Where is Language Acquisition studied?

Language acquisition occurs in each and every community across the world that uses speech. But where is it studied?
  • Research into language acquisition dates back to the neo-grammarians of ancient history. However, western societies tend to be the leaders in linguistic research. 
  • Because children in western civilisation tend to have similar exposure to language it is easy to make generalisations about them.
  • Key research has been carried out in institutions such as:
  • Harvard Law School (Skinner)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Chomsky)
  • Duke University and the University of Georgia (Tomasello)
  • Research is expensive to carry out which is why it is carried out in institutions in countries that are relatively wealthy. Unsurprisingly, the U.S.A is responsible for the majority of research over the past 50 years. 

  • Different cultures raise their children in different ways. The more remote and less developed parts of the world tend to have their own rituals and methods of developing children's language, making the less researched areas even more interesting!
  • Whilst most western children learn language in a similar sort of way, there are children worldwide who do not learn language in a typical way. See language acquisition in exceptional circumstances for a look at how blind and deaf children learn language, or hop over to our bilingual language acquisition page for a detailed look into children who develop more than one language at a time!
  • Unfortunately, not all children receive a rich language environment that is so crucial when acquiring language. There have been some cases where children have been raised away from human civilisation and usually reared by animals. Kamala and Amala, the Wolf Girls of Midnapore, were found in India, as was Dina Sanichar, the Indian Wolf Boy.
  • There have been a few instances where children have been raised in horrific conditions, sometimes hearing as little as 5 words throughout childhood. See the extreme social deprivation page for an in-depth look at what effect this treatment has on developing children such as Genie, who was rescued and examined rigorously throughout the 1970s in Los Angeles.
 To find out more about where some key linguists have carried out their research, click here
To find out what discoveries have been made and when, click here