The behaviorist perspective emphasizes the role of “nurture” and considers learning to occur based on the stimuli, responses, and reinforcements that occur in the environment.
The nativist perspective emphasizes inborn or innate human capabilities (i.e., “nature”) as being responsible for language development. Linguist Noam Chomsky is the major theorist associated with the nativist perspective. Chomsky's contributions to our understanding of the acquisition and structure of language have been significant (1965, 1975, 2002; Pinker, 1994). Chomsky contends that all people inherently have the capacity to acquire language due to cognitive structures that process language differently from other stimuli.
The cognitive developmental perspective is based in the work of Jean Piaget (1955). The emphasis of this perspective is that language is acquired as maturation occurs and cognitive competencies develop. Whereas the nativist perspective emphasizes the inborn language mechanism, the cognitive developmental perspective assumes that cognitive development is a “prerequisite and foundation for language learning” (Karmiloff & Karmiloff-Smith, 2001, p. 5). This perspective also proposes that a child learns language by using the same mechanisms as for other learning.
The interactionist perspective focuses on the primary role of sociocultural interaction in children's development of language knowledge (Bruner, 1983, 1990; John-Steiner, Panofsky, & Smith, 1994; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986). This perspective contends that children acquire language through their attempts to communicate with the world around them. This perspective contributes to our understanding of the ways in which children acquire pragmatic language knowledge.