LIN 3010 Lecture 10: lecture 10
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Department
Education - Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies
Course Code
LIN 3010
Professor
Wulff Steffi

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Language Acquisition The Innateness Hypothesis • Humans are predisposed to acquire and use language o 1. Babies are born with innate knowledge of languages pattern o 2. Babies have innate knowledge of language universals, core features common to all languages o 3. Babies have innate knowledge of a universal grammar, a set of structural principles shared by all languages • Lenneberg’s characteristics of genetically triggered behavior: o 1. The behavior emerges before it’s necessary o 2. Its appearance is not the result of a conscious decision o 3. Its emergence isn’t triggered by external events o 4. Direct teaching and intensive practice have relatively little effect o 5. There is a regular sequence of “milestones” as the behavior develops, and these are usually correlated with age/other aspects of development o 6. There is likely to be a “critical period” for the acquisition of behavior Principles and parameters • Universal Grammar (UG) contains structural principles. o Head parameter: in every language, complement clauses have heads (verbs they attach to) o Verb and complement can structurally relate: either the head precedes the complement or it follows the complement o Principle of head directionality has two PARAMETERS (possible variants): head-initial and head-final • All parameters have default settings. Per the Innate Hypothesis, children operate with the default settings unless their input suggests otherwise o Ex: For head directionality, the default setting is HEAD-FIRST The Critical Period Hypothesis • Critical period: a period in an individual’s life during which a behavior must be acquired. Acquisition fails after (or before) a critical period • Extends from birth to the onset of puberty: during this time, children need exposure to language to develop brain structures necessary for language acquisition or they won’t acquire knowledge fully • Evidence for this hypothesis comes from children. Ex: Isabelle and Genie. o Evidence also comes from second language learners • There are different critical periods for different areas of linguistics (phonology: early and very strong vs. syntax: later and more lenient) • Children who acquire their first language late have trouble with syntax, while late second language learners usually struggle with phonology. Stage
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