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PSYC 2022 Lecture Notes - Baby Talk, 18 Months, Empiricism

Course Code
PSYC 2022

of 2
Lecture 3 PSYA02 Notes
Language Pt.2
Stages in Language Development
Prelinguistic Stage (0 – 12 months)
oCrying, cooing, babbling, phonemic expansion, phonemic constriction
oCooing at 6 weeks
Distinct from crying (e.g. doesn’t occur when infant is upset;
lower pitched)
Baby attempts to produce phonemes
These sounds are not made later in life
oBabbling at 6-9 months
First production of phonemes (not meaningful)
Produces all possible phonemes phonemic expansion
oPhonemic Constriction at 9-12 months
Phonemes reduce to the subset in their native languages
Pruning of phonemes
One Word Stage (12 – 18 months)
oWords serve to accompany actions/events then later acquire a
communication function (expressive or directive).
oHolophrastic speech: the use of single words to convey a much more
complex message (e.g. “milk” instead of “I would like some milk”).
o20 words are acquired per day
oFirst words are for those around them (e.g. parents, siblings, toys)
oMoving objects get named faster than still objects
o2/3 is names; about ½ of these are categories for objects, the other is
proper names.
Two Word Sentences Stage (e.g. “John milk” instead of “John wants some
oStage I Grammar (18 – 30 months)
Telegraphic Speech
Motherese (infant-directed speech)
oStage 2 Grammar (30 months – 4 to 5 years)
Acquisition of function words
One generalization of grammatical rules
oA lot of imitation by reduction occurs here: repeating someone (e.g.
mother) but using only the most important words in the sentence.
oThen the mother may repeat the sentence with all function words back
in place imitation by expansion
Assistance in teaching children language by speaking slower,
using a broader range of pitch and using syntactically simple
oEvery time a child learns a function, he/she is learning a grammatical
rule learn by overusing/abusing the rule.
oBy age 13, child knows about 20 000 words and by age 20, 50 000
Theories of Language Development
Nativism: knowledge of the world is largely innate (i.e. determined by nature
Empiricism: knowledge of the world is largely acquired through learning and
experience (e.g. like the Tabula Rasa theory proposed by John Locke).
Skinner’s Learning Theory
oPrinciples of Learning Theory
Selective Reinforcement (shaping)
Reinforce correct grammar (likely to occur)
Ignore incorrect grammar (less likely to occur)
oChallenges for Learning Theory
Productivity of language: can’t explain how we produce sentence
not reinforced to produce; how novel sentences occur
Spontaneous use and abuse of rules: can’t explain how we can
acquire rules
Ability to understand the meaning of a sentence
Chomsky’s Learning Acquisition Device (LAD)
oPrinciple of LAD
Transformational grammar as innate: knowledge needed to
translate between surface and deep structure
Reinforcement of language is unnecessary
There is a critical period for language learning
Language universals may simply reflect realities of the world
Reinforcement need not be consciously or intentionally delivered
Adults are more willing to correct children’s grammatical mistakes
oLAD mechanism in brain provides motivation to learn; LAD works rapidly
in early stages of life, not so much later on.
Primate Language Acquisition
oCriteria for language (Non-Exhaustive List)
Use of the vocal-auditory channel
Semanticity (use of symbols)
Arbitrariness of symbols
oEarly attempts to teach language to non-human primates failed to
consider how they lack the vocal apparatus required to produce speech