Pisces’ Playpen Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 2 Contents New Directions in the Teaching of Human Languages—Tim Pulju

Language Acquisition: A Government-Subsidized Model

The implications of the term “language acquisition” are crucial and have yet to be seriously discussed in the literature. “Acquisition” is a loaded word, and it’s time we, as a field, faced the facts about the nomenclature we use.

Funk & Wagnall’s defines “acquisition” as follows: the act of acquiring. Funk & Wagnall’s defines “acquire” as follows: 1. To obtain by one’s own endeavor or action. 2. To come to possess; to receive. In the past, while students of child language have on the whole chosen to leave the meaning of “acquisition” (as they use it) very fuzzy, they have leaned towards the first definition, implying that children somehow take possession of language by their own efforts, even asserting, upon occasion, that children learn language. I believe it is time to take a long hard look at this assumption and examine language in terms of the second definition.

Yes, children receive language. My associates and I have been conducting extensive research on this issue for some years now, and we have discovered that language is in fact distributed through a government program. Government officials visit all homes with children, beginning when the child is about eight months of age, and continue until the child enters school, at which time language delivery is accomplished through the school system.

This is an admittedly startling finding, and many questions will spring at once to the reader’s mind. In the following paragraphs I attempt to address most of these.

I realize that there will continue to be skeptics, but I believe that this account of language acquisition is elegant, parsimonious, and theoretically sound. Further research remains to be done, of course, but I am certain that we have laid a solid foundation on which others may build with no fear of its crumbling. This “language receipt” model of language acquisition is the answer to the ardent prayers of developmental linguists and psycholinguists everywhere.

Carol A. Miller Michigan State University

Note: This study was supported in part by a grant from Mobil Corporation. The author gratefully acknowledges Tim Pulju for his invaluable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and fervently hopes that none of her professors read this.

Pisces’ Playpen
New Directions in the Teaching of Human Languages—Tim Pulju
Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 2 Contents