Chomsky an Approach | Sample Essay


Language is always considered to be the object of linguistics. In various instances, language is considered to be something which is either written orspoken. There are several theories of language development given by various scholars. One of the famous scholars of key theories of language development is Noam Chomsky. It is argued that the significance of language is needed for evolution of the human species. There are many crucial functions within the human experience served by language as it keeps people safe from social engagement. Communication is present in various other species (Ambridge, Pine & Lieven, 2014). The linguists and psychologists have agreed on various aspects about the significance of language. It is always debatable if people are born with a clean slate for language or there are a set of language skills ready to be used. Chomsky also states that language is a useless concept for linguistic science. The theoryand approach by Chomskyhave been accepted across the world in the field of linguistic field. There are different concepts like I-Language and E-Language. Chomsky has accepted I-Language while rejected E-language. There is a need to focus on the logics and beliefs considered by Chomsky when developing these theories and examine the significance of these.


The key aim of the paper is to critically analyse the Chomsky an approach to language and its study. The focus is on the difference between E-language and I-Language, competence and performance. The emphasis is also on the difference between FLB and FLN.  To achieve this, the focus is on first understanding the Chomsky an approach to language and understanding his beliefs about the language. Then there is a need to focus on other technical concepts developed by Chomsky.


Chomsky an approach to language

The focus is on outlining Chomsky a Cognitive linguistics. This field has acquired huge development with respect to scope and depth. The key issue of the Chomsky an approach is the acquisition of language by humans. For instance, a child is able to learn his language with less help from the surroundings and also the language which she learns is not graded in an effective manner. However, the Chomsky an approach is a remarkable approach in the field of language (Chomsky, 2013). Chomsky has played a sustained role in political activism and reflection. He has disagreed to various concepts like behaviourism and accepted certain concepts that he thinks are critical for his theories.


The key base of Chomsky’s approach to linguistics is the thesis that there are various aspects of language use and acquisition that are crucial for the human mind and not the outcome of individual learning. He developed a novel approach to think about language known as the theory of Universal Grammar (Chomsky, 2013). This is a complex theory which includes the idea that individuals have the knowledge of the linguistic features due to their genes. The knowledge of linguistic features which language is composed of and also ability to determine how these features are sorted into the language that the people hear. As per Chomsky, children know that all the sentences have a very deep and a surface structure (Cook & Newson, 2014). The knowledge they already have enables them to get an understanding of the deep structure. There are many ways that have been recommended in which individuals believe that children can learn language. For instance, imitation or mimicking can be an example. It is also believed by Chomsky that children learn through the language taught to them by their mothers, also known as motherese. Imitation and overt connection of firms do not influence the learning of the kids. But the way their parents talk to them influences their learning of the language. Children are able to produce key structures of learning language by five years of their age. However, they are able to acquire the complicated structures later. Chomsky believes that certain problems that children face include speech impairment of different types, stuttering and grammatical mistakes etc.


The scientific theories of language are extremely crucial. The general theories provide an analysis of why languages are considered in the way they are. In the case of Chomsky’s approach, there is a universal basis that human beings have the knowledge of linguistic features genetically. The theory given by Chomsky helps in providing testable hypotheses, rules and estimations about what happens in a language compared to the human languages. The data which is used to test the hypothesis is derived from the intuitions of the native speakers (Cook & Newson, 2014). An individual studies what he knows about his language. He does not study whether sentences adhere to the grammar rules or not. An example can be taken to analyse the approach of Chomsky. For instance, an individual would not study why ‘He loves painting’ is incorrect. Instead, the individual will examine why ‘Meera does not paint well’ is not a proper sentence. So, it can be indicated that language is like a window into the brain, and it helps in providing understanding of how the brain works. The theory given by Chomsky helps in accommodating the empirical data. As a result of this, hypotheses can be changed or improved.


The work of Chomsky is aligned with the analytic philosophy. In his works, logic and language are key factors due to which his approach is accepted by various linguistics. Chomsky has used logic and mathematics in the linguistics analysis resulting in a different formal language. Chomsky had even developed a small set of rules to generate various combination of words to develop sentences that are grammatically correct. He used an algorithm to estimate the sentences that are grammatically right (McGilvray, 2014). Due to his work, he has received high recognition from various analytic philosophers. He has contributed immensely towards a key methodological change in the human science and disagreed to the behaviourism in linguistics. He believed that it should never be used in linguistics. His also wrote an excellent book named Aspects of Theory of Syntax, which helped in developing a new cognitive approach to language. This helped the philosophers within new way to explore the human language. He has defended his views well and also engaged in various debates.


Overall, there is widespread acceptance of the theory given by Chomsky and psychologists also believe that children learn language genetically but there is still a debate about the ideas of Chomsky. The debate is regarding whether universal grammar concepts can be used for language learning or not. There have been other linguists who have surveyed the languages in the world and determined that language acquisition devices were not universal. Also, languages did not have noun or verb phrases, tenses etc. So, the approach of Chomsky is debated in the language development field and there are new things and theories coming up every now and then about it.


Difference between FLB and FLN

There are various technical language concepts that are used in the literature. Two of these concepts are FLB and FLN. As far as FLB is concerned, it is a broad Faculty of Language, which is the general human ability to use language. This includes things that are not specific to language (Slabakova, 2020). The examples are memory and physical speech anatomy. On the other hand, another important concept is FLN, which is a narrow Faculty of Language. It indicates that the components of the human ability to use language that can be used for language only and do not include physical, biological and cognitive processes. The concept of Universal Grammar is an example of FLN.

The concepts of FLN and FLB are used with certain properties but these do not develop any controversy. The focus of these properties is to fit in the categories. As per Chomsky, the properties of FLB that are part of FLN “third factors’ ‘ are considered to be the properties that are not due to two key reasons. The first reason is the genetic capacity for language and the second reason is the experience in the world. Chomsky has even narrowed down FLN to certain properties, which is Merge (Slabakova, 2020). It is the operation that allows us to develop larger phrases from smaller phrases. The key focus of the Minimalist Program is to examine how many properties of language can be removed from FLN. Other experts in the field still recommend that FLN has more properties and many of them even refuse to use Merge. This topic is extremely debatable and there are various answers to address various controversies.

Chomsky in his works has also explained about the concepts of E-language and I-language.  In various studies, language is also considered something existent while grammar is something abstract. Grammar does not exist like language. However, Chomsky has insisted on this fact that language does not exist, and it is the grammar which exists. Language is an external thing for our brain while grammar is an internal thing for our brain. He has renamed language and grammar as E-language and I-language; E-language is external language and I-language is internal language. E-language is something which is derived from external apparatus while I-language is something which is derived internally by the brain. These concepts are basically approaching to language in general (Yang et al.  2017). The object of study for Chomsky was I-language as he did not focus much on actual speech. Individuals when given knowledge of Universal Grammar at birth acquire the knowledge of I-language. The basic difference between the two types of concept is the source from where the knowledge of these is derived. I-Language is the internal linguistic knowledge in the mind of every speaker, but E-language is the observable language.

Chomsky has disagreed to use E-language as he has considered it to be undeserving of study. As per him, only I-language is the suitable objective in the field of linguistics. These languages have social meaning and considered by the people as a langue. However, his disagreement has received a lot of opposition from other linguistics and that too in various aspects. However, Chomsky has always been intact on his beliefs of linguistics.


Critical appraisal of functionalist/cognitive approaches to language

Chomsky considers language as a natural object and a critical element of human mind. It is also physically indicated in the brain. Chomsky did not agree to behaviourism and focused on understanding behaviour and language as a key function of environment. Chomsky exposed his limitations as well. As per him, there are many properties of language that are innate and can be found in deep structures of language. However, as a concept behaviourism is not feasible for such languages (Yang et al. 2017).

Chomsky’s work is also focussed on functionalism. Functionalism is a crucial concept with respect to the language. In linguistics, it is the approach to language study which is associated with the functions performed by the language. It is in terms of cognition, expression and conation (Ambridge, Pine & Lieven, 2014). This approach is focused on the fact that elements in several languages are able to achieve these functions in different ways including grammatically and phonologically. There are certain linguists who have applied the results so as to work on various concepts such as stylistics and literary criticism.


In the case of functionalism, it considers functionality of language and its various elements to be the major linguistic process. As far as the functional theories of language are concerned, these indicate that language is a tool, and the structures of the language are analysed and comprehended in an effective way. Functional theories of grammar are associated with structural and humanistic linguistics. Language is considered as a key human construction (Cook & Newson, 2014). These theories consider the context where linguistic elements are used in an effective way. These help in providing an understanding of uses and functions of the language in a specific environment. Therefore, the key role of the functional theories is to focus on the way language is being used for communication. The relations between linguistic elements are considered to be motivated.

Contrast with formalist approaches like Generative Grammar

Generative Grammar is a theory of grammar which indicates that human language is structured using a set of key principles which is a key part of the human brain. As per Chomsky, universal grammar comes from the ability of innate language faculty. This theory was first developed by Chomsky in the 1950s. Linguists studying generative grammar are not interested in prescriptive rules. Those linguists are more interested in revealing the basic principles that guide different language production. Generative grammar is considered as a basic premise that native speakers of a language will determine sentences that are grammar or ungrammatical (Slabakova, 2020). These judgements provide insight about the rules that govern the use of the language in an effective way.

The key principle of generative grammar is that individuals are born with an inbuilt capacity for language. This ability defines the rules for what should be right grammar in a language. However, universal grammar is not accepted by all linguists. There are certain linguists who think that languages are learned and not in-built in individuals. Followers of universal grammar believe that children, during their early years of life do not get enough knowledge of linguistics to understand various grammar rules (Slabakova, 2020). But there is an innate capacity of the children to understand the grammar rules in an effective way.


It can be concluded that language learning has a critical role in the society. Language teaching in a classroom is about the communication between the teachers and learners. However, there are a lot of theories in language learning. There are many linguistics who have worked in the field and provided knowledge of the language. This helps in providing various theories that can be considered for language learning and development. This essay has analysed the theories given by Chomsky. Chomsky has done a lot of work in logistics and his work is recognised across the globe.

The work done by Chomsky in linguistics have huge implications for modern language learning. He has considered linguistics as a branch of cognitive psychology. His theory and approaches are concerned with logics. He has considered linguistics theory to be universal for every language. He has contributed immensely to the field and considered that it develops from various theories.

His approach, concept of I-language and E-language is widely accepted among various linguistics. His theory that all languages include the same structures and rules is right. Also, he has believed that children acquire language in the same way and there is not much effort put by them. This indicates that individuals are born wired with the fundamentals already in their brains about the language. His concepts of I-language and E-language are based on the same theory. It is crucial for the teachers to have proper knowledge of the language theories such that they can create awareness among the children about it. This influences the ability of the teachers to provide proper content and instructions to their students.


Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., & Lieven, E. V. (2014). Child language acquisition: Why universal grammar doesn’t help. Language, 90(3), e53-e90.

Chomsky, N. (2013). 4. A Review of BF Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour (pp. 48-64). Harvard University Press.

Cook, V., & Newson, M. (2014). Chomsky’s universal grammar: An introduction. John Wiley & Sons

McGilvray, J. (2014). Chomsky: Language, mind and politics. Polity.

Slabakova, R. (2020). Second language acquisition.

Yang, C., Crain, S., Berwick, R. C., Chomsky, N., & Bolhuis, J. J. (2017). The growth of language: Universal Grammar, experience, and principles of computation. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 81, 103-119.