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University of Toronto Scarborough
Mark Schmuckler

Psyb20- ch 7 Human infants are prepared to respond the language environment and to acquire language skills. A crucial part of language learning is the social support provided. Communicative competence is the ability to convey thoughts, feelings and intentions and productive language we produce communications, and receptive language we receive communication from others. The components of language: phonology, semantics, grammar and pragmatics -phonology: system of sounds that a particular language uses , phonemes are smallest sound units that affect meaning , changing a phoneme changes the meaning of a word -word meaning and word combinations are called semantics, we need to know how to use words and how we combine them in phrases, clauses and sentences, as children grow intellectually their semantic knowledge continues to grow -grammar describes the structure of a language and consists of morphology and syntax. Morphology concentrates on the smallest units of meaning in a language, like prefixes and suffixes. Syntax is the aspect of grammar that specifies how words are combined into sentences -pragmatics consist of the rules for the use of appropriate language in particular contexts. They directly concern effective and appropriate communication Theories of language development -interactionist view, they recognize the roles that both biological and environmental factors play in language development The learning view: claims and limitations -traditional learning is where parents of caregivers selectively reinforce each of the child’s babbling sounds htat is most like adult speech -according to Skinner, by giving their greatest approval to the infants closest proximations to adult speech, sounds parents shape their childs verbal behavior into what increasingly resembles adult speech. -other say child learns through, imitation or observational learning where the child picks up words phrases and sentences directly by imitating what he hears, the through reinforcement the child learns what is appropriate or inappropriate use of particular words and phrases Problems -the number of stimulus response connections would be needed to explain language -naturalistic studies of parent child interaction fail to support the learning theory account ex: sometimes mom reinforces right and wrong language -we cannot predict the vast majority of language utterances from opportunities to observe specific utterances by others -learning theory accounts have not explained the regular sequence in which language develops Ex: most cultures learn same rules in same order -learning shows child as passive rather than active in learning language The nativist view: claims and limitations -chomsky, children are norn with an innate mental structure that guides their acquisition of language- language acquisition device -human child is biologically predisposed to acquire human language -all language of the species must display universal features, a set of common principles does underlie all human languages – all languages have grammar and words make up sentences -nativists point out that in many different cultures, children acquire language relatively quickly and learn it well -nativist view is evidence that human beings learn language far more easily during a certain critical period of bioligcal development, from infancy to puberty -ppl have argued against critical period sayin that at the end of critical period, learning mechanisms should be turned off, however English proficiency showed its sharpest decline in language skills with increasing age, a patter inconsistent with the critical language hypothesis -people have cited the ability of animals to learn language as evidence against the nativist viewpoint, but with mixed conclusions. Problems -few theorists agree about the exact nature of the types of grammatical rules that children learn -language learning is a gradual process and is not completed as early as nativist accounts would predict -the nativist perspective makes it very difficult to account for the many languages human beings speak throughout the world, language is universal but not all of its features are -nativists view gives the social context of language little recognition -the communicative context of language development, especially adult-child communication plays a significant role in the pacing of this development process The interactionist view -language is learned in the context of spoken language but assuming as well that humans are in some way biologically prepared for learning to speak -child’s own active role in language development complements the role played by socializing agents like parents -language development occurs in a rich behavioral and developmental context in which children try to accomplish meaningful goals and engage in relationships with others -when parents speak to children In a way that recognizes how much children already know and understand, they increase enormously their children’s chances of comprehending a novel message Facilitating children’s language development -environment provides the language-learning child with a language acquisition support system, which emphasizes the parents role as facilitators of language acquisition -techniques that adults use to facilitate language acquisition: Playing non verbal games Non linguistic games like peak a boo help children learn some structural features of spoken language such as turn taking Using simplified speech -infant directed speech, or child directed speech (motherese) where they speak In short simple sentences that refer to concrete objects and events and that often repeat important words and phrases, they talk more slowly and in higher pitched voices -the simplified grammar and syntax may help children learn the relations between words and objects and the acoustic variations can help highlight important words -infants show a preference for infant directed speech even when it is in a non native lamguage -changes in speech also elicit more positive emotions in babies and may actually increase the chances that children will understand the message -exaggerated pitch contours of motherese increase 6-7 month old infants abilities to discriminate different vowel sounds -parents adjust their speech to a child’s level of linguistic sophistication Other influence techniques -expansion: the adult imitates and expands or adds to the child’s statement -parents are especially likely to use this expansion strategy after a child has made a grammatical error -lower income parents less likely to use this -recast: the adult listener renders the childs incomplete sentence in a more complex grammatical form -through recasting adults are in effect both correcting children’s utterances and guiding them toward more appropriate grammatical usage -children whose parents have recast their utterances appear to develop linguistically faster at a faster rate -children often imitate their parents expansions and recasts especially when the children’s utterances are incorrect is social interaction crucial to language development -not all cultures use the devices typical of the north American middle class, the kaluli new guinea and in American Samoa, people speak to the very youngest children as if they were adults The antecedents of language development Preverbal communication -smiles in particular seem important in helping infants learn how to coordinate vocalization and to translate expressions into effective communication -pseudo dialogues , because th adults alone are responsible for maintaining their flow -babies have only limited control over the timing for their responses so adults insert their behave into the infants cycles of responsiveness and unresponsiveness -it is not until children are a year old that they can follow the point of another person -pointing gives children labels for objects in the distance that interests them and learn great deal about the world around them -preverbal infants use a gesture to call an object to someones attention-proto declarative -when babies can also use gestures to get another person to do something for the-proto imperative -joint visual attention: the ability to follow another persons focus or gaze. It is a major advance in infant’s communication between infants and their parents -3 yrs they recognize that language and gestures can be incorporated together Early language comprehension -well before they are able to speak themselves, babies can attend selectively to certain features of others speech. Ex: they prefer music with lyrics over instrumental Categorical speech perception -infants perceive some consonants categorically -categorical speech perception: the tendency to perceive as the same range of sounds belonging to the same phonemic group -study: babies shown gah and bah, the babies would increase sucking rate when they heard the 2 different consonants, evidence that they perceive the change -they can discriminate speech sounds as early as 1 month and 2-3 month olds can recognize the same vowel even when it is spoken by different people and at different pitches -problems -first it has been noted that not all infants in such studies show phonetic boundaries, both adults and infants are in some cases sensitive to within category variations with consonant sounds, which undermines that notion of categorical perception in the first place -some animals could do the disticintion showing that it is not human innate -categorical speech perception may be simply a property of the mama’s aural system that language just utilizes Beyond categorical perception -infants can identify key properties of their native language’s rhythmic organization either prenatally or during the first few days of life ex: 4 day old French babies increased sucking rates when listening to French speech opposed to English -as babies develop they loose their ability to distinguish the sounds of languages to which they have not been exposed ex. 6-8m
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