Noam Chomsky saw language as an innate capacity. From this nativist viewpoint, people possess innate mechanisms for language acquisition. Many nativists believe in a critical period for language acquisition and cite the success of language adaptation among adolescent immigrants over adult immigrants as support.


1. Phonology - he study of the sounds of a language

2. Phoneme - smallest unit in a language (in English "st" but not "sb")

3. Morphology - the study of morphemes or the smallest combinations of sounds that have meaning within a language (prepositions, prefixes, and suffixes)

4. Syntax - rules of grammar

5. Semantics - rules for selecting words that express an intended meaning

6. Pragmatics - the use of language in different social contexts (turn-taking, nonverbal communication, and slang)

Language Structure:

1. Surface structures - organization of words, phrases, and sentences

a. Example: "Visiting relatives can be tiresome."

2. Deep structures - meaning gained from surface structures

a. Example: "Relatives who visit can be tiresome."

b. Example: "Going to visit relatives can be tiresome."

Effective verbal communication involves translating deep structures into surface structures that will be understood by the listener. Listening is the opposite - in order to understand the communication, a listener must determine the deep structure from the surface structure.