativity hypothesis. And together with much subsequent work it strongly suggests that the strongest, across-the-board versions of the linguistic relativity hypothesis are false when it comes to color language and color cognition. We now know that colors may be a rather special case, however, for although there is nothing in the physics of color that suggests particular segmentations of the spectrum, the opponent-process theory of color vision, now well confirmed, tells us that there are neurophysiological facts about human beings that influence many of the ways in which we perceive colors. We don’t know of anything comparable innate mechanisms that would channel thought about social traits or biological classification of diseases in similarly deep grooves. There may well be cross-cultural similarities in the ways human beings think about these things, but we can’t conclude this from the work on color.
3.3.3. Poverty of the Stimulus
It has been established by different scholars that in just a few years all normal children acquire the language that is spoken by their family and others around them. They acquire a very complex and virtually unbounded ability to distinguish sentences from non-sentences and to understand and utter a virtually unlimited number of sentences they have never thought of before. The child acquires this ability on the basis of the utterances she hears and the feedback (rarely in the form of corrections) she receives. The problem is that the child’s data here are very unsystematic and sparse compared to the systematic and nearly unbounded linguistic competence the child quickly acquires.
Hence, the argument continues, the child needs help to get from this impoverished input to the rich output (the acquisition of a grammar of a complex natural language), and this help can only be provided by something innate that constrains and guides the child in her construction of the grammar. The point is quite general: if the input, or data stream, is exiguous then (barring incredible luck) it is only possible for someone to arrive at the right theory about the data if they have some built-in inductive biases, some predispositions to form one kind of theory rather than another. And since any child can learn any human language, the innate endowment must put constraints on which of the countless logically possible languages are humanly possible.
If the features of human languages are limited by such innate, language-acquisition mechanisms, there is less scope for the large differences among languages that the more extreme linguistic relativists have imagined. But might linguistic universals leave room for less extreme versions of linguistic relativism that are still interesting? That depends on what linguistic devices there are and on their relationships to other cognitive mechanisms.
From the perspective of nativist accounts of language, many of the questions about linguistic relativity boil down to questions about the informational encapsulation of mental modules. To say that a module is encapsulated means that other parts of the mind cannot influence its inner workings (though they can supply it with inputs and use its outputs). What are the implications of this for the linguistic relativist’s claim that a person’s language can exert a dramatic influence on his perception and thought?
The answer may be different for perception, on the one hand, and the higher mental processes, on the other. For example Jerry Fodor (1984) argues that there is a module (or modules) for visual perception and that information from other parts of the mind cannot influence it in the way that many psychologists have supposed. By contrast, Fodor holds that there is no special module for higher mental processes and, indeed, that we are a long way from having any account of how thinking and reasoning work (e.g., 2000). If this is right, then for all we know now, some aspects of linguistic relativism could be right. The workings of various linguistic modules might influence thought in interesting ways.
It bears stressing that many of the issues involving cognitive architecture are vigorously contested. Among other things, not all champions of modules see them as Fodor does. According to them what is special about visual modules may just be that they process visual information, not that they lack access to other kinds of information (indeed, top-down aspects of perception suggest that they often do have such access). If this is so, there is more room for language to influence perception and other cognitive processes than there is if modules are tightly insulated.
2.3.5. Basic Linguistic Theory
The expression “basic linguistic theory” (following R. M. W. Dixon) refers to the theoretical framework that is most widely employed in language description, particularly grammatical descriptions of entire languages. It is also the framework assumed by most work in linguistic typology. The status of basic linguistic theory as a theoretical framework is not often recognized. People using basic linguistic theory often characterize their work as atheoretical or theory-neutral or theoretically eclectic. However, there is really no such thing as atheoretical or theory-neutral description, since one cannot describe anything without making some theoretical assumptions. The extent to which most descriptive work shares the same theoretical assumptions is actually rather striking, especially when one considers how much such work has in common in its assumptions compared to other theoretical frameworks. It is probably the most widely used and best known theoretical framework in the field, especially outside the United States. It is particularly popular among linguists who are more interested in languages than in language. Many linguists who are adherents of other theoretical frameworks assume it as a point of departure, as a framework they wish to improve on.
Unlike many theoretical frameworks in linguistics, which are often ephemeral and pass quickly into obsolescence, basic linguistic theory is a cumulative framework that has slowly developed over the past century as linguists have learned how to describe languages better. It is grounded in traditional grammar and can be seen as having evolved out of traditional grammar. It has also been heavily influenced by pre-generative structuralist traditions, particularly in emphasizing the need to describe each language in its own terms, rather than imposing on individual languages concepts whose primary motivation comes from other languages, in contrast to traditional grammar and many recent theoretical frameworks. It has taken analytic techniques from structuralist traditions, particularly in the areas of phonology and morphology. But it also contrasts with work that is more purely structuralist in attempting to describe languages in a more user-friendly fashion, in including semantic considerations in its analyses, and in employing terminology that has been used for similar phenomena in other languages.
Basic linguistic theory has also been influenced to a certain extent by generative grammar, though the influence has primarily been from early generative grammar (before 1970) and is often indirect. The influence largely reflects the fact that early generative grammar examined many aspects of the syntax of English in great detail, and the insights of that research have influenced how basic linguistic theory looks at the syntax of other languages, especially in terms of how one can argue for particular analyses. The influence of generative grammar can be seen in the way that certain constructions in other languages are identified and characterized in ways reminiscent of constructions in English, from cleft constructions to “topicalizations” to reflexive constructions. More recent work in generative grammar, especially Government-Binding Theory, has had essentially no impact on basic linguistic theory.
The last 15 years have seen the number of children and young people who are not in school fall by almost half. Every child should be able to access their right to education, and the world has made strides in the right direction – but it’s imperative that, in addition to going to school, children are actually learning. If a child cannot speak or understand the language used in the classroom, the efficacy and quality of learning will obviously suffer. This is the situation facing hundreds of millions of children – in fact, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they know. The repercussions are far-reaching.
Language is deeply connected to notions of culture and identity, and the language children are taught in can often reflect broader societal inequalities. For example, in many countries the ethnic majority population, which often speaks the dominant language, enjoy better learning outcomes than minority groups that speak other languages. Inequality in education is actually increasing – including for those marginalised by language. When pre-existing barriers to education, such as poverty, or living in rural areas, combine with schooling in an unknown language, children are less likely to make it to school, and if they do, are less likely to stay there. Conversely, some education systems favour using national or ‘global’ languages based on the belief that this will give children a competitive advantage in later life. Research shows, however, that bilingual education which includes the mother tongue can lead to improved attainment levels more generally.
Global Campaign for Education (2016), Being taught in a known language is a key component of quality education for all learners – from the very early stages right through to adulthood. Early education in the mother tongue can prepare children for school and foster foundational skills, such as literacy and critical thinking, which are proven to significantly increase learning later on. Likewise, mother tongue adult literacy programmes of good quality need to be available in order to improve adult literacy levels, particularly in developing countries; around 757 million adults cannot read or write a simple sentence, and a quarter of those live in sub-Saharan Africa – one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world.
Many GCE national coalitions have long campaigned to promote mother-tongue-based multilingual education, and influence national language policy – for example, in Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Cambodia, Benin, Ethiopia, Nepal and Timor Leste. Indeed, changes in policy over the last decade have yielded results. In Ethiopia, local language policy, which combines long-term mother tongue instruction with Amharic and English, has resulted in lower drop-out rates and higher retention. Similarly, in Guatemala, grade repetition in bilingual schools is about half that of traditional schools, while dropout rates are about 25% lower.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the value and benefits of education in the mother tongue, too few countries invest in it. Now is the time for action. On January 1st 2016, a new global development agenda came into effect. 193 world leaders have pledged to a set of goals which will ‘leave no-one behind’. Respect for the use of mother tongue language is imperative if the world is to deliver on its promise of inclusive, quality education for all by 2030. The Education 2030 Framework for Action (a road-map on how to implement the new agenda) clearly refers to the need for ‘language policies to address exclusion’ and asserts that ‘particular attention should be paid to the role of learners’ first language in becoming literate and in learning’.
Governments need to set about enacting policies that recognise mother tongue learning, and – crucially – finance their implementation. This task will be costly and complex: there’s a need for more trained teachers from linguistic minority groups, teachers who can teach in more than one language, and textbooks in a language students can understand. However, the social, political and economic cost of maintaining the status quo cannot be ignored. This International Mother Language Day – which is marked on February 21st – is an opportunity to focus on the importance of multilingualism and mother tongue learning for quality education, for fulfilling the potential of all learners, and for the success of the new global development agenda.
2.3.6. Cultural Relativism
The intellectual roots of cultural relativism within language lie in philosophical debates about distinctions between reality and relativism. Although the concept of realism has a complex history, it is generally accepted that it refers to the existence of a reality that lies beyond our thoughts or beliefs about it (Marshall et al., 1994). The main point of focus in debates about reality is whether universal truths or standards exist that we can use to measure or judge whether something is real (or true).
Cultural relativism is a complex concept that has its intellectual roots in discussions about relativism in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language. The general concept of relativism in sociology is associated with critiques of positivism in science and concomitantly, social science, which largely emphasize the differences between the focus and methods of inquiry associated with the natural and social sciences. Relativism is typically viewed in contrast to realism, which is the idea that what is true and real exists independently of the mind. This opposition between realism and relativism was influenced by the work of Immanuel Kant in his (1788) Critique of Pure Reason, who argued that the material and social world is mediated through our minds: that people’s experience of the world is mediated through the knowledge and ideas they hold about the world. Consequently, this relative epistemology—or cognitive relativism—makes it difficult to identify universal experiences that hold true for everyone, because it is likely that one person’s experience of an event or activity will not be the same as that of another person. And that will definitely the way they express their ideas which means using another language different from one’s mother tongue might have influence on one’s perception and expression. Cognitive relativism, then, refers broadly to an intellectual stance that rejects the idea of an absolute viewpoint and the existence of objective criteria for making judgments about what is or is not real or true. Cultural relativism is associated with a general tolerance and respect for difference, which refers to the idea that cultural context is critical to an understanding of people’s values, beliefs and practices.
2.3.7. Mother Tongue
This refers to the language which a student speaks and understands better. It is the language that the students have learned unconsciously at home, their society and from their parents during the course of their growing up. It simply means that no formal class was organised when the student was learning this type of language. Mother tongue is also the language that the learner speaks seamlessly and in this study, it is any other language apart from the English language.
Mother tongue or mother language can also be referred to as a child’s first language, the language learned in the home from older family members (UNESCO, 2003). In some places, the term has taken on more of a culturally symbolic definition, so that an individual might say, ‘I do not actually speak my mother tongue’. A related term, home language, refers to the language or languages spoken in the student’s home. Mother tongue refers to any form of language or languages that children are most familiar with. This is usually the language that children speak at home with their family. The ‘mother tongue’ does not have to be the language spoken by the mother. Children can and often speak more than one or even two languages at home. For example, they may speak one language with their mother, another with their father and a third with their grandparents. http://www.rutufoundation.org/what-is-mother-tongue-education/(2017)
Although there is overwhelming evidence that children learn best in and through their mother tongues, millions of children around the world receive education in a different language. This is usually the dominant language of the country they live in. In the case of former colonies, this may not be the language spoken in the community at all, but the language of the former colonial power, for example English, French, Arabic, Dutch and Spanish. Languages that children may hear for the first time when they enter school. Children who speak a different language at home than the language in which they are taught at school will by definition become bilingual or multilingual. The degree to which they become bilingual may vary considerably however and depends on the goal of the school programme.
There are bilingual education programmes that aim at teaching children a second language at no expense to their first language. In such programmes equal importance is given to learning in and through both languages. Children learn how to take full advantage of their multilingualism and biliteracy. The majority of schools however offer education only in and through one language. Children who are not fluent speakers of the school language may be offered some form of language support or no support at all. The latter is also known as ‘sink or swim’. Children lose or leave behind their mother tongues and use only the language of the school.
A third option, increasingly popular, are schools which offer bilingual education and which are aimed at bilingualism, but not in any of the languages spoken by the child at home. For example, a child who speaks Yoruba at home and is enrolled in a strict English/French bilingual programme.
Today, with increased migration and the growing popularity of international schools, the number of children learning in a language other than their mother tongue is growing rapidly. Research indicates that having a strong mother tongue foundation leads to a much better understanding of the curriculum as well as a more positive attitude towards school, so it’s vital that children maintain their first language when they begin schooling in a different language.
When children develop their mother tongue, they are simultaneously fostering a whole host of other essential skills, such as critical thinking and literacy skills. It is these skills that they take with them into formal education, and research tells us that any skills and concepts gained in the learner’s home language do not have to be re-taught when they transfer to a second language. For example, if a child has developed the ability to guess the meaning of a word through its context, or to infer meaning by reading between the lines, these skills are easily transferred when they begin studying in a second language. It is much harder, however, to teach these abstract skills directly through a second language.
It is also well known that a strong mother tongue foundation equips children with the skills they need to learn additional languages, allowing them to transfer their understanding of the structure of language to several new languages. The intuitive understanding of grammar that develops when children learn their first language can easily be passed on to other languages. With multilingualism becoming an increasingly sought-after attribute within the workplace, this advantage cannot be overstated. Globalization and increased co-operation between nations mean that, in many organisations, it has become a requirement to have language skills in addition to being a specialist within a particular field.
Language and mother tongue also play a huge role in the development of personal, social and cultural identity. Children with a strong foundation in their first language often display a deeper understanding of themselves and their place within society, along with an increased sense of wellbeing and confidence. Naturally, this flows down into every aspect of their lives, including their academic achievement.
This is, of course, one of the reasons why bilingual education systems are growing in popularity around the world and many international schools are focusing their resources on establishing strong mother tongue programmes. Parent workshops outlining the importance of the mother tongue are becoming increasingly popular, because many parents mistakenly believe that they should only speak to their children in the school’s language of instruction, often contributing to children not gaining complete fluency in either their first or second language. In Cambodia, for example, EAL (English as an Additional Language) specialists regularly invited parents into school for evening workshops, where they outlined research showing how children learn languages, discussed the school’s teaching methodology for language learning, and, most importantly, explained the importance of a strong mother tongue foundation and the vital role that parents play in developing and maintaining this.
2.4.2. Relationship between mother tongue and learning
In countries where English is not the first language, many parents and communities believe their children will get a head-start in education by going ‘straight for English’ and bypassing the home language. However, as Kioko (2006) points out, the evidence suggests otherwise.
Many governments, like Burundi recently, are now making English an official national language. Their motivation behind this is to grow their economies and improve the career prospects of their younger generations. Alongside this move, we are seeing a trend, particularly across Sub-Saharan Africa, to introduce English as a medium of instruction in basic education. Nigeria is a good example. However, research findings consistently show that learners benefit from using their home language in education in early grade years (ahead of a late primary transition stage). Yet, many developing countries continue to use other languages for teaching in their schools.
In Kenya, the language of instruction is English, and some learners in urban and some cosmopolitan settings speak and understand some English by the time they join school. But learners in the rural areas enter school with only their home language. For these learners, using the mother tongue in early education leads to a better understanding of the curriculum content and to a more positive attitude towards school. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, learning does not begin in school. Learning starts at home in the learners’ home language. Although the start of school is a continuation of this learning, it also presents significant changes in the mode of education. The school system structures and controls the content and delivery of a pre-determined curriculum where previously the child was learning from experience (an experiential learning mode).
On starting school, children find themselves in a new physical environment. The classroom is new, most of the classmates are strangers, the centre of authority (the teacher) is a stranger too. The structured way of learning is also new. If, in addition to these things, there is an abrupt change in the language of interaction, then the situation can get quite complicated. Indeed, it can negatively affect a child’s progress. However, by using the learners’ home language, schools can help children navigate the new environment and bridge their learning at school with the experience they bring from home.
Second, by using the learners’ home language, learners are more likely to engage in the learning process. The interactive learner-centred approach – recommended by all educationalists – thrives in an environment where learners are sufficiently proficient in the language of instruction. It allows learners to make suggestions, ask questions, answer questions and create and communicate new knowledge with enthusiasm. It gives learners confidence and helps to affirm their cultural identity. This in turn has a positive impact on the way learners see the relevance of school to their lives.
But when learners start school in a language that is still new to them, it leads to a teacher-centred approach and reinforces passiveness and silence in classrooms. This in turn suppresses young learners’ potential and liberty to express themselves freely. It dulls the enthusiasm of young minds, inhibits their creativity, and makes the learning experience unpleasant. All of which is bound to have a negative effect on learning outcomes.
A crucial learning aim in the early years of education is the development of basic literacy skills: reading, writing and arithmetic. Essentially, the skills of reading and writing come down to the ability to associate the sounds of a language with the letters or symbols used in the written form. These skills build on the foundational and interactional skills of speaking and listening. When learners speak or understand the language used to instruct them, they develop reading and writing skills faster and in a more meaningful way. Introducing reading and writing to learners in a language they speak and understand leads to great excitement when they discover that they can make sense of written texts and can write the names of people and things in their environment. Research in Early Grade Reading (EGRA) has shown that pupils who develop reading skills early have a head-start in education.
It has also been shown that skills and concepts taught in the learners’ home language do not have to be re-taught when they transfer to a second language. A learner who knows how to read and write in one language will develop reading and writing skills in a new language faster. The learner already knows that letters represent sounds, the only new learning he or she needs is how the new language ‘sounds’ its letters. In the same way, learners automatically transfer knowledge acquired in one language to another language as soon as they have learned sufficient vocabulary in the new language. For example, if you teach learners in their mother tongue, that seeds need soil, moisture and warmth to germinate. You do not have to re-teach this in English. When they have developed adequate vocabulary in English, they will translate the information. Thus, knowledge and skills are transferable from one language to another. Starting school in the learners’ mother tongue does not delay education but leads to faster acquisition of the skills and attitudes needed for success in formal education.
According to UNESCO (2003), use of the learners’ mother tongue at the start of school also lessens the burden on teachers, especially where the teacher speaks the local language well (which is the case in the majority of the rural schools in multilingual settings). Research has shown that in learning situations where both the teacher and the learner are non-native users of the language of instruction, the teacher struggles as much as the learners, particularly at the start of education. But when teaching starts in the teachers’ and learners’ home language, the experience is more natural and less stressful for all. As a result, the teacher can be more creative and innovative in designing teaching/learning materials and approaches, leading to improved learning outcomes.
In summary, the use of learners’ home language in the classroom promotes a smooth transition between home and school. It means learners get more involved in the learning process and speeds up the development of basic literacy skills. It also enables more flexibility, innovation and creativity in teacher preparation. Using learners’ home language is also more likely to get the support of the general community in the teaching/learning process and creates an emotional stability which translates to cognitive stability. In short, it leads to a better educational outcome.
Children are capable of functioning and learning more than one language simultaneously – many studies have shown that children can learn through two languages. However, I think successful bi/multilingual education depends on context and many other factors-and the mother tongue must be a part of the process. The importance of the mother tongue in the child’s early education was highlighted by UNESCO in 1953, precisely for the reason that post-colonial education insisted on teaching children through the colonial language even though the children did not know that language and the mother tongue was completely ignored and considered unfit for education. From a psycholinguistic perspective the mother tongue(s) is/are the linguistic structure the children have developed and from an affective perspective it is the language of identification with the family, the community and friendship. Developing the mother tongue(s) in an educational context also elevates African languages to equal status with colonial European languages. Africa is in an excellent position to develop bi/multilingual education because multilingualism is already so much a part of everyday life. It would be a sad waste if Africa reverts to ‘reverse’ monolingualism, and disregards the massive linguistic resources at its disposal. A combination of the mother tongue(s) and English or the official language is a powerful tool for the future generations
The importance of mother tongue learning is indisputable especially in early years of Academic life. It’s not a matter of building the national identity of the student or patriotic cult only, but other mental and psychological reasons. Most importantly is shaping the mind and conscious of the individual who lives in a society that speaks the same language. Language and personality are co-related and inseparable. Of course learning a different language is a plus to academic and career life, but adopting the foreign language in all aspects of life will produce a schizophrenic character when it come to his relation with his family and the wider society. My experience and my observation to many of educated people in my age who learned English in their adulthood as medium of academic instruction that our success is not only because of English, but mainly because of our outstanding level of expressing ourselves in our native language. English added a great value to our knowledge.
2.3.8. Ife Six Years Project
International Bureau of Education (2000), Left to the missionaries, education would have been conducted in the mother tongue without much controversy. The colonial government, however, believed that the mother tongue or the vernaculars were not civilized languages and should therefore not be introduced into schools at all, let alone used for instruction in education. Fafunwa therefore fought a spirited battle to promote the mother tongue in Nigerian education. His struggles resulted in a successful outcome when the National Policy on Education in Nigeria, published in 1977, recommended that each secondary school child should learn at least one major Nigerian language other than his own. In order to provide empirical information to support his ideas on mother-tongue education, Fafunwa embarked upon the Ife SixYear Primary Project (SYPP) at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Institute of Education, between January 1970 and 1989.
The main objective of the Ife Six-Year Primary Project was to develop a coherent primary education that would use the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. The project employed the Yoruba language as the medium of instruction on the assumption that the child would benefit cognitively, socially, culturally and linguistically through the use of his/her mother tongue as the language of instruction throughout primary school. The gap between the home and the school would also be bridged. English was taught as a second language using specially trained teachers throughout the six years. The project was continually evaluated with a view to determining its effectiveness. Five major subject areas were chosen for instructional purposes. These were: social and cultural studies; science, including health and sanitation; mathematics; Yoruba language and literature; and English as a second language.
The design of the experiment provided for regular intake of Primary I classes each year from 1970 to 1975. For the purposes of the study, control groups and experimental groups were established. The experimental group was taught all subjects in Yoruba except English. English was taught from the first year to the sixth as a second language. In the control classes, Yoruba was used as a medium of instruction for the first three years and English for the last three years, when Yoruba was taught as a subject. All the test materials in Yoruba, English, social and cultural studies, mathematics and science were written and printed by the project team over a period of five years. A total of 183 textbooks were produced covering teachers’ books, pupils’ books and work books in Yoruba and English, including several supplementary readers both in Yoruba and English. At the end of their Primary VI year, the children in the experimental classes were subjected to the same external examinations taken by all Primary VI children in the state. It was found that the children in the experimental classes performed significantly better than those in the control groups in all school subjects, including English. The Ife Six-Year Primary Project proved conclusively that a child learned best in his or her mother tongue.
Today, the ‘products’ of these experiments are occupying important positions in the various sectors of the economy, politics and religion in Nigeria. It is significant to note that only 10% of the experimental group dropped out of school, while the drop-out rate for the control group was 30% during the six-year period. The national dropout rate in 1980 ranged between 40 and 60%. The project did not end with the examination of the experimental and control groups at the end of their primary education. Monitoring of project children at secondary and post-secondary school was embarked upon. It is interesting to note that the entire first group (1975) passed the First School-Leaving Certificate Examination, while a sizeable number of the control group failed. While in secondary grammar schools, the project children were found to be at an advantage academically over their counterparts in most of the subjects offered at school especially in Yoruba, English language and mathematics. Due to lack of funds, the monitoring exercise could not be extended to the post-secondary school level. It is however worthy of note that out of the 820 pupils who enrolled in Primary I in 1973, more than 300 of them had graduated from Nigerian universities by 1987. As a result of the success of the project, in 1985, the Oyo State Government, one of the Yoruba-speaking states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, decided to introduce the Ife Six-Year Project in its primary schools on a trial basis. More than 60,000 pupils and 2,100 teachers participated in the project. By 1988, ten of the twenty-one states in Nigeria were using some of the project’s published books. At least 2 million children are using some of the project materials in the Yoruba language today. Some of the non-Yoruba-speaking states have translated the Ife materials, particularly science and mathematics, into their own mother tongues.
Between 1990 and 1992, with the encouragement and active support of the federal government, spearheaded by the federal Ministry of Education, various scholars, groups and institutions produced orthographies for over twenty-five Nigerian languages. Today, at least fifty Nigerian languages now have orthographies. In addition, in 1993, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Jan Amos Comenius, an international award was instituted jointly by the Czech Ministry of Education and the Director-General of UNESCO. The objective was to reward achievements in the field of educational research and innovation. Fafunwa was one of the ten laureates, coming from all geographical regions of the world, who received the award. Fafunwa was overwhelmed with joy upon receiving the award. As he said: For UNESCO to have singled me out as one of the five persons along with five institutions for this prestigious award for the promotion or primary science education in the mother tongue and the promotion of mother tongue education generally shows that my humble efforts have not gone unnoticed.8 Fafunwa continues to insist on the use of mother tongue in the primary school years to enable the child to interact effectively with his environment. One of the strongest points regarding the issue of mother tongue as a medium of instruction is that, though it may not be a necessary and sufficient condition for intellectual development, it is surely a necessary and sufficient condition for conceptual development. This is the foundation on which Fafunwa’s project rests.
2.3.9. Language Proficiency
Since the beginning of this century psychologists and educationalists have been involved in a continuing debate on the number of factors implicated in language performance. Up till the late 70s, factor analytic approaches have led to the definition of various numbers of language dimensions. In the early years of this century Spearman (1904; 1927) argued that a single factor was of interest to explain all intellectual behavior. Thurstone’s (1938) model contained seven primary mental abilities of which at least two were explicitly verbal: ‘verbal comprehension’ and ‘verbal fluency’. Later researchers proposed several variables within the domain of language behavior alone (e.g. Davis 1944; Thurstone, 1946; Davis, 1972; Spearitt, 1972; Thorndike, 1973). Meanwhile, the division of g into several subfactors in general human intelligence models continued, almost always including a number of ‘verbal’ factors (Cattell, 1971; Vernon, 1971), and culminated in extremely complex models such as the Structure of Intellect model (Guilford, 1967; Guilford ; Hoepfner, 1971; Guilford, 1982) with a total of 150 factors of which many are related to language behavior. Much of this debate could have been avoided, given a better understanding of the poor quality of some measures to assess dimensionality (Carroll, 1989; Berger ; Knol, 1990), problems in interpreting the results from correlational analyses in general (e.g., Cziko, 1985) and from exploratory factor analysis in particular (Gould, 1981; Vollmer and Sang, 1983), the equivalence of the metatheoretical assumptions underlying the different models (Sternberg, 1985a), or preferably, if Thurstone’s (1947:56) own admonition, had been taken seriously, i.e., that “… factor analysis has its principal use at the borderline of science … especially in those domains where basic and fruitful concepts are essentially lacking and where crucial experiments have been difficult to conceive”.
In his seminal paper Carroll (1961) listed 10 aspects of language competence to be considered in drawing up specifications for a model of foreign language proficiency. The first two represented aspects of linguistic knowledge:
i. knowledge of structure and
ii. knowledge of lexicon respectively.
The second group of aspects could be interpreted as aspects of channel control with respect to each of the four modes of language use: auditory discrimination of speech sounds, oral production of speech sounds, technical reading (converting symbols to sounds), and technical writing (converting sounds to symbols). The remaining group represented integrated performance in the four modes of language use, where Carroll pointed out that the level of competence needs to be specified in terms of rate, independently of the component of ‘language fact’ mastery. Therefore, in fact, Carroll defined these skills as combinations of the linguistic knowledge aspects on the one hand with the aspect of channel control implicated by the language mode on the other: rate and accuracy of listening comprehension, rate and quality of speaking, rate and accuracy of reading comprehension, and rate and accuracy of written composition. In Carroll’s view then, within each integrated skill two basic dimensions can be distinguished: linguistic knowledge and channel control.
Since the early days of language testing theory (Carroll, 1961; Lado, 1961) psycholinguistic theory has provided substantial contributions to the theoretical understanding of human language processing with respect to the modularity of mind (Chomsky, 1982; Fodor, 1983; Sternberg, 1980; 1985b; Vygotsky, 1962), to speaking and its underlying cognitive operations (Levelt, 1989), to the process of reading (Perfetti, 1985; Ballota, Flores d’Arcais & Rainer, 1990), and to the process of writing (Bereiter & Scardamelia, 1987; Flower, 1988). Moreover, a better insight has been gained into the processes involved in first language acquisition (Hyams, 1986; Slobin, 1985; Wanner & Gleitman, 1982; Wells, 1985) bilingual development (Cummins & Swain, 1986), second language acquisition and use (Gregg, 1989; Klein, 1986; Kellerman, 1985; Lightbown, 1984), foreign language learning (Ellis, 1985; 1990; Hatch, 1978; Newmark, 1971; Selinker, 1971; 1984) and language attrition (Andersen, 1982; Freed, 1980; Gardner, 1982; Weltens, 1988). The past decade (1980-1990) in language testing/proficiency theory has been marked by two major movements that have closely interacted. Both movements have continued the essentially product oriented approach from earlier periods and seem to have largely ignored the advances in psycholinguistics and in educational measurement theory. The first movement, originating from practical assessment problems, has led to definition of several scales of language proficiency (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 1986; Ingram, 1984; Interagency Language Roundtable, 1985). Proficiency levels on these scales are described in terms of the language produced by subjects evaluated against an idealized end-point: the well-educated native speaker. The descriptions take into account both what subjects can do with the language (e.g., ‘discuss certain fields of interest’) as the linguistic means used (e.g., ‘differentiated vocabulary’, ‘remarkable fluency’). However, the adequacy of these scales as descriptions of developing language proficiency has been subject to considerable doubt (e.g., Savignon, 1985; Bachman & Savignon, 1986; de Jong, 1987).
The major objections raised against these scales are the semi-structuralist approach to language proficiency and the sparseness of validational studies. The second movement is characterised by efforts at incorporating Hymes’s (1971) sociolinguistic concept of communicative competence in models of language proficiency. These efforts have resulted in much more elaborated conceptualisations of language behavior (Canale and Swain, 1980; Bachman, 1990) than the Carroll and Lado models of the early sixties, but some researchers (e.g., Ingram, 1990) claim that the models tend to be too comprehensive and argue that the ability to communicate depends on things other than language and the ability to use it — such as personality traits and general knowledge — and should therefore not be incorporated in models of language proficiency.
Apart from the debate on how much of human behavior in general should be integrated in a description of language behavior, attempts at empirical validation of these more extensive models have been scarce and are far from convincing (Bachman ; Palmer, 1982; Harley et al., 1990). Furthermore validation of models in the domain of language acquisition and language testing research remains to be sought primarily through the “Byzantine” (Wainer ; Brown, 1988:47) methodology of factor analysis (e.g. Davidson ; Bachman, 1990). The pursuit of highly complex models of language proficiency seems to reflect the general phenomenon that the more applied sciences tend to lag behind the more theoretical. Oller’s (1976) unitary competence hypothesis was unmasked as the misinterpretation of a statistical artifact, namely, the inflated loadings on the first factor in Principal Component analyses (Carroll, 1983; Vollmer and Sang, 1983; Oller, 1984) more than half a century after Spearman’s (1904; 1927)invention of g-theory. The eighties have seen a resuscitation of more complex models of language proficiency. Dichotomous conceptions of language proficiency have been brought forward by researchers following Chomsky’s (1980) distinction between grammatical and pragmatic competence (Bialystok, 1981). Complex hierarchical “communicative competence” models (Bachman, 1990; Canale & Swain, 1980; Sang, et al., 1986; Spolsky, 1989) have been proposed recently, some 20 years after the Structure of Intellect model (Guilford, 1967; Guilford & Hoepfner, 1971) was at its heyday. From a theoretical point of view, neither the unitary competence hypothesis, nor extremely complex models are beneficiary. Explaining all variation by a single factor, in fact puts an end to all research into a deeper understanding of language, its acquisition and its use. Extremely complex models on the other hand fail to achieve what models are for, i.e., to explain reality by a simplification.
The field of intelligence testing has recently experienced the development of major new theories (Baron, 1985; Gardner, 1983; Sternberg, 1984; 1985). These theories have in common that all aim at defining underlying processes that can explain intelligence rather than at measuring products of intelligence. They emphasise that expertise is characterized by the possession and the use of knowledge (Sternberg, 1988). There is little if any evidence that these new theoretical insights in intelligence testing have led to new models in the field of language teaching and testing. The distinction between possession and use of knowledge echoes Carroll’s (1961) distinction between (possession of) knowledge and skills (i.e., use of knowledge) in language learning. Several linguists, starting out from different theoretical positions, have suggested models that could account for such a distinction between a knowledge and a skill dimension in language proficiency (Bialystok, 1981; Dechert, 1984; Ellis, 1990; Hatch, 1974; Seliger, 1980). Some of these authors have emphasized the suggestion that these two dimensions reflect individual learning styles. Though individual differences with respect to these dimensions may well exist, both dimensions must play a part in the development of proficiency of any learner. In a paragraph on sequencing learning materials Dillon (1986) defines the knowledge and skill dimensions as developmental stages:
The term interlanguage was defined by Selinker (1972) as the separate linguistic system evidenced when adult second-language learners attempt to express meaning in a language they are in the process of learning. This linguistic system encompasses not just phonology, morphology, and syntax, but also the lexical, pragmatic, and discourse levels of the interlanguage.
The notion of ‘interlanguage’ has been central to the development of the field of research on second language acquisition (SLA) and continues to exert a strong influence on both the development of SLA theory and the nature of the central issues in that field. The term interlanguage (IL) was introduced by the American linguist Larry Selinker to refer to the linguistic system evidenced when an adult secondlanguage learner attempts to express meanings in the language being learned. The interlanguage is viewed as a separate linguistic system, clearly different from both the learner’s ‘native language’ (NL) and the ‘target language’ (TL) being learned, but linked to both NL and TL by interlingual identifications in the perception of the learner. A central characteristic of any interlanguage is that it fossilizes – that is, it ceases to develop at some point short of full identity with the target language. Thus, the adult second-language learner never achieves a level of facility in the use of the target comparable to that achievable by any child acquiring the target as a native language. There is thus a crucial and central psycholinguistic difference between child NL acquisition and adult second language (L2) acquisition: children always succeed in completely acquiring their native language, but adults only very rarely succeed in completely acquiring a second language. The central object of interlanguage research is to explain this difference – essentially, to describe and explain the development of interlanguages and also to explain the ultimate failure of interlanguages to reach a state of identity with the target language. Thus, some central research questions are: What are the psycholinguistic processes that shape and constrain the development of interlanguages? How are these different from those processes that shape and constrain the development of native languages? How might these differences account for the phenomenon of fossilization?
Prior to the development of the idea of interlanguage, contrastive analysts had asserted that the second-language learner’s language was shaped solely by transfer from the native language. Lado (1957: 72), in an influential statement, explicitly characterized the predictions of contrastive analysts as statements that should be viewed as hypothetical until they could be validated by reference to ‘the actual speech of students.’ Error analysis was an enterprise born of the attempt to validate the predictions of contrastive analysis by systematically gathering and analyzing the speech and writing of second-language learners. For perhaps the first time in history, the focus moved from teaching materials and hypotheses about second-language learning problems, to the systematic observation of learner language. The focus was what scientific study could reveal about the real problems of second language learners. Preliminary evidence from early studies began to come in, the results of which showed an increasingly large ‘residue’ of errors that did not in fact seem to be caused by transfer as contrastive analysts had predicted.
The second-language learner’s transitional competence is different from either the NL or the TL or even some combination of the two, since it begins with an essential, simple, probably universal grammar. Corder also pointed out that the native language often serves as a positive resource for second-language acquisition, facilitating the learning of TL features that resemble features of the NL. Corder argued that second-language learners’ errors were evidence of the idiosyncratic linguistic system that they were building and so were valuable data for research into the nature of the ‘built-in syllabus.’ Corder called for research involving the analysis of learner errors gathered longitudinally, proposed a framework for eliciting and analyzing those errors, and posed the goal as one of characterizing the builtin syllabus and the transitional competence of second-language learners. His students and colleagues set about pursuing that enterprise. The term ‘interlanguage’ was most persuasively introduced and developed into a set of testable hypotheses by Selinker (1972.
The interlanguage hypothesis was intended to, and did, stimulate systematic research into the development of the language produced by adult second-language learners, with a view to objectively identifying psycholinguistic processes (transfer included) that shaped learner language, explaining how learners set up interlingual identifications across linguistic systems, and accounting for the troubling tendency of adult learners to stop learning, or to fossilize.
The interlanguage system is clearly not simply the native language morphological and syntactic system relexified with target language vocabulary; that is, it is not the morphological and syntactic system that would have been evidenced had the learner tried to express those meanings in his or her native language. Just as clearly, it is not the target language system that would have been evidenced had native speakers of the target language tried to express those same meanings. Rather, the interlanguage differs systematically from both the native language and the target language. Interlanguage is usually thought of as characteristic only of adult second-language learners,, that is, learners who have passed puberty and thus cannot be expected to be able to employ the language acquisition device (LAD) – that innate language learning structure that was instrumental in their acquisition of their native language. Children acquiring second languages are thought to have the ability to re-engage the LAD and thus to avoid the error pattern and ultimate fossilization that characterize the interlanguages of adult second-language learners.
Central to the notion of interlanguage is the phenomenon of fossilization – that process in which the learner’s interlanguage stops developing, apparently permanently. Second-language learners who begin their study of the second language after puberty do not succeed in developing a linguistic system that approaches that developed by children acquiring that language natively. This observation led Selinker to hypothesize that adults use a latent psychological structure (instead of a LAD) to acquire second languages. The five psycholinguistic processes of this latent psychological structure that shape interlanguage were hypothesized (Selinker, 1972) to be (a) native language transfer, (b) overgeneralization of target language rules, (c) transfer of training, (d) strategies of communication, and (e) strategies of learning. Native language transfer, the process that contrastive analysts had proposed as the sole shaper of learner language, still has a major role to play in the interlanguage hypothesis; though it is not the only process involved, there is ample research evidence that it does play an important role in shaping learners’ interlanguage systems. Selinker (1972, 1992; following Weinreich, 1968: 7) suggested that the way in which this happens is that learners make ‘interlingual identifications’ in approaching the task of learning a second language: they perceive certain units as the same in their NL, IL, and TL. So, for example, they may perceive NL ‘home’ as exactly the same as TL ‘ile, in Yoruba’ and develop an interlanguage in which ‘heaven’ (erroneously in terms of the TL) be used in expressions like ‘mama goes home,’ ‘She doesn’t have a happy home,’ and so on. Selinker followed Weinreich in pointing out an interesting paradox in second-language acquisition: in traditional structural linguistics, units are defined in relation to the linguistic system in which they occur and have no meaning outside that system. However, in making interlingual identifications, second-language learners typically ‘stretch’ linguistic units by perceiving them as the same in meaning across three systems. An interesting research issue is how they do this and what sorts of units are used in this way; for example, they could be linguistic units like the taxonomic phoneme or the allophone, or syllables. Selinker raised questions about the ability of traditional linguistics frameworks, based as they are on assumptions of monolingualism, to handle interlanguage data in which transfer across three linguistic systems plays a central role.
A second psycholinguistic process is that of overgeneralization of target language rules. This is a process that is also widely observed in child language acquisition: the learner shows evidence of having mastered a general rule, but does not yet know all the exceptions to that rule. So, for example, the learner may use the past tense marker-ed for all verbs, regular and irregular alike: walked, wanted, hugged, laughed, *drinked, *hitted, *goed.
The overgeneralization error shows clear evidence of progress, in that it shows that the learner has mastered a target language rule, but it also shows what the learner has yet to learn. To the extent that second-language learners make overgeneralization errors, one might argue that they are using the same process as that employed by first-language learners. Transfer of training occurs when the second-language learner applies rules learned from instructors or textbooks. Sometimes this learning is successful; that is, the resulting interlanguage rule is indistinguishable from the target language rule. But sometimes errors result. For example, a lesson plan or textbook that describes the past perfect tense as the ‘past past’ can lead the learner to erroneously use the past perfect for the absolute distant past – for all events that occurred long ago, whether or not the speaker is relating these to any more recent or foregrounded event, as in the isolated statement, *’My relatives had come from Italy in the 1700s.’ These have also been called ‘induced errors.’ Strategies of communication are used by the learner to resolve communication problems when the interlanguage system seems unequal to the task. When, in the attempt to communicate meaning, the learner feels that the linguistic item needed is not available to him, he can resort to a variety of strategies of communication in getting that meaning across. So, for example, if the learner wants to refer to an electrical cord in English and does not know the exact lexical item to use in referring to it, he can call it ‘a tube,’ ‘a kind of corder that you use for electric thing I don’t exactly the name,’ or ‘a wire with eh two plugs in each side.’ The linguistic forms and patterns used in such attempts may become more or less permanent parts of the learner’s interlanguage (see Communicative Language Teaching). Strategies of learning are used by the learner in a conscious attempt to master the target language. One such strategy of learning is learners’ conscious comparison of what they produce in IL with the NL and a perceived target, setting up interlingual identifications (see the example given above for transfer).
Other examples of learning strategies are the use of mnemonics to remember target vocabulary, the memorizing of verb declensions or textbook dialogues, the use of flash cards, and so on. Clearly, such strategies are often successful, but they can also result in error. Memorized lists can get confused with one another, for example, or the mnemonic mediator word may become confused with the TL word. An example of the latter might be that an English speaking learner of Spanish might use a mediator word pot in order to remember that the Spanish word for duck is pato – but might end up using pot in interlanguage references to a duck. Research evidence was provided to show that all five of psycholinguistic processes could affect the construction of interlanguages.
2.5. Appraisal of Literature
The basic points stressed in the reviewed literatures are the pure relationships between linguistic relativity, mother tongue, proficiency and second language learning. Although, most of the earlier studies reviewed above produced useful insights about the relationship between linguistic relativity, mother tongue and second language learning, there are some above limitations. Again, the correlation between, mother tongue, vocabulary knowledge, proficiency in mother tongue and linguistic relativity had been duly reviewed by different scholars and it has been established that attaining mastery of mother tongue could aid the learning of the target or second language. These variables have been found to enhance students’ performance in English language especially in an environment where language of instruction is totally different from the learner’s mother tongue. According to most literatures reviewed, it can be said that learners must first of all acquire a high level of proficiency in his mother tongue before he can learn the second language effectively. However, linguistic relativity and proficiency in mother-tongue as determinants of achievement in English language in a second language classroom has not been a focus of research especially in Oyo East Local Government Area of Oyo State.