Human language and linguistics are very complex systems. They are a systematic combination of signs, complex acoustic sounds, and imageries that build languages. They are huge variations among speech and tone, making it difficult to distinguish verbal language without a profound scientific study. I found Skinner’s verbal behavior speculative regarding human language. Skinner suggested that speech can be controlled in reference to the stimulus use, the environment in which the person resides, the reinforcements applied and lastly, the individual genes (Collins, 2007). The notion of control in this aspect leads to severe critiques from authors like Chomsky, because Skinner looked only into the observable dimension of verbal behavior, ignoring other aspects that may be applied to other animals but not humans.
Chomsky, in example, accused Skinner’s research to be only applicable to other animals in a laboratory, but not humans. According to Chomsky (1959), “Skinner’s speculations regarding language, but rather as a more general critique of behaviorist speculation as to the nature of higher mental processes” (p. 14). Therefore, because language is a mental process that necessitates the use of thought, it is very difficult to classify it as a behavior that can be controlled. Chomsky accused Skinner in generalizing his research on nonhuman species to humans considering that language was similar to other responses to a stimulus and can be controlling base of that factor. Therefore, Chomsky considered Skinner’s approach not to be scientific, in the sense that the control of reinforcements applied to a pigeon (referring to Skinner’s experiment) cannot be applied to a young child (Chomsky, 1959, P. 17). The most significant points from Chomsky’s critique of Skinner’s verbal behavior was that a basic assumption of behaviorism that all stimuli-responses functioned the same way on any cognitive psychological study was wrong.
Chomsky’s attack on Skinner is totally legitimate and I agree with the concept that Skinner’s assertions lack direct research in the linguistic field related to human language. I believe Skinner was quick to conclude that his experiment on nonhuman species can be applied to humans. In addition, the stimulus-response approach will not be, in my opinion, very efficient in studying human language due to the psychological processes that take place behind every word said by a human. Therefore, Skinner’s hypothesis that speech was a direct relation to the stimulus related to the multiple verbiage of the environment in which humans residue was limited in substance (Dymond & Alonso-Alvarez, 2010). I believe Chomsky made in his critique a clear difference between laboratory research and real-life, by requesting necessary experiments in the field of human linguistics.
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