Textbook Notes (369,133)
Canada (162,403)
Psychology (1,418)
PSYC 340 (12)
Chapter 4

Chapter 4.doc

21 Pages

Course Code
PSYC 340
Debra Ann Titone

This preview shows pages 1,2,3,4. Sign up to view the full 21 pages of the document.
Psychology of Language Chapter 4 – Language Development Introduction Children make vegetative sounds from birth – they cry, burp, and make sucking noises - around 6 weeks they start cooing - 16 weeks old they start to laugh - 16 weeks – 6 months they engage in vocal play o involves making speech-like sounds - vowels emerge before consonants - 6-9 months infants start babbling o presence of true syllables (consonants + vowels), often repeated - 9 months infant starts noticing that particular strings of sounds co-occur with particular situations - 10-11 months infants start producing their first words o the single words are sometimes thought of as forming single-word utterances - 18 months infants have a rapid explosion in vocabulary size, and around this time two-word sentences emerge o This vocabulary explosion and the onset of two-word speech are strongly correlated o may learn up to 40 new words a week Before children produce utterances that are grammatically correct by adult standards, they produce what’s called telegraphic speech - contains a number of words but with many grammatical elements absent - As grammatical elements appear, they do so in a relatively fixed order for any particular language - From approx. 2 yrs 6 mths, the child produces increasingly complex sentences - we never stop learning new words - It’s hard to carry out controlled experiments on large numbers of young children to examine their linguistic development - one commonly used technique is the sucking habituation paradigm where the experimenter measures the sucking rate of infants on an artificial teat o babies prefer novel stimuli, and as they become habituated to the stimulus presented, their rate of sucking declines o if they don’t detect a change in the stimulus, their sucking rate will increase again  possible to measure whether the infants can detect differences between pairs of stimuli - in the preferential looking technique, researchers examine what children look at when they see scenes depicting sentences they are hearing; children spend longer looking at scenes that are consistent with what they hear - in the conditioned head turn technique, infants are taught to turn their heads (by reinforcing them with visual reinforcement) whenever there’s a change in the stimulus; the conditioning phase is followed by a testing phase that tests what distinctions these infants are capable of making - Cross-sectional studies look at the performance of a group of children at particular ages - one problem is that there’s enormous linguistic variation between children of the same age - differences in advancement and in linguistic style - Longitudinal studies of individual children, often the experimenters’ own, have been particularly influential - consequence that most of the literature concerns a surprisingly small number of children, and variation btwn individuals in development may be underestimated The Driving Forces of Language Development There are two contrasting philosophical views on how humans obtain knowledge - The rationalists (such as Plato and Descartes) maintained that certain fundamental ideas are present from birth - The empiricists (such as Locke and Hume) rejected this doctrine of innate ideas, maintaining that all knowledge is derived from experience o Locke, one of the most influential empiricists argued that all knowledge held by rationalists to be innate could be acquired through experience - Locke claimed the mind at birth is a tabula rasai (a blank sheet of paper) on which sensations write and determine future behaviour  The rationalist-empiricists controversy today is known as the nature-nurture debate Chomsky – rationalist Piaget – empiricist Work in connectionism has focused attention on the nature of nurture and the way in which learning systems change with experience Imitation - The simplest theory of language development is that children learn language by imitating adult language - A cursory examination of the sentences produced by younger children shows that they don’t often imitate adults - When children try to imitate what they hear, they’re unable to do so unless they already have the appropriate grammatical construction Conditioning - Skinner, a behaviorist, argued that language was acquired by the same mechanisms of conditioning and reinforcement that were thought at the time to govern all aspects of animal and human behaviour - Adults (generally) correct only the truth and meaning of children’s utterances, not the syntax o Attempts by adults to correct incorrect syntax and phonology usually make no difference - parents rarely correct grammar, and if they try to do so the corrections have little effect - in some circumstances children are unable to imitate adult language unless they already possess the necessary grammatical constructions - parents provide some sort of feedback, in that certain parent-child discourse patterns vary in frequency depending on the grammaticality of the child’s utterances o parents are more likely to repeat the child’s incorrect utterance in a grammatically correct form, or to ask a follow-up question - people from different cultures also respond differently to grammatically incorrect utterances, with some appearing to place more emphasis on correctness - Certain feedback is probably too infrequent to be effective, although others argue that occasional contrast between the child’s own incorrect speech and the correct adult version does allow developmental change o Proof is that children are more likely to repeat adults’ expansions of their utterances than other utterances, suggesting that they pay particular attention to them - The debate about whether or not children receive sufficient negative evidence (sometimes called the no-negative evidence problem), such as info about which strings of words are not grammatical, is important cuz without negative feedback it’s a challenge to specify how children learn to produce only correct utterances o They rely on mechanisms such as innate principles to help them learn the grammar - The pattern of acquisition of irregular past verb tenses and irregular plural nouns cant be predicted by learning theory - Sequence observed is correction production, followed by incorrect production, and then later correct production again o Children begin by learning specific instances. They then learn a general rule (i.e.: form plurals by adding –s) but apply it incorrectly by using it in all instances  Only later do they learn the exceptions to the rule  This is an example of what is called U-shaped development: performance starts off at a good level, but then becomes worse, before improving again - U-shaped development is suggestive of a developing system that has to learn both rules and exceptions to those rules - Another piece of evidence against a conditioning theory of language learning is that some words are clearly understood before they are ever produced - Chomsky (1959) argued that theoretical considerations of the power amd structure of language mean that it cant be acquired simply by conditioning - In phonological production, babbling isn’t random, and imitation isn’t important: the hearing babies of hearing-impaired parents babble normally  Language development appears to be strongly based on learning rules rather than simply on learning associations and instances Poverty of the stimulus - Chomsky showed that children acquire a set of linguistic rules or grammar o He claimed they couldn’t learn these rules by environmental exposure alone - the language children hear was thought to be inadequate in 2 ways: 1) they hear what has been called a degenerate input o the speech children hear is full of slips of the tongue, false starts, and hesitations, and sounds run into one another so that the words are not clearly separated 2) there doesn’t seem to be enough info in the language that children hear for them to be able to learn the grammar o they aren’t normally exposed to a sufficient number of examples of grammatical constructions that would allow them to reason the grammar  they don’t ear grammatically defective sentences that are labeled as defective Child-directed speech Adults (especially mothers) have a special way of talking to children - This way was originally called motherese, but is now called child-directed speech (CDS), cuz its use is clearly not limited to mothers o Known as “baby talk” - Adults talk in a simplified way to children, taking care to make their speech easily recognizable o The sentences are to do with the “here and now”; they’re phonologically simplified; there are more pauses, the utterances are shorter, there’s more redundancy, the speech is slower, and it’s clearly segmented o There are fewer word endings than in normal speech, the vocabulary is restricted, sentences are shorter, and prosody is exaggerated - Carers are more likely to use nouns at the most common or basic level of description o They’re also more likely to use words that refer to whole objects - Speech is specifically directed towards the child and marked by a high pitch - These differences are more marked the younger the child; hence adults reliably speak in a higher pitch to 2yr olds than to 5yr olds - The most important words in sentences receive special emphasis - Both mothers and fathers use CDS, but moms use it more - Mothers using sign language also use a form of CDS when signing to their infants, repeating signs, exaggerating them, and presenting them at a slower rate - Infants prefer to listen to CDS rather than to normal speech - Cross (1977) proposed linguistic feedback hypothesis, which states that mothers in some way tailor the amount of simplification they provide depending on how much the child appears to need - Snow (1977) pointed out that mothers produce child-directed speech before infants are old enough to produce any feedback on the level of simplification o She proposed a conversational hypothesis where the mothers’ expectation of what the child needs to know and can understand is important - Cross, Johnson-Morris, and Nienhuys (1980) found that the form of CDS used to hearing-impaired children suggested that a number of factors might be operating, and that elements of both the feedback and the conversational hypotheses are correct - The form of CDS also interacts in a complex way with the social setting: Maternal speech contains more nouns during toy play, but more verbs during non-toy play - The nature of CDS also varies with the socioeconomic status of the family, with higher-status mothers saying more, using more variety in their language, and using longer utterances o These differences correlate with subsequent vocabulary development in the child - The use of child-directed speech gradually fades as the child gets older o It’s sensitive to the child’s comprehension level rather than production level - Although CDS’s use is widespread, it’s not universal across all cultures - There is great variation in the styles of social interaction and the form of CDS across different cultures - The children who learn the fastest are those who receive most encouragement and acknowledgement of their utterances - Cross (1978) demonstrated the value of extended replies by adults that amplify the comments of the children. The children who showed the most rapid linguistic development were those whose mothers both asked their children more questions and have more extensive relies to their children’s questions - Child-directed speech helps establish joint focus - Harris and Coltheart (1986) proposed that the syntactic simplification of CDS is just a side effect of simplifying and restricting content - A child acquiring language on the basis of CDS is going to have a less impoverished input than one not exposed to CDS The language acquisition device Chomsky argued that language acquisition must be guided by innate constraints, and that language is a special faculty not dependent on other cognitive or perceptual processes - claimed it’s acquired at a time when the child is incapable of complex intellectual achievements, and thus cant be dependent on intelligence, cognition, or experience - Cuz the language they hear is impoverished and degenerate, children cant acquire a grammar by exposure to language alone. Assistance is provided by the innate structure called the language acquisition device (LAD) o Chomsky later replaced LAD with universal grammar  This is a theory of the earliest rules of inferences that allow the child to learn any natural grammar  It’ the set of principles and parameters that constrain language acquisition - Children are faced with the task of acquiring the particular details of their language  this process is parameter setting - Parameter – a universal aspect of language that can take on one of a small number of positions o the parameters are set by the child’s exposure to a particular language - LAD doesn’t prescribe details of particular languages, but rather sets boundaries on what acquired languages can look like; languages aren’t free to vary in every possible way, but are restricted o Parameters set the core features of languages o Sees language acquisition as parameter setting - whether or not you can drop the pronouns in a particular language is an example of a parameter; it’s called the pro-drop parameter o English and French are non-pro-drop languages, Italian and Arabic are Is language a learning parameter setting? For Chomsky and other who view language acquisition as a process of acquiring grammar, the basis of which is innate, acquiring a language involves putting the built-in switches (parameters) into the correct positions - Language is a slow process, full of errors o Continuity hypothesis – all the principles and parameters are available from birth, but they cant all be used immediately cuz of other factors o Children don’t have immediate access to all their innate knowledge. Instead, it only becomes gradually available over time as a consequence of maturation - it’s been hard to find exampled of particular parameters clearly being set in different languages Linguistic universals There must be aspects of language that are universal - Chomsky argued that there are concrete similarities between languages, and the differences between them are actually quite superficial - Linguist universals are features that can be found in most languages - Chomsky distinguished btwn substantive & formal universals o Substantive universals – categories of syntax, semantics, and phonology that are common to all languages  Ex: presence of noun and verb are so fundamental that it can arise in the absence of linguistic input o Formal universals – the general form of syntactic rules that manipulate these categories  Universal constraints on the form of syntactic rules  Want to specify these universals  Relates to word order - Greenberg (1963) examined word order and morphology in 30 very different languages and found 45 universals, focusing on the normal order of subject, object, and verb o We don’t appear to find all possible combos; there seems to be a dislike in placing the object first  Once primary word order is fixed, other aspects of the language are also fixed - Are 4 possible reasons why universals might exist: 1) some universals might be part of the innate component of the grammar 2) some universals might be part of an innate component of cognition, which then makes them more likely to be incorporated in some or all languages 3) constraints on syntactic processing make some word orders easier to process than others 4) universals might result from strong features of the environment that are imposed on us from birth, and make their presence felt in all languages  The commonly accepted view is that innate mechanisms make themselves apparent very early in development, whereas aspects of grammar that have to be learned develop slowly Pidgins and creoles - Pidgins – simplified languages that were created for communication between speakers of different languages who were forced into prolonged contact, such as the result of slavery in places like the Caribbean and Hawaii - Creoles – a pidgin language that has become the native tongue of the children of the pidgin speakers - whereas pidgins are highly simplified syntactically, creole languages are syntactically rich - they’re the spontaneous creation of the first generation of children born into mixed linguistic communities - creoles aren’t restricted to spoken language: hearing-impaired children develop a creole sign language is exposed to a signing pidgin - Bickerton: language bioprogram hypothesis – children have an innate drive to create a grammar that will make a language even in the absence of environmental input Genetic linguistics More evidence that aspects of language are innate comes from studies of the genetic basis of language, genetic linguistics - Specific-language impairment (SLI) is a disorder that affects about 5% of the population - SLI is marked by significant problems with spoken language without any obvious accompanying brain damage or problems with hearing, and those affected have IQs in the normal range - It runs in families - Have difficulty controlling their tongues and making speech sounds, trouble identifying speech sounds, understanding speech, and making judgments about grammatical acceptability, and they have trouble with regular inflections - A single dominant gene is involved - The speech of the affected people is slow and effortful, and they have difficulty in controlling their facial muscles - Can also cause severe difficulties in language comprehension - SLI is linked to a specific gene called FOXP2 which plays some casual role in the brain circuitry underlying normal language development, including Broca’s area  it seems to be involved in controlling fine movements of the face and articulatory system - An alternative view is that SLI isn’t primarily a disorder of grammar, but arises from impaired sound processing - Children with SLI who have syntactic deficits also have difficulty in tasks such as repeating nonwords, and tasks of phonological awareness, such as recognizing the sound in common in words - Watkins, Dronkers, and Vargha-Khadem (2002) argued that the core deficit in SLI is sequencing sounds, with the problems with inflections and syntactic sequencing secondary to that of sequencing sounds Formal approaches to language learning - Children learn grammar through induction, the process of forming a rule by generalizing from specific instances - Gold (1967) showed that the mechanism of induction isn’t sufficiently powerful to enable a language to be learned by itself; the proof of this is known as Gold’s theorem - Human language cant be acquired by induction only from positive exemplars of sentences of the language - Language learners use negative evidence o The child must generate ungrammatical sentences that must then be explicitly corrected by the parent - The area of research that examines the processes of how language learning might occur is known as learnability theory or formal learning theory - Pinker (1984) argued that the linking rule that links a syntactic category such as “noun” to a thematic role – the role the word is playing in the meaning of the sentence – must be innate More general innate accounts - Slobin argued that children aren’t born with structural constraints such as particular categories, but with a system of processing strategies that guide their inductions o Emphasized the role of general cognitive development o Claimed the child tries to map speech first onto objects and events Problems with innate accounts of language acquisition - A study of a large number of same-sex twins found that vocabulary and grammatical abilities are correlated at the ages of 2 and 3, suggesting that the same genetic factors influence both abilities - Deacon (1997) – language has evolved so that it has become easy to learn An alternative to innate knowledge: Distributional info Connectionist modeling provides an alternative account of these phenomena, showing how complex behaviour can emerge from the interaction of many simpler processes without the need to specify innate language-specific knowledge - Infants make use of info about the distribution of sounds and words in what they hear - Children make use of general purpose associative learning mechanisms - They seem to often be able to learn a great deal about linguistic form without knowing the meaning of what they’re listening to o Meaning not need precede form - adults and children are able to extract at least some syntactic structure on the basis of exposure to statistical info alone - very young kids are able to extract abstract rules from very little input Do Children Learn Any Language in The Womb? Babies can hear sounds from inside the womb - only sounds up to 1000 Hz will get thru to the baby - the speech a baby hears will sound very muffled DeCasper & Spence (1986) asked a group of pregnant women to read aloud a short story every day for the final 6 weeks of their pregnancies. After the babies were born they tested the babies to see I they could distinguish the story that they had heard in the womb form another story - used non-nutritive sucking technique where the infant sucks on a teat that controls the presentation of a stimulus - Babies learn very quickly to adapt their rate of sucking to control the presentation of the stimulus. They might have to suck quickly to get one stimulus, and slowly to obtain another - DeCasper showed that the infants preferred to listen to the story which they had before even if it was spoken by someone other than the mother o In the womb they must have learned some characteristic of the language, rather than just having become familiar with a particular voice - Babies can detect the different prosodies of the two languages o Prosody is the collective name given to all the info about languages that span individual sounds  One important aspect of prosody is stress, which determines the rhythm and emphasis of speech  Another important aspect is intonation, the way in which the pitch of speech rises and falls, which determines the melody of language Phonological Development Early speech perception - Prelinguistic infants have complex perceptual systems that can make subtle phonetic distinctions - Infants between 1-4 months and perhaps even younger, are senstitive to all the acoustic differences later used to signal phonetic distinctions - Eimas, Siqueland, Jusczyk, and Vigorito (1971) showed that infants as young as 1 month old could distinguish between two syllables that differed in only one distinctive phonological feature - From an early age, infants discriminate sounds from each other regardless of whether or not these sounds are to be found in the surrounding adult language o The innate perceptual abilities are then modified by exposure to the adult language - from an early age, infants can distinguish languages as long as they’re rhythmically distinct enough - 8 month olds are sensitive to cues such as the location of important syntactic boundaries in speech - young children probably make use of several strategies in order to be able to segment the speech stream o child-directed speech may help the child learn how to segment speech - Distributional information about phonetic segments is an important cue in learning to segment speech o Concerns the way in which sounds co-occur in a language - 8 month olds can also make use of speech-specific info, including phonotactic cues such as coarticulation – the way in which sounds change in the presence of other sounds - from an early age children segment speech so as to avoid creating isolated units that couldn’t be words - infants prefer to listen to the language spoken by their parents - after some months exposure to a language, infants learn to make use of knowledge of lexical stress in identifying words - for a while children actually regress in their speech perception abilities - the ability of young children to discriminate sounds is worse than that of infants o this regression might be an artifact o using more stringent tasks to test older children: Tests for infants just involve discriminating new sounds from old ones, but test for older children require them to match particular sounds o might also occur cuz of a change in focus of the child’s language- perception system - infants aged 14 months don’t attend to fine phonetic detail when learning new words. Though children aged 8 months are capable of discriminating these sounds in a perception task - As children grow older and acquire more words, they’re forced to represent words in terms of their detailed sound structure - 18 month-olds can identify a large number of words without having to hear the whole word: the first 300 ms is sufficient - once children have made a start on segmentation, “bootstrapping” can come into play: they can use their existing knowledge to facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge - PRIMIR (Processing Rich Information from Multidimensional Interactive Representations) is a model that emphasizes the role of bootstrapping in early world learning - Although children continue to perceive phonetic variations in the speech stream, by 17 months old they have learned a sufficient number of word-objet pairings to enable them to focus on the phonological distinctions that are important for distinguishing new words Babbling - From 6-10 months, before infants start speaking, they make speech-like sounds known as babbling - Babbling consists of strings of vowels and consonants combined into sometimes lengthy series of syllables, usually with a great deal of repetition, sometimes with an apparent intonation contour - There are 2 types of babbling o Reduplicated babble is characterized by repetition of consonant – vowel syllables, often producing the
More Less
Unlock Document

Only pages 1,2,3,4 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

Unlock Document
You're Reading a Preview

Unlock to view full version

Unlock Document

Log In


Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.