The purpose of this paper is briefly delineate Chomsky's theory of language learning and to then examine research and theory which has attempted to delineate and/or test the extent to which this theory might be related to foreign language teaching in high school and middle school. The review begins with a very brief description of some of the key concepts of Chomsky's linguistic model.
Chomsky's Perspective of Language Learning
Noam Chomsky was a linguist who first came to fame when he took issue with the behavioristic notions of B.F. Skinner arguing that no theory of language learning could be practically based on operant conditioning principles; as Chomsky viewed it, parents simply did not go to such ends to correct their children's language (Chomsky, 1957). In delineating his perspective of language learning, Chomsky proposed several notions which have become something akin to "mainstays" of linguistic theory.
The first of Chomsky's notions is called the "language acquisition device" or LAD. LAD refers to a person's innate childhood ability to learn language. It is through the device that a child is said to unconsciously gather ideas about language rules. Through this generative neural capacity, children acquire rules for understanding and constructing their native language (Chomsky, 1957).
Chomsky offered an explanation of the nature of language in keeping with his interpretation of the processes by which children acquire it. Specifically, he proposed that language has two levels a "surface structure" and a "deep structure." The surface structure consists of the actual words in it and the order in which they occur. The deep structure has to do with fundamental syntactical relationships underlying these words; in other words, the deep structure concerns the intended meaning or the thoughts conveyed by language (Chomsky, 1957, 1965).
Chomsky devised a model of "transformational grammar" to convert under...