Language Acquisition Language Acquisition The acquisition of language is doubtless

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					  Language Acquisition

   The acquisition of language is
doubtless the greatest linguistic feat
  any one of us is ever required to
   perform. Leonard Bloomfield
Theories of language acquisition
• B. F. Skinner--Verbal Behavior, published
  in 1957
• Founder of behaviorist psychology
• Children learn language through imitation,
  reinforcement and analogy
• Noam Chomsky—Review of Verbal
  Behavior (1959)
• Language—a complex cognitive system
• Focus on the people’s mind—its ability to
  produce language
Do children learn though imitation?
Children learn language by listening to the
 adult speech around them and reproducing
 what they hear.
Arguments for this explanation:

1. Learn many things by imitating.
2. Learn the language of our home and
  environment, vocabulary and accent.
• Arguments against imitation:
1. Comprehension precedes production.
• David: [asks to ride the] mewy-go-wound
• 2nd child: David wants to go on the mewy-go-
• David: you didn't say it wight.
•     (Clark and Clark 1977, p. 385)
2. Mistakes are predictable and consistent
• Child: My teacher holded the baby rabbits and we
   patted them.
• Adult: Did you say your teacher held the baby
• Child: yes.
• Adult: What did you say she did?
• Child: She holded the baby rabbits and we patted
• Adult: Did you say she held them tightly?
• Child: No, she holded them loosely.
• These forms are not found in adult speech.
• hitted, goed, tooths
• Do children learn language through
• Children learn through positive and
  negative reinforcement
• Correction of ‘bad grammar’ and reward for
  ‘good grammar’
    Child: Nobody don't like me.
 Mother: No, say 'Nobody likes me.'
    Child: Nobody don't like me.
[Eight repetitions of this dialog, then:]
Mother: No, now listen carefully. Say,
           'Nobody likes me.'
  Child: Oh! Nobody don't likes me.
• Children do not know understand their mistakes
  and corrections
        Child: Want other one spoon, Daddy.
   Father: You mean, you want the other spoon.
 Child: Yes, I want other one spoon, please, Daddy.
      Father: Can you say “the other spoon”?
           Child: Other … one … spoon.
                Father: say … other
                    Child: Other.
                  Father: Spoon.
Do children learn language though Analogy?
Children put words together to form phrases
 and sentences by analogy.
Use the sentences they hear as samples
• Do children learn language through
  structured input?
Children learn language because adults speak
  to them in simplified language
                   Baby talk
Characteristics of caregiver talk (motherese):
               a. exaggerated intonation
       b. slow speech/careful pronunciation
                   c. simple sentences
        d. proper nouns instead of pronouns
             e. questions and imperatives
                       f. repetitions

Are you hungry? or Is baby hungry?
• In many cultures, adults do not speak
  special register
• In many cultures, adults do not speak to
Do children actively construct grammar?

Children make the rules of grammar based on the
  speech they hear around them.

I have rided a horse.

I have feeded a horse.

foot   foots feets feetses    feet
Noam Chomsky:
  We are designed to walk. … That we are
    taught to walk is impossible. And pretty
  much the same is true of language. Nobody
 is taught language. In fact you can’t prevent
           the child from learning it.
                Human Language Series 2
Children language learning has four characteristics:
1. All children all over the world learn language
2. Children in all speech communities learn language
       a. babbling: about 6 months
       b. First words: about 1 year
       c. First grammatical morphemes: about 2
       d. Basic mastery: about 4 years
       e. Continues learning, especially vocabulary
3. Children learn language without any formal
The innateness of language:
Children are equipped with an innate template
 or blueprint for language
The poverty of stimulus:
Children are exposed to impoverished data
However, they are able to construct a complex
 grammar of their language
Abstract principles/operating strategies not
  identified in the input
Structure dependent rules:
    The cat who is playing is limping a lot.
   *Is the cat who playing is limping a lot?
    Is the cat who is playing limping a lot?
Jack went up the hill.
 Who went up the hill?
Jack and Jill went up the hill.
Who went up the hill?
Jack and who went up the hill?

*Who did Jack and go up the hill?
Stages in the learning of language (English)
• Phonological development:
• Babbling: begin at about six months of age
• Early babbling independent of language of
• Deaf children babble with their hands
• Children practice the phones
Developmental order:
• Vowels before consonants
• Stops before other consonants
• Labials before other consonants
Typical consonants acquired by age two by
 English-speaking child:

• /p, b, m, t, d, n, k, g, f, s, w/

• By age four:
• /p, b, m, t, d, n, k, g, ŋ , f, v, s, z, s, c, j, w,
  j, r, l/
•   Syllable simplification:
•   Stop     [tap]
•   Small [ma]
•   Desk     [d k]
•   Try      [taj]
•   Bump [b p]
• Sing        [t ]
• Sea         [t ]
• Thing       [t ]
• This        [d t]
• Shoes       [tud]
• Look        [wuk]
• Rock        [w k]
• Silly       [siwi]
• Morphological Development:
• Early stages: words of single roots
•                  No affixes
• The development of affixes
1. Case by case learning: man/men bag/bags
2. Overuse of general rule: man/mans bag/bags
3. Mastery of exceptions: man/men bag/bags
• Acquisition order for English bound morphemes
  and functional words (based on the pioneering
  Harvard research of three children between the
  ages of 20 and 36 months):
• 1. –ing
• 2. plural –s
• 3. possessive –s
• 4. the, a
• 5. past tense –ed
• 6. third person singular –s
• 7. auxiliary be                     (page 547)
• Note: The articles the and a are the most frequent
  words in adult speech.
• What does this tell about the imitation theory of
  language learning?
A clear relation between form and meaning

Few or no exceptions: singular nouns –s for plural

Past tense on verbs-- irregular

Allomorphic variation: -ing no variation
-ed, -s and –s’ allomorphic variation

clear meaning: -s plural marker has a clear meaning while –
s third person has no such clear meaning.
• The WUG test: nonsense words-provide
  plural or past forms
• Page 557
• Syntactic Development:
• The One-word stage: (between ages 12
  and 18 months)
• Dada     “I see daddy”—called holophrastic
• Cookie “I want a cookie”
•   The two-word stage:
•   Two-word mini sentences:
•   Hi mommy
•   Byebye boat
•   It ball
•   Dirty sock
•   Jane sock
• The telegraphic stage: longer and complex
• Doll like milk
• Car make noise.
• He good boy
• I good girl.
• Later development:
Yes/No questions and Wh-questions:
• Intonation:
• I ride train?
• I can go?
• See hole?
• Can I can go?
• Can I go?
• Did you did come home?
• Did you come home?
• Where that?
• Why you smiling?
• Where I can go?
• Why you are smiling?
• Where I should sleep?
• Where can I can go?
• Where can I go?
• Semantic development:
•   Overgeneralization/overextension
•   Ball—for everything round
•   Daddy—for all male
•   Narrowing:
•   Dog—pet dog
• Tendencies:
• Morphemes--at the end of the utterance than
  anywhere else.
• A clear relation between form and meaning
• Few or no exceptions: singular nouns –s for plural
• Past tense on verbs-- irregular

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