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Mentalism in Language

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Dalal Alsharif

on 5 December 2014

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Transcript of Mentalism in Language

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning

Chomsky's Ideas

(in Language)


• Language is a gift that was earned effortlessly
• Questions about its nature and acquisition are raised
• Efforts have been started to be made in trial to answer those questions

Learning Theories (Psychology)

• Behaviorism

• Mentalism

Mentalism (in Psychology)

• Def. 1: The doctrine that objects of knowledge have no existence except in the mind of the perceiver.
• Def. 3: Any psychological theory that accepts as a proper subject of study the mental basis for human behavior.

• Def. 1: (Philosophy) the doctrine that mind is the fundamental reality and that objects of knowledge exist only as aspects of the subject's consciousness.

• Mentalism is a general term for scientific approaches to various phenomena that try to study the properties of the human mind, rather than just their directly observable manifestations (Glottopedia)

Mentalism (in Linguistics)

• In linguistics, mentalism is associated both with generative linguistics and with more modern approaches that go under the heading of cognitive linguistics. Mentalist linguists try to describe the mental patterns of language (or the internalized grammars) that underlie linguistic behavior. (Glottopedia)

• It is the belief that mental states and processes are prior to and exist independently of behavior. As such, it is the opposite of behaviorism. The mentalist notions of Chomskyan linguistics, such as the competence/performance distinction and universal grammar, have had a profound influence on applied linguistics. (Blackwell)

Mentalism (in Language Learning)

• Hashem

• How could Hashem learn to talk ?

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning

Noam Chomsky :

• December 7, 1928
• Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
• An American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political
commentator and activist.
• The father of modern linguistics
• World's top public intellectual

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning
Mentalist school of thought

• Innate (inborn)
• Cognitive process (mental process)
• Born with language learning ability - LAD
• Natural exposure / Listening
• Decoder- Analyzer
• Input LAD Output
• Application / Communication
• Generative
• Nature and Nurture

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning
Chomsky's Ideas

• Innateness hypothesis / Nativism
It is a biologically based linguistic theory, which argues that humans are born pre-programmed and equipped with knowledge of certain universal elements of language structure that make them capable of innately acquire and develop language in an incredibly very short time.

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning
Chomsky's Ideas

• Language acquisition device (LAD)
It is a hypothetical module of the human mind posited to account for children's innate predisposition for language acquisition (Chomsky 1965).

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning
Chomsky's Ideas

• Universal grammar (UG)
It simply states that

o The ability to learn grammar is hard-wired into the brain
o all languages share the same basic structures or properties and are only transformed into different languages by specific rules

Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning
Chomsky's Ideas

• Generative grammar

o It an innate ability
o Related to UG
o It gives a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form well-formed grammatical sentences.
o Finite &Infinite.
o Ex. Color Mixing.
o It characterizes sentences as either ‘grammatically correct’ (also known as well formed) or not.

Mentalism (in Second Language Leaning)

Direct Method

• Also called Natural Method
• No L1, only L2 (target language) is allowed
• Imitating L1 acquisition

• Teaching concepts and vocabulary through pantomiming, real-life objects and other visual materials
• Teaching grammar by using an inductive approach (i.e. having learners find out rules through the presentation of adequate linguistic forms in the target language)
• Centrality of spoken language (including a native-like pronunciation)
• Focus on question-answer patterns

Mentalist Perspective in Second Language Learning

Chomsky's Influences on SLA

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

• Also called Communicative Approach
• Communication through Interaction in the target language
• Communication is both the mean and the ultimate goal
• Interested in the needs and desires of their learners
• Connection between the language: inside & outside classroom
•Using notions and functions rather than grammar and vocabulary in language definition
o Notional categories: time, location, frequency, and quantity
o Functional categories: offers, complaints, denials, and requests
• Encourage learners to take risks
• Encourage learners to use new constructs other than old memorized patterns.


• Mentalism (in Language)
• Language
• Learning Theories (Psychology)
• Mentalism (in Psychology)
• Mentalism (in Linguistics)
• Mentalism (in Language Learning)
• Mentalist Perspective in Language Learning
• Mentalism (in Second Language Leaning)
• Mentalist Perspective in Second Language Learning

Quiz !

References & Bibliography

• Def. 1 & 3.
• Def. 1. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
• ‘Mentalism’
• ‘Mentalism’
• First Steps, The Human Body, BBC television series, 1998.
• Picture: Chomsky. Film-Szenenbild (09.03.2009) © Studio / Produzent
• Picture:
• Picture: Rjeem magazine.
• Trask, Robert Lawrence (2007). Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts. Taylor & Francis.
• Lightbown, Spada (2006). How Languages are Learned. Oxford University Press. Ch. 1 & 2.
• Mitchell, Myles (2004) Second Language Learning Theories. Arnold.
• "Innateness hypothesis | Define Innateness hypothesis at". Retrieved 2013-09-15
• Chomsky, Noam (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. MIT Press.
• Noam Chomsky. "Tool Module: Chomsky's Universal Grammar". Retrieved 2010-10-07.
• Richards, Rodgers (2001) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.
• Mitchell, Rosamond (1994). "The communicative approach to language teaching". In Swarbick, Ann. Teaching Modern Languages. New York: Routledge. pp. 33–42.

King Abdulaziz University
English Language Institute
Dalal Alsharif

ELI 600 - Second Language Acquisition
Fall 2015

Mentalist Perspective in Second Language Learning

Chomsky's Influences on SLA

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

• In USA,

o Dell Hymes developed the concept of communicative competence as a reaction to Chomsky’s concept of the linguistic competence of an ideal native speaker.

o Hymes redefined what it meant to “know” a language.

o There are rules of use without which the rules of grammar would be useless (Hymes1994).

Mentalist Perspective in Second Language Learning

Chomsky's Influences on SLA

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

• In UK,

o Doubts about the efficacy of the old language teaching methods were started partly in response to Chomsky’s insights into the nature of language.

o Chomsky had shown that the structural theories of language prevalent at the time could not explain the creativity and variety evident in real communication.

Mentalism (in Language Learning)

• Before Chomsky's time, Language is a cultural phenomenon based on imitation.
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