Midterm study guide - language acquisition.docx

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Published on 27 Feb 2013
School
Department
Course
First language acquisition
Generativist hypothesis with respect to innateness
The generativist hypothesis is that language is a biological faculty, a type of innateness.
This is supported by Cross-linguistic uniformity of language development:
acquisition of language is the same throughout all languages. Children go
through basically the same developmental steps. The diversity of languages and
the fact that the children are learn them shows that children have an innateness
for language.
The Universality of Complex Language: language acquisition of all humans and the
biological basis of the human capacity for language as a unique development of the
human brain.
The behaviourists believed that children learned language by believed that language
was learned through a process called stimulus-response learning (this grouped together
all types of behaviour)
This meant that children learnt through copying whatever is said to them
Children could not learn independently or create new sentences
Chomsky disagreed with this idea (and his idea has been proven to be mostly right)
based on:
Poverty of stimulus (see poverty of stimulus section)
Creativity of language: words and sentences can be created without ever being
heard
Critical period
There is a period where children learn language more
easily. Children need to be exposed to language during
this period so that language acquisition will be
successful. This is usually before the onset of puberty
because after that period, language acquisition becomes
more difficult. It becomes even more difficult as time
goes by.
It is for this reason that, if you want to learn a second
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language, the best chance is to start on the second language as a child.
This is proved by cases such as Genie‟s – she was kept in a room and was
denied human speech from ages 2 13. When she was found and after many
years of therapy, her non-linguistic cognition was „relatively normal‟ and her
lexical/semantic abilities were „good‟. Her morphology/syntax was very poor
she made word order errors and she did not use non-lexical categories or affixes.
This is considered to be caused by the fact that she missed the critical period for
learning these things.
Poverty of the stimulus
The behaviourist belief is that children only learn by mimicking the adults around them.
Children can actually learn complex grammar without ever being taught the individual
rules. Every child is given different exposure but they all grow up to learn grammar and
language, enough to create novel sentence structure.
Phonological patterns in early babbling
This occurs at about 6 months. This is when babies begin to experiment with/gain
control of their vocal apparatus. Babbling continues until about 12 months where it
changes to intelligible words.
Children that can‟t babble (medical reasons etc.) can acquire normal
pronunciations but speech development is delayed.
Children worldwide show significant similarities in their babbling, even though they all
speak different languages. This suggests that babbling is at least partly independent of
the language that children are exposed to.
Cross-linguistic similarities in babbling
Frequently found consonants
Infrequently found consonants
p b m
t d n
k g
s h w j
f v ɵ
ʃ ʒ tʃ dʒ
l r ŋ
Deaf children babble as well, though articulatory activity is less varied than those
who can hear. Babies that have been taught sign language from birth will babble
in signs as well.
Development of speech perception
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Children are born with a perceptual system that is especially designed for listening to
speech.
Newborns respond differently to human speech than any other sound while
they are not able to produce sound, they are equipped to respond to it
perceptually
Show a preference for their parents‟ language over other languages by the time
they are two days old
Recognize mother‟s voice within weeks.
Able to distinguish among certain speech sounds by the age of one month of age
Babies can distinguish differences in sounds in any language, not just their
parents‟ language, until they are about a year old and begin to speak. They are
awesome phoneticians.
Developmental order of the phonology of word production
There is variation between children however there are fairly consistent general
tendencies:
As a group, vowels are generally acquired before consonants (by age 3)
Stops tend to be acquired before other consonants
For places of articulation: labials are acquired first then alveolars, velars, and
alveopalatals. Interdentals are acquired last
Phonemic contrasts manifest themselves first in word-initial positions. (pat-bat
before mop-bob)
By age two, an English speaking child usually has this inventory:
Stops
Fricatives
Other
p b m
t d n
k g
f
s
w
By age four, an English speaking child usually has this inventory:
Stops
Fricatives
Affricates
Other
p b m
t d n
k g ŋ
f v
s z
ʃ
tʃ dʒ
w j
l r
There is still the interdental fricatives [ɵ] and [ ] and the voiced alveopalatal fricatives [ʒ]
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Document Summary

The generativist hypothesis is that language is a biological faculty, a type of innateness. This is supported by cross-linguistic uniformity of language development: acquisition of language is the same throughout all languages. Children go through basically the same developmental steps. The diversity of languages and the fact that the children are learn them shows that children have an innateness for language. The universality of complex language: language acquisition of all humans and the biological basis of the human capacity for language as a unique development of the human brain. The behaviourists believed that children learned language by believed that language was learned through a process called stimulus-response learning (this grouped together all types of behaviour) This meant that children learnt through copying whatever is said to them. Children could not learn independently or create new sentences. Chomsky disagreed with this idea (and his idea has been proven to be mostly right) based on:

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