ok so I'm trying to understand the argument for an innate language faculty, and specifically Chomsky's opposition to the behaviorist model of language acquisition. Behaviorists thought that language acquisition could be accounted for by a combination of mimicry and positive feedback. My understanding is that Chomsky refuted this position, stating that behaviorism cannot account for linguistic creativity. In other words, if children were only able to repeat syntactic structures that they heard in their input, they would not be expected to to be capable of producing novel sentences.
But I don't understand why this is the case. Lets say I've heard and understood two sentences:
- I want to pet the dog
- The cat is purring
... and I later produce the sentence "I want to pet the cat". Is this an example of creativity? I guess this would assume an underlying understanding of syntax, I guess it's a bad example...? Idk bro I'm confusing myself, but it seems like I produced a novel sentence that I haven't heard before using the input I've been exposed to.
Do children really make sentences that can't be somehow derived from their input in this way? Children don't use syntactic structures that they literally have never heard before... right?
I'm definitely trying to play devils advocate with myself here, as I understand that the language faculty must have some element of creativity in order to account for languages existing in the first place (because how would a child learn from mimicking input when there was no input). I'm just trying to get a better mental understanding of where exactly children show such a massive gap between exposure and competence.