Compare and contrast the three theories of language acquisition.

Three theories of language acquisition are behaviorism, in which children learn through imitation and reward, nativism, in which the brain has the innate ability to learn language, and cognitive development, in which a child learns a concept and then acquire language skills to express it.

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The three theories of language acquisition are important for both language instructors and language learners. Language instructors hope to use the theories to teach more effectively. Mature language learners want to acquire a working knowledge of foreign languages more quickly. First language acquisition has been an intriguing subject for many centuries but not much research was done in it until the second half of the twentieth century. That research, which is now facilitated by computers, is ongoing.

The first theory of language acquisition, behaviorism, is in harmony with the tabula rasa or "blank slate" theory of the human mind at birth. John Locke, a seventeenth-century British philosopher, believed that the human brain was blank at birth. Twentieth-century behaviorism stems from the work of B. F. Skinner (1902–1990). Skinner's operant conditioning is based on responses to verbal behavior. Children who say "want milk" are reinforced in that behavior by parents who give them what...

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