Infants' Innate Language Learning: Beyond the Environment - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-12-01
Infants' Innate Language Learning: Beyond the Environment - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Learning Education Languages Child development
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1549 words
13 min read


In their endeavor to learn a language as a form of communication, human beings, especially in their early stages, utilize both innate and external aspects to culminate words they use. While it is true that children amass a significant quantity of knowledge from their surroundings, primarily through caregivers, the element of linguistic learning goes beyond their environment. Even before they start learning from their environment, infants make sounds and mention words unrelated to the real world. Such terms could be deemed to make sense in an adult's life, but they are essential in the infant's life. Insofar as the infant's linguistics are concerned, adults may be contrived to perceive an infant linguistically important when they reach a point of communicating through words familiar to them (Swingley,2009). In that regard, caregivers teach infants their native linguistics early on in their lives. Before infants are taught any form of words, they already mutter some and make some sounds that adults near them may not understand their meaning. The importance of innateness towards the learning of language and communicating could also be explained by the fact that machines cannot grasp language devoid of conditioning. While the external environment is important in teaching infants about language, they already have an innate aspect of words and sounds and their relevance to human communication.

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Pre-Linguistic Language Development

From the onset, children are born with an aspect of controlling sound though a vocal play. This initial stage of making vegetative sounds take place between 0-2 months of age. At this stage, children make sounds such as crying and burping. These words are deemed to have no real or intended meanings, but they signify an affective state such as joy or anxiousness and are meant to capture the caretaker's attention. In that regard, caretakers only respond to such sounds because of their concern towards them, but the crying and bubbling do not constitute any meaning per se insofar as adults are concerned. These sounds later develop into social aspects for hearing children. On the contrary, deaf children babble but cannot establish social communication sounds because they cannot attend the sound themselves (Highline College, 2016). It is important to note that children aspire to communicate with their caretakers, by all means, sometimes through facial expression, touches, and caresses. The intention is to communicate with their environment. In the age of 2-5 months, children start cooing and laughing to express their emotions. The above sounds are usually comprised of vowels or consonant sounds. The vocal sounds develop to plays from their fourth to the eighth month. During the above stage, children construct longer consonant or vowel sounds. Ultimately, at the age of six to thirteen months, the child makes their first utterances such as da-da and ma-ma.

Acquisition of Syntax

Human beings are capable of learning a new language through a combination of innate factors and environmental influence. People are likely to disguise the importance of inherent qualities in learning a language. It is essential to note that before they communicate using generally recognizable words in society, they are already in a position of using sounds and words that are meaningless in adults. According to Hyams, environmental inputs are vital in the cultivation of linguistics in children, but they are not as critical as innate aspects (2015). Children are only exposed to finite adult utterances but not to grammatical abstracts. Surprisingly, they are capable of acquiring a hierarchically ordered system of categories and rules. The fact that children only hear a finite set of utterances, yet they can discern and produce sentences beyond this set, implies that they are not over-reliant to an external environment for their linguistic propagation. Children are taught possible sentences in their native languages, but within the shortest time possible, they are capable of understanding impossible wordings in that regard. Interestingly, they can achieve the above without an adult's guidance. In essence, children can construct an abstract system of grammatical rules by themselves, which helps them attain communication linguistically.

Early Multi-Word Utterances

Also known as the root infinitive stage, children advance their speech's complexity by comprehending language syntax. Children's utterances are short in their early stages and mainly consist of open-class linguistic elements such as adjectives, nouns, and verbs. It also comprises of few closed class functional elements such as simplified articles, prepositions, and auxiliaries. Children at the stage mentioned above develop optional infinitive, and their abstraction of this aspect varies from one child to another (Highline College, 2016). The type of native language also influences the formation of the optional infinitive. Children learn finite information about lexical and functional elements during the stage herein before creating their abstracts that run deeper in complexity than the knowledge they acquired in classes. Children at the root infinitive stage are imbued with grammar differing from that of adults as it is usually comprised of basic terms. Therefore, it is apparent that innate aspects of a child are vital in their language learning process and should not be undermined.

Importance of Words in a Child's Language

Before children start using their native language, they begin by discovering aspects of their sound assembly. In that regard, children rely on their auditory system and innate sensitivity to achieve rapid learning of consonants and vowels of their native language. In their first year into the world, children learn about sounds and words to communicate with people around them. Ordinarily, knowing to understand a word entails understanding its sound form, syntactic properties, and semantic references. Infants are capable of relating words they learned through experience from previous utterances. Infants are capable of mastering words and referencing them despite alterations as long as the changes do not affect stressed syllables (Hyams, 2015). Children also learn grammatical structure—how words are organized into functioning categories and arranged in sentences.

Even though children need to learn the above aspects as a developmental process, they do not learn everything about grammar. They are, however, capable of comprehending and producing grammatically appropriate sentence structure. Their capability to relate familiar words and their application in real-life situations is based on their native language's nature and innate characteristics. It is worth noting that children who take longer than others insofar as discernment and retention of familiar words are concerned are deemed to be comprised of more substantial innate characteristics. The above situation would possibly be an elaborate explanation as to why some children may communicate linguistically faster and more comprehensively than others in a similar situation.

Innateness and Language

The idea that people can apply language in their communication sets them apart from machines or beasts. How children learn and understand language with such clarity that they use its rules and systems multiple times in a day seamlessly is an indication that something innate contributes to the learning of language. It is worth noting that most verbal behaviors, such as bubbling in infants, are operants, which means that they begin unconnected to stimuli (Stanford Encyclopedia Philosophy, 2008). Even though they can be linked to stimuli through conditioning, it is worthwhile noting that they are originally innate. Thus, they are self-dependent. The above explains why people are likely to respond to speakers concerning a topic or subject matter unexpected with absolute appropriateness. Responses to such situations as the above are dependent on one's state of mind at the time and not on historical experience. In essence, for one to be effective at communicating in a certain language, they need to be imbued with a special understanding that supersedes finite sentences and other vocals already experienced in previous interactions. Theoretical constructs that predict new utterances' properties are therefore not to be ignored because they are imperative in understanding a particular language.


Innate characteristics of human beings are essential in the process of learning a language. These characteristics are responsible for the infant's communication with sound and words before learning them from their environment. Even though the general belief is that the environment is the main learning platform for linguists, innate aspects cannot be undermined. Within the first few months, when the infant is born, they make sounds such as crying and bubbling, which, while they may be deemed to be comprised of no meaning to adult life, are important in drawing their caregivers' attention.

Crying, for instance, might be indicative of unpleasant situations that demand their caregivers to attend them. As the child becomes more advanced in linguistic knowledge, they acquire their native language syntax from people around them. Interestingly, they only learn a few words or sentences before creating an abstract that enables them to communicate regarding novel situations. The aspect of innate importance to one's language and communication could also be illuminated by the fact that human beings can produce and discerning language, something machines are not capacitated to do.


Highline College. (2016). Stages of Language Development: Pre-Linguistic and Symbolic Language.,these%20sounds%20into%20proper%20words.

Hyams, N & Orfitelli, R. (2015). The Acquisition of Syntax. Handbook of Psycholinguistics, Blackwell Publishers.

Stanford Encyclopedia Philosophy. (2008, January 6). Innateness and Language.

Swingley, D. (2009). Contributions of infant word learning to language development. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1536), 3617–3632.

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