Human language is amazingly flexible, productive and novel (ability to produce things)
Language is a small number of individually meaningless symbols (sounds, gestures, letters) that can
be combined according to agreed-on rules to produce messages.
Rather than language, other species have communication systems
Communication is the process by which one organism transmits information to and influences
The order of the words or symbols; grammar.
Syntax a.k.a surface structure
Semantecs a.k.a deep structure
Phonology - basic units of sound (phonemes) that are used in language and the rules for
Morphology - how words are formed from sound.
Also involves sociolinguistic knowledge - culturally specified rules that dictate how the
language should be used in particular social contexts.
Pragmatics knowledge of how to use language to communicate effectively.
Those who study the structure and development of children's language are called psycholinguists.
They have tried to answer the question: what must children learn to master their native tonge?
Some of the knowledge that underlie the growth of linguistic proficiency are:
Theories of Language Development
The nature/nurture controversy is again seen
How do children learn such a complex system (language), so fast?
Does not explain how children attain knowledge of grammar
Empiricists (Learning Perspective) believe language is learned through imitation and reinforcement
(i.e. Children learn language by imitating what they hear, reinforced when they use proper grammar
and are corrected when they say things wrong.)
Believe human beings are biologically programmed to acquire language
Believed humans are equipped with a language acquisition device (LAD) - pre-wiring to learn
LAD contains universal grammar: the rules that characterizes all grammar
Other nativists have come up with the Language making capacity (LMC) - a set of cognitive
and perceptual abilities that are highly specialized for language learning.
The sensitive period hypothesis suggests that language is best acquired between birth and
Problems With the Nativist Approach
Don't really explain language (i.e. How the LAD works)
Nativists believe in linguistic universals - common milestones in language acquisition.
Adjusted to be maximally comprehensible.
Think of the four-year-old that adjusts his speech so the younger child can
Slightly higher language level than child's
Motherese: or "child-directed speech" is the short, high-pitched and repetitive language
mothers use with their young children.
Parents will subtly correct children who use incorrect grammar using expansion
(i.e. Child: "doggie go!" Mom: "yes, the doggie is going away."), responding to the
child's grammatically incorrect sentence with a grammatically improved form of
Lessons from Negative Evidence
Parents and older children have ways of talking and interacting with infants
Interactionists believe language acquisition is nature and nurture (biological factors and