ANTHRO 33 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Universal Grammar, Noam Chomsky, Received Pronunciation

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6 Feb 2017
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Lecture 12
Language Socialization & Acquisition
Main Questions
1. How does the innate human capacity to learn a language intersect with the culturally and
linguistically specific factors in each child's upbringing?
2. In bi- or multi-lingual environments, do socialization practices have an impact on which language
children learn and to what levels of proficiency
3. Does language socialization end when childhood ends or does it continue into adulthood?
Language Ability
Chomsky: we have a specific part of our brain that is hardwired for Universal Grammar and allows
us to learn language
Ahearn's contrasting theory: "Language could be viewed as a new machine constructed entirely
out of old parts"
How much and what kind of input do children need in order to become speakers of a language?
How do different social and cultural practices affect early language acquisition?
Language learning is deeply affected by the process of becoming a competent member of society
Learning a language + a way of life
Competence vs. performance
Need to reassess language "universals" about when children learn specific parts of language
"Word Gap"
Ideology that children in low-income households are exposed to fewer words than children from
higher-income households, which accounts for a literacy gap
Online programs that help low-income parents become "teachers" of language
The literacy gap is a false linguistic ideology and training parents to become teachers can actually
hurt a child's language acquisition ability
Fails to consider healthcare, education, and other economic gaps that are stronger contributors to
literacy rates
Case Studies
Papua New Guinea
o Parents' changing attitudes about the indigenous language vs. the colonizing language
create associations between indigenous->uncontrolled/unrefined and colonizing language-
>control/masculinity/authority
o Thought their children were refusing to learn the indigenous language on their own, but it
was really due to the negative connotations with the indigenous language that parents were
handing down to their children
Jewish Communities in Brooklyn
o What language you are most fluent in is largely dependent on gender and appropriate
gender roles
Law School Classrooms
o Students graduate with the ability to process and talk about texts in a different way than
they did when they entered the school
African American Hairstylists
o Trained to talk about hair in a professional, scientific way
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