Language Acquisition and Thought Lecture 8 Language Acquisition and Thought Language acquisition is a complicated process, because it involves a wide range of social, psychological, cognitive, linguistic, physiological factors. We shall discuss how language acquisition is achieved and the relationship between language and thought. Acquisition and FL Learning Rod (1985) and Krashen (1981) regard acquisition as the spontaneous internalization of rules and formulas. The term acquisition is often used to refer to first language acquisition and second language acquisition. First language acquisition is also called mother tongue acquisition. Acquisition and FL Learning Acquisition takes place in the speech community where one's first language or second language is spoken. It is often natural, without much focus on form. The learning of English by speakers of other languages in the United States is an example of second language acquisition. Acquisition and FL Learning Foreign language learning usually takes place in the speech community where one's first language is spoken. It is a conscious process through formal school-like settings and requires time for processing, with focus on linguistic form in addition to knowledge of the rules of language use. For example, the learning of English in China. Some linguists use the term learning and acquisition interchangeably to cover both language acquisition and learning. Traditionally, language learning is a process of habit formation. However, the research into first language development by Halliday reveals that language learning is a social process. Halliday regards educational learning as an organized social process in which the construction of meaning occur systematically. To Huba & Freed, learning is interpersonal and is performed by individuals who are intrinsically tied to others as social beings, interacting as competitors or collaborators, constraining or supporting the learning process, and able to enhance learning through cooperation and sharing. The Cognitive Code Theory This theory stresses the fact that the learner brings to the task of learning an innate mental capacity. S/he brings a perception of relationships and an unconscious formulation of the 'rules' resulting from the discovery of the structure and organization of new material and from the perception of its relationship to known material. The importance of the individual's mental organization of learned material seems to show that the nervous system stores images and memories which can then be evoked without a preceding stimulus. The Association or Operant Conditioning Theory This theory indicates that a tie can be established between a stimulus and a response. This behavioristic approach regards learning as a continuous association between stimulus and response, followed immediately by confirmation of the learner's correct response by a teacher, a tape, a record, and so on, resulting in the formation of the habits needed for placing sounds and words in appropriate arrangements. Social factors To Ellis (1994: 191-529), successful second language acquisition involves three kinds of factors: (1) external factors, including social factors, input and interaction; (2) internal factors, including language transfer, cognitive accounts and linguistic universals; (3) individual differences, including individual learner differences and learning strategies. Social factors Social factors Social factors can influence the efficiency of second language acquisition. Learners differ greatly in the type of proficiency they acquire and the ultimate level of proficiency they reach. Although these differences can be accounted for by language aptitude, learning style and personality, they are socially determined. Social factors According to Ellis (1994: 197), the effect of social factors is mediated by a number of variables, for example, learner attitudes. Social factors may determine the learning opportunities which individual learners experience, for example, the learner's socio-economic class and ethnic background may affect the nature and the extent of the input to which they are exposed. First Language Acquisition Every normal child can become a competent speaker of his native language in the first five years of life. This may be shown by an analysis of the language actually produced by him. Although each normal child acquires his first language in pretty much the same way, the development of first language acquisition varies from child to child. From observable facts, we can see that a normal child may go through four stages in first language acquisition. First Language Acquisition The Babbling Stage In the first few months, by about 6 to 7 months, infants begins to babble by repeating a consonant-vowel sequence, like babababa. Besides the stimulus-controlled cries and gurgles, the sounds produced in this period seem to include the sounds of human languages. By 10 to 12 months, infants begin to use sentence-like intonational contours. It is in this babbling stage that infants learn how to distinguish between the sounds of their language and the sounds which are not part of the language. First Language Acquisition The one-word stage is also called the holophrastic stage. The child tends to use single words to express large chunks of meaning that would be conveyed in a phrase or sentence by a mature speaker. After one year, the child has learned that sounds are related to meanings and begin to use the same string of sounds repeatedly to mean the same thing. The child becomes able to use certain single words as labels for regular features of the immediate, concrete environment, such as toys, members of the family and so on. First Language Acquisition At the end of the one-word stage, usually at the age of 2 or so, the child starts to put single words into sentences such as "Big house", "Baby cry", "Hit ball". Most of these sentences consist of two words, each word with its own single-pitch contour. Most of the words are contents words, like nouns, verbs and adjectives. First Language Acquisition The Telegraph to Infinity Stage refers to the time when child begins to produce sentences longer than two words. This stage is characterized by the omission of the small function works such as to, the, can, is, and so on. Their sentences sound as if they were telegraphs. For example, "No sit here", "John build house". They also become more complex in terms of the number of meaning relations they express and the grammatical structures they use. First Language Acquisition Functional Interpretation Based on an observation of a child named Nigel from 9 months to 2 years old, Halliday (1975) interprets the process of first language acquisition from a functional standpoint. According to Halliday (1978:19), if there is anything which the child can be said to be acquiring, it is a range of meaning potential. This includes the mastery of a small number of elementary functions of language, and a range of choices in meaning within each function. The choices are very few at first, but they expand rapidly as the functional potential of the system is reinforced by success Second Language Acquisition Learning a second language is rather different from learning the first language. The process of second language acquisition, like that of first language acquisition, is very complicated. There is not yet any single theory or framework that can adequately explain the phenomenon. However, researchers have been trying to study it from different perspectives. The study of second language acquisition has been seen as contributing to more effective language teaching, and as a way of testing hypotheses about the nature of language. Second Language Acquisition The research methodology of second language acquisition has historically utilized the linguistic analysis of learners' interlanguage, and the results of case studies and ethnographic research. Second language acquisition has its own features. Although second language can be acquired in a natural or tutored situation, according to Ellis (1985: 4), different learners in different situations learn a second language in different ways. Thus, different theories of second language acquisition have appeared to find out its major features. Second Language Acquisition One of the features of second language acquisition is that first language can exert influence. The process is called language transfer. When the first language (L1) and second language (L2) are similar, the L1 can facilitate the process of L2 learning. However, when the L1 is different the L2, the learner's knowledge can interfere with the learning of the L2. Based on this assumption, a procedure called Contrastive Analysis was developed in the 1960s to predict the problems the L2 learner would encounter. Second Language Acquisition The second feature is that all L2 learners, no matter what their L1 is, follow a natural, fixed order in learning the grammar of the L2. According to the L2 = L1 hypothesis, second language acquisition is very similar to first language acquisition. In their language learning, all learners use a common set of mechanisms of the human language faculty. Second language acquisition is a universal process which reflects the properties of the human mind. Second Language Acquisition The third feature is that learner errors are not regular. They may make an error in some contexts but not in others. They do not simply memorize L2 rules and then reproduce them in their own utterances. According to Ellis (1985:10), this is due to two types of contextual variation. The first is the situational context. When the learner is required to communicate instantly, he will not have time to maximize his knowledge of the L2 and is likely to produce errors that would not occur in situations when they have time to plan their utterances carefully. The second is the linguistic context. This means that the learner errors may occur in certain types of structures but not in others. Second Language Acquisition The fourth feature is that learner factors may influence the mastery of L2. Ellis (1985:10-12) shows that there are five general factors that contribute to individual learner differences: age, aptitude, cognitive style, motivation, and personality. Second Language Acquisition The fifth feature of second language acquisition is that learner strategies are used: learning strategies, production strategies and communication strategies. With these strategies, the learner may process his L2 input to develop his linguistic knowledge, use the L2 knowledge efficiently, and compensate “for non- existent knowledge by improvising with existing L2 knowledge in incorrect and inappropriate ways”. Second Language Acquisition The sixth feature is the important role of formal instruction. Formal instruction usually takes place in the classroom and the L2 is taught systematically with syllabus and textbooks. Although L2 learning can take place in a natural setting, the importance of formal instruction in the acquisition of L2 linguistic competence can not be ignored, because formal instruction can facilitate the whole process of second language acquisition. Second Language Acquisition Internal factors include language transfer, the learner's cognitive capacity, and linguistic universals. All L2 learners experience the process of acquiring a second language with their mother tongue knowledge. However, the learner's existing linguistic knowledge influences the course of second language development. Language transfer is the phenomenon that the learners apply their first language knowledge subconsciously in learning a second language Second Language Acquisition The second internal factor is the learner's cognitive capacity. From the cognitive perspective, language acquisition depends on an innate, human-specific module that is distinct from general intelligence. The third internal factor is linguistic universals. Linguistic universals refer to those common features among different languages, and the abstract principles that include Universal Grammar and that constrain the form of the grammar of any specific language. Language and Thought Traditionally, language is thought to be the dress of thought. A speaker reveals his intention in his own language. Language and thought are mutually dependable to each other. Some people equal language to thought. However, to Jackendoff (1994: 180), thought is a mental function completely separate from language, and it can go on in the absence of language. language helps us think. End of Lecture Thank you!!
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