Theory Essay

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The Behaviourist Theory ------------------------------------------------- Introduction The Behaviourist Theory (also known Empiricism, Behaviourism, Behavioural Theory, Stimulus-response Theory) stands among the major theoretical perspectives within the field of first language acquisition. It began as a reaction against the introspective psychology of the late 19th and early 20th century and dominated the study of learning throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Although its ascendancy was blurred by the emergence of the Innate Theory in the mid 20th century, still today much language learning programmes firmly stand on the foundation laid by the Behaviourist Theory. ------------------------------------------------- Theoretical Assumptions The theoretical assumptions underlying the Behaviourist Theory are as follows: * Language learning is a habit formation resembling the formation of other habits. In other words, Language is learned in the way in which other habits are learned. * Language learning is nothing more than the acquisition of new behaviour or knowledge. It takes place when experience or practice causes a change in a person's knowledge or behaviour. * Language learning is an external event, because it involves an observable change in behaviour brought about by the stimuli coming from the environment. It does not involve any unobservable change in mental knowledge. All behaviours can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness. * Only human beings have the capacity for language learning. They acquire a language as discrete units of habits, independently trained, not as an integrated system. ------------------------------------------------- Background of the Theory The behaviourist school of thought ran concurrent with the psychoanalysis movement in psychology in the 20th

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