Chomsky Theory vs. Piaget Theory

The topic on language development is among the oldest and most debated topics. The earliest theories on language development assumed that children acquire language through imitation. Although research indicates that children who imitate actions of those around them learn to talk more quickly, evidence also indicates that imitation alone cannot prove the way children acquire language. Chomsky one of the major language acquisition theorists believed that the mastery of a child’s native language is influenced by the presence of innate properties of language. He believed that people have inner knowledge about language learning, which influences language acquisition (Shrum & Glisan, 2010). However, Piaget seems to have taken a different position on language development. According to his theory, language acquisition is regulated by intellectual development and language limitations reflect a child’s cognitive limitations (Gale, 2015). Consistently, and drawing upon existing literature, we research and critique the theories of Noam Chomsky alongside Piaget’s theory. We explore and analyze the views of each of the two theorists’ view of the educational system in the United States.

Chomsky’s Theory vs. Piaget Theory

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Chomsky’s language development theory asserts greater attention to the innate ability of a child to learn the language. The theory holds that children have an intrinsic ability to organize language, but cannot fully utilize these characteristics without assistance from other humans. The theory as Shrum and Glisan (2010) asserts claims that children are born with a Language Acquisition Device (LAD), hard-wired in their brains, which provides them with the basic principle of language and helps them in language acquisition. On the other hand, Jean Piaget’s theory theorizes that language is made of symbols and structures. As a child’s mental abilities mature, language exhibits itself. Contrary to Chomsky’s theory that believes that language development comes from an innate ability to synthesize the successive levels achieved by developing complex elements, Jean Piaget’s theory considers language acquisition to be the outcome of a gradual process of cognitive construction. 

Chomsky and Piaget’s View of the Educational System in the United States

According to Noam Chomsky, education must provide individuals with opportunities for self-fulfillment or a rich and challenging environment to explore in their own way (Barsky, 1998). Humans have an innate capacity for language that is often activated at infancy through little environmental stimuli. In this case, individuals develop best when they are provided with the opportunity to explore and create freely instead of following rigid pedagogical principles. The principle concept of Chomsky’s educational philosophy aligns with his thesis on linguistics that specific aspects of language use and acquisition are innate to the human mind and not a result of individual learning. Chomsky asserts that the goal of teaching is to nurture growth and to create learning interest among students. The role of the teacher is to keep learners engaged in the learning process and trigger their interest in exploration and independence (Bovitch, Cullimore, Bramwell-Jones, Massas, & Perun, 2013). However, Jean Piaget’s theory seems to differ with Chomsky on the way the curricula should be designed. From a perspective of Piaget’s theory, the curriculum should allow the learners to explore, experiment, and to question. The theory advocates providing children with opportunities to debate with each other, as the teacher plays the role of a guidance or facilitator. In a way, this is similar to Chomsky’s view, which asserts the importance of making a subject worth learning to allow learners develop the natural curiosity and interest in truth and understanding. Extending the similarity of Chomsky’s to Piaget’s theory on the view of education, Chomsky believes that it does not matter what the instructor teaches the students, but how much the teacher develops the capacity to discover. 

Notably, though, Piaget favored an education system based on cognitive processes. In his interview, he emphasized the problem with the American education that was product-oriented with an emphasis on assessment and yearly progress (Hopkins, 2011). In his words, he believed that no child would be left behind because most of them would not get far, which were similar to Chomsky. Ideally, Chomsky does not agree with the current American educational system, which he believes some elements of the curriculum fails to address sufficiently the current issues of the educational system (Olson & Faigley, 2007). In fact, Chomsky views the education system as an extension of the political system, where learners are expected to obey and follow orders and the cycle is repeated severally (Paleeri, 2010). Overall, Chomsky and Piaget’s are theories attempting to explain language acquisition among children. Although the theories differ in various dimensions, they are also similar in some elements. 


Barsky, R. F. (1997). Noam Chomsky: A life of dissent. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Bovitch, S., Cullimore, Z., Bramwell-Jones, T., Massas, E., & Perun, D. (2013). The educational theory of Noam Chomsky. NewFoundations. Retrieved from

Gale, C. L. (2015.). Study guide for psychologists and their theories for students: Jean Piaget. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning.

Hopkins, J. R. (2011). The Enduring Influence of Jean Piaget. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from

Olson, G. A., & Faigley, L. (n.d). Language, Politics, and Composition. Journal of Advanced Composition, 11(1).

Paleeri, S. (2010). Chomskyan cognitivism and linguistic: irreproachable ideals for educational psychology and designing learning. I-manager’s Journal on Educational Psychology, 4(3), 21-25.Shrum, J. L., & Glisan, E. W. (2010). Teacher’s handbook: Contextualized language instruction. Boston, Mass.:  Heinle Cengage Learning.

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