April 5, 2024

Constructivism: Language is a mental model (1973)

by Mateusz Wiącek

Jean Piaget is famous for his theories regarding changes in cognitive development that occur as we move from infancy to adulthood. Children process information in a different way than adults.

In 1973 Piaget proposed a new way of thinking about language and language acquisition, contrasting it with the nativism theory of Chomsky. According to this theory, a child’s concept of the word differs from that of an adult, and the child goes through different stages that will end in adult understanding. 

  • Cognitive development results from the interplay between innate capabilities (nature) and environmental influences (nurture).
  • A child’s cognitive development is not just about acquiring knowledge; the child has to develop or construct a mental model of the world (which is called a schema). Learning the meaning is created via experience and the mind produces its own unique reality.
  • Learning by memorizing rigid facts is not effective. Constructs become more firmly rooted in memory when there is some teaching emphasis on the utilization of pre-existing knowledge.

Language is all in the mind.

This is known as constructivism.

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