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Chapter 7

PSYB32H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Critical Period Hypothesis, Derek Bickerton, Baby Talk


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYB32H3
Professor
Mark Schmuckler
Chapter
7

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CHAPTER 7 LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION
-language: system of communication in which words and their written symbols combine
in rule- governed ways that enable speakers to produce an infinite number of messages
-communication competence: ability to convey thoughts, feelings, intentions; important
part of language learning is the development of this
-communication is a two-way process
-using productive language: produce communications
-using receptive language: receive communications from others
COMPONENTS OF LANGUAGE: PHONOLOGY, SEMANTICS, GRAMMAR, AND
PRAGMATICS
-phonology: system of sounds that a particular language uses, includes Phonemes: basic
unit of a language’s phonetic system (smallest sound units that affect meaning)
-phoneme example: changing cat to bat (initial phoneme) or bat to bit (middle phoneme)
-phonological rules are generative: applicable beyond the cases on which they are based
-for example, “bnik” is not a possible English word
-semantics: study of word meanings and word combinations
-as children mature intellectually, their semantic knowledge continues to grow
-grammar: structure of a language, consists of two major parts listed below
-morphology: study of a language’s smallest units of meaning, or morphemes;
like prefixes, suffixes, root words, etc
-syntax: specifies how words are combined into sentences; allows you to change
up word orders to make up new meanings of sentences
-pragmatics: rules that specifies appropriate language for particular social contexts; for
example, asking nicely for something instead of asking rudely
THEORIES OF LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
The Learning Theory: Claims and Limitations
-based on the principles of reinforcement to explain language development
-B.F Skinner said that parents selectively reinforce each of the child’s babbling sounds
that is most like adult speech; parent gives more attention when baby is trying to talk;
encourages child to try to talk more
-therefore, by giving their greatest approval to the infant’s closest approximations to adult
speech sounds, parents shape their child’s verbal behaviour into what increasingly
resembles adult speech
-five criticisms of learning theory, summarized below:
1) the number of stimulus- response connections (specific linkages between a baby’s
vocalization and a parent’s reinforcing response) that would be needed to explain
language is so enormous that the child could not acquire all of them in even a lifetime
(not to mention a few short years)
2) naturalistic studies of parent- child interaction fail to support the learning theory
account; parents will reinforce for grammatically incorrect utterances as well
3) we cannot predict the vast majority of language utterances from opportunities to
observe specific utterances by others; language is typically more creative than what the
language theory can entail

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4) learning theory accounts have not explained the regular sequence in which language
develops; children form active constructions before passive constructions; etc
5) the learning theory portrays the child as a passive learner in this instance; however, the
child is in fact a very active learner *
-because of these reasons, learning theory is not viable
The Nativist View: Claims and Limitations
-Noam Chomsky proposed that children are born with an innate mental structure that
guides their acquisition of language and grammar: Language- Acquisition Device LAD
-nativists argue that the human child is biologically predisposed to acquire human
language; must share certain features because language is an inherited species- specific
characteristic
-nativists claim that grammars share certain formal properties
-argue that children are biologically prepared to acquire language because even when
they receive poor & fragmented environmental input, a child can learn a language
-Derek Bickerton: studied the language “pidgin”, lacked grammatical structure; younger
children learned better (biologically programmed to learn language young?)
-critical period: child is more sensitive to a particular environmental stimulus; critical
period for language stretches from infancy to puberty
-after puberty, difficult to learn a language
-evidence for this: brain damage that disrupts speech in young children can often recover
their language capacity rapidly and completely
-criticisms about critical period hypothesis:
-learning mechanism after critical period should be “turned off”, not gradually decline
like it does; they instead propose that the advantage typically shown by children in
secondary- language learning could be due to the fact that children have a more nurturing
environment, better educational opportunities, etc
-the ability of animals to learn language; conclusions are mixed; language abilities could
be up to the level of a 2 year old
-five criticisms for the nativist view:
1) explanation of language development is poor; few theorists agree on the exact nature
of the types of grammatical rules that children learn
2) language learning is a gradual process and is not completed as early as nativist
accounts would predict; develops beyond school years
3) nativist approach makes it difficult to account for the many languages humans speak
around the world; enormous variety
4) this view gives the social context of language little recognition; social influences play
a way bigger role than is given in the nativist approach
5) assumption that there are milestones is not supported; family and parent roles plays
large varying roles here in the pacing of this process
The Interactionist View
-recognizes that language is learned in the context of spoken language but assuming as
well that humans are in some way biologically prepared to speak
-concerned with the interplay between biological and environmental factors; see language
learning as the integration of learning in multiple domains
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-the child’s own active role in language development complements the role played by
socializing agents like parents
-children form, test, and evaluate hypotheses concerning the rules of their language
-language development occurs in a rich behavioural and developmental context in which
children try to accomplish meaningful goals and engage in relationships with others
-in this view, normal language develops as a result of a delicate balance between parent
and child understanding
-if parents want to increase their child’s chances of comprehending novel messages, they
should talk to the child in the ways they already know and understand
FACILITATING CHILDREN’S LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
-Jerome Bruner & language- acquisition support system LASS
-this view emphasizes that parent’s or primary caregivers’ role as facilitators of language
acquisition
-for example, parents facilitate by giving the child new objects to play with and try to
name; also by commenting on novel behaviours by the child, etc
-techniques that parents use to facilitate language in young children: listed below
Playing Non-Verbal Games
-like peekaboo or pattycake
-children learn some structural features of spoken language here, like taking turns, give
and take
Using Simplified Speech
-infant or child directed speech: speaking in short, simple sentences that refer to concrete
objects and events and that often repeat important words and phrases
-simplified grammar and syntax may help young children learn the relations between
words and objects and may also give them some understanding of the rules of
segmentation
-exaggerating the word of the object being presented helps the child make the connection;
also captures infant’s attention
-babies prefer infant- directed speech & are ambivalent about listening to men or
women’s voices; even if it is not their language
-changes in speech like mentioned above can elicit more positive emotions and can
increase the chance that they actually understand the message
-parents adjust their speech to a child’s level of linguistic sophistication, using a wider
and wider range of words and parts of speech as children mature
Other Influence Techniques
-expansion: the adult imitates and expands or adds to the child’s statement; for example:
child says Give Juice, mom says Give me the juice
-typically used after a grammatical error; more supportive of the learning that just
switching the topic; it is shown that lower income parents use this less often than middle
class parents
-recast: the parent puts the child’s incomplete sentence in a more complex grammatical
form; for example, child says Kitty eat, mom says What is the kitty eating?
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