Volume 32, 1998
Philosophy of Language
How Did They Do It?
Language Learning in Bruner and Wittgenstein
A crucial phase in the child's development comes with its acquisition of language, but before we can engage in any pedagogical efforts to further infant development or to aid atypical cases, we need to understand methodologically what occurs during language learning. Jerome Bruner, in a methodological adaptation of Ludwig Wittgenstein's middle and later work in an extension of Noam Chomsky's LAD, has put forth one influential proposal (Bruner 1983). Ludwig Wittgenstein's own remarks on the topic also furnish an interesting story independent of Bruner's selective use of his corpus, especially insofar as his approach results in an irreducible riddle and a hypothesis by his own account (Wittgenstein 1953 and 1958). The two views are explored, contrasted and critiqued. In the end, neither will do to resolve problems in our methodological understanding of language acquisition, for which the most important reasons are given.