Learning a language is not simply memorization, you must learn the rules of language and not
just the content. Overgeneralization of language occurs when the child has acquired and used a
rule when it is incorrect in context.
Production: vocabulary is acquired and expressed in infinite, novel combinations
Receptive ability or comprehension: potential to understand infinite, novel combinations. (ex.
hear, read, see)
Learning is an inherent process, as demonstrated by infants who pay more attention to language
sounds than others. Infants are able to differentiate speech sounds through habituation (ie. a
sound seeming weird at first but eventually becoming less sensitized)
Phenotypic Discrimination: speech sounds are broad among infants but the range narrows with
discrimination phonemes relevant to only languages that they are exposed to
Critical or Sensitive Period: language is best and in some ways only acquired in childhood
Predisposition to Language
- humans are predisposed to passively acquire and use language (no need to be taught)
- facilitation improves or fast tracks learning processes (ex. motherese or infant directed speech
through careful, slow, and exaggerated pronunciation)
Perspective: grammatical rules which are actively taught and need enforcement
Descriptive: the way language is developed and formed to convey meaning
EX. Pidgins and Creoles
→ Lingua Franca said “a language which is used habitually by those whose mother tongues are
different is used to facilitate communication”. Pidgin is a system of communication between
adults who do not share a common language. Select words are decided upon to convey a simple
meaning. It is no one’s first language but can be long lasting methods of communication for
limited purposes. Creole is an example of Pidgin being developed into a unique language,
consisting of a blend of Caribbean Spanish and french.
Communication can be:
a. innate, elicited, and species specific (ie. baby bird chirping to elite feeding from a parent) b. purposeful, generalized, and complex (ie threat signals may be specific (predator) and shared
c. communication corresponds to the here and now, whereas language can indicate may
Language: differentiates from the here and now with symbols, syntax, and semantics
Symbols: contrived elements of language used to convey a different meaning, or represent
meaning, can be seen as a reference to something else.
Syntax: the grammatical structure which combines language symbols, allowing for infinite
combinations of meaning. Alack of structure can significantly limit meaning.
Semantics:Ameaning conveyed by combining syntax and symbols
Complex communication cab use symbols, but is limited when syntax and semantics are not
present. For example, species specific alarm calls.
Can animals learn language?
Methods of teaching apes language:
b. Cross-fostering: chimps raised in environment where singing is