A. Four Fundamental Language Abilities of Speakers
1. Ability to produce and comprehend Sentences with no limit as to length.
e.g. The cute little girl who could play baseball very well loved her kitten so much that she put it in her backpack so that she could take it with her everywhere.
We could add more words at various position in the sentence. Actually, there is no limit, to making the sentence longer.
2. Ability to produce and comprehend an unlimited number of sentences.
How many sentences can there be in a language? Well, we can derive this answer from the fact established above, i.e., there is no fixed length to a sentence. We can always create another sentence by making a prior sentence longer or by making another sentence that is different from any other. So we can conclude that there is no fixed number of sentences which a speaker can produce or comprehend.
3. Ability to produce and comprehend novel sentences
Speakers can produce and comprehend sentences that are new (novel) in the sense that they have never encountered such sentences before. It is not likely.
4. Ability to Produce and Comprehend Grammatical Sentences.
This is the ability to look at the sentence such as “The girl loved her kitten so much that she put in her backpack” is not grammatical
B. Explaining the Four Abilities with Behaviorist, Psychological and Structural Linguistic Theories
1. Nobody's Whole Sentence Theory.
Nobody's whole Sentence Theory is a very simple and clear inadequate theory. Basically, according to this theory, a person learns a whole sentence. They do so by memorizing every sentence that they hear, along with its surroundings so that sentences may have meaning. In a simple way, it is like how a child has to learn a language using stimulus like objects, events and etc. This is to establish the meaning to what they have learned so that it they can remember it forever.
2. Watson's Word Association Theory,
Watson Theory makes two essential claims about what language speakers learn:
a. Speakers learn a number of words and each word consists of around form which connects to a meaning. The meaning derives from relating to objects and events in the environment, e.g. the sound form 'boy' is connected with the object 'boy' in the environment, and
b. Whenever speakers learn a sentence, they also learn at the same time the interconnections between the words.
The problem of grammaticality confounds Watson's theory and renders meaningless its capacity to meet the criteria of length, number, and novelty. Watso n's theory, therefore, fails to explain the basic language abilities of speakers.
3. Staats's Word Class Association Theory,
Staat's word class association theory is the extension of Watson's theory. In the Watson’s theory, it is the words associated to form sentences. However, in Staat’s theory, it is the word classes related to each other. In other words, the word classes have the relations between them. Word class is part of speech. He stated that a sentence is formed by the association of words. The sentence then will develop into word classes such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and articles. Staat’s theory is powerful because the word classes and substitution within a class. The substitution of words can have the similar characteristics or similar word classes. However, Staats's theory cannot explain the basic language abilities of speakers.
4. Fris's Sentence Frame Theory,
When a sentence consists of all of the word classes, then, it is the Fries’s Sentence Frame Theory. According to Fries’s theory, new sentences will be produced by substituting the words within word classes. For example, "The baby cried." which include Article + Noun + Verb word classes. However, his theory also is inadequate because it is limitless in the multitude of sentences which will generate or yield both grammatical and ungrammatical strings happen and there are not differentiated.
5. Skinner's Sentence Frame Theory.
According to Skinner (1957, p. 346), speakers learn 'standard patterns' or 'skeletal frames' as a basis for sentence composition. This is similar to Fries's theory of sentence frames except that it restricts the composition of frames to that of 'key responses', nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Knowledge of frames permits a speaker to order the key responses. Once key responses are ordered, other words may be added, e.g. 'a', ' the', 'some', and 'all' for 'quantification', and ' is', 'not' , ' like', and 'as' for 'qualification' . Thus, for example, given the key responses 'hungry' and 'man' in composing a sentence, they will be ordered on the basis of the frame Noun + Adjective as 'man' + 'hungry' and then quantified and qualified with ' the' and 'is' to yield the sentence, 'The man is hungry'. Therefore, Skinner's theory is also inadequate because his theory failed to explain the four language abilities of speakers.