Rhetorical Functions in Academic Writing: Identifying voices


Identify the voices in the following text.

Chomsky's assertion about the defectiveness and degeneracy of adult speech is not strictly true, at least as far as it applies to what children hear. In fact, according to Newport et al. (1977), almost all the speech that a young child hears (at least, in industrialised English-speaking societies) is grammatically correct. If that is so, why should we hypothesise that a language acquisition device exists? Because, say some researchers, not all children are exposed to child-directed speech. 'In some societies people tacitly assume that children aren't worth speaking to and don't have anything to say that is worth listening to. Such children learn to speak by overhearing streams of adult-to-adult speech' (Pinker, 1990, p. 218).

Pinker's statement is very strong; it says that children in some cultures have no speech directed towards them until they have mastered the language. It implies that the children's mothers do not talk to them and ignores the fact that older children may not be quite so choosy about their conversational partners. To conclude that such an extreme statement is true would require extensive observation and documentation of child-rearing practices in other cultures. One of the strongest biological tendencies of our species is for a mother to cherish, play with and communicate with her offspring. If there really is a culture in which mothers do not do so, we need better documentation.

In fact, children do not learn a language that they simply overhear. Bonvillian et al. (1976) studied children of deaf parents whose only exposure to spoken language was through television or radio. This exposure was not enough; although the children could hear and did watch television and listen to the radio, they did not learn to speak English. It takes more than 'overhearing streams of adult-to-adult speech' to learn a language (p. 56). The way that parents talk to their children is closely related to the children's language acquisition (Furrow et al., 1979; Furrow and Nelson, 1986).

(Martin, G. N., Carlson, N. R. & Buskist, W. Psychology. Pearson, 2007, p. 426)

Press this button to check your answers: