PS378 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Nicaraguan Sign Language, Language Acquisition Device, Haitian Creole

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3 Jul 2017
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PS 378 Language Development 9/9/2014 11:27:00 PM
Reflections
Rules of language are NOT obvious
Language is really complicated
Adult speakers are unconsciously aware of these rules
Adult native speakers uniformly and overwhelmingly agree
To know English is to know and how to determine which sentences
are possible and which are impossible in English
Acquiring a language/ ACQUISITION
Effortless achievement that occurs:
o 1. Without explicit teaching
no systematic instruction provided (unlike second
language acquisition)
L1 (first or native language) develops spontaneously by
exposure to linguistic input (necessary condition)
Even when children are corrected, this generally has no
effect on their use of language
o 2. On the basis of positive evidence
corrections = negative evidence (but rare and
ineffective)
is there any other form of negative evidence
Negative evidence is information that a given sentence
is ungrammatical that could come in various
conceivable form
“the sentence Bill a cookie ate is not a sentence in
English, Timmy. No sentence with SOV word is”
upon hearing Bill a cookie ate, an adult might
offer explicit correction
not understand
look disappointed
rephrase the ungrammatical sentence
grammatically
do kids get “implicit” negative evidence?
Do adults understand grammatical sentences and not
understand ungrammatical one?
Do adults respond positively to grammatical sentences
and negatively to ungrammatical ones?
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Approval or comprehension?
Brown & Hanlon (1970):
Adults understood 42% of the grammatical
sentences
Adults understood 47% of the
ungrammatical ones
Adults expressed approval after 45% of the
grammatical sentences
Adults expressed approval after 45% of the
ungrammatical sentences
Three possible types of feedback:
1. Complete: consistent response, indicates
unambiguously “grammatical” or “ungrammatical”
2. Partial: if there is a response it indicates
“grammatical” or “ungrammatical”
3. Noisy: response given to both grammatical and
ungrammatical sentences, but with different/
detectable frequency
o 3. Under varying circumstances, and in a limited amount of
time
parents respond differently
some parents ask clarification questions after ill-
formed wh-questions
other parents ask clarification after well-formed
wh-questions … and after past tense errors
how can kids figure out what correlates with
grammatically in their situation?
Piedmont Carolinas: Heath (1983)
Trackton adults do not see babies or young
children as suitable partners for regular
conversation … unless they wish to issue a
warning, give a command, provide a
recommendation or engage the child in a teasing
exchange, adults rarely address speech
specifically to young children
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Linguistic input (environment, type and number of
speakers available to interact with the child, time spent
talking to child, number of languages in environment)
varies greatly
Neverthless, all children attain the same competence in
a limited amount of time by age 4
o 4. In identical ways across languages
Linguistic milestones achieved similarly regardless of
the language, or whether it is spoken or signed
6-8 months: all children babble
10-12 months: first words occur
20-24 months: words start being combined
2-3 years: some errors (infinitive verbs in main
causes, subject dropping, over-regularization
considering the variations in input and conditions of
acquisition: amazing that all kids go through the same
stages
Yes-no Questions:
The man is here.
Is the man here?
Hypothesis 1: move the first is (or modal, auxiliary) to the front - to
structure a question
Hypothesis 2: move the first is after the subject noun phrase to the front
The man who is here is eating dinner = whole sentence (not taking the first
auxiliary)
Logical problem: poverty of the stimulus
Kids don’t make as many mistakes as would be needed for
hypothesis testing
Kids seem to receive no relevant negative evidence while learning
language anyway; if they do, they may ignore it or rephrase their
sentences
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