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Chapter 7

Thorough Notes on Chapter 7

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Konstantine Zakzanis

Developmental Chapter 7 Notes An important part of children's language learning is the development of communicative competence: the ability to convey thoughts, feelings, and intentions Communication is a two-way process; we send messages to others and receive messages from them. Thus, using productive language: we produce communications &; using receptive language: we receive communications from others The Components of Language: Phonology, Semantics, Grammar, and Pragmatics Scholars divide the study of language into four main areas: phonology, semantics, grammar, and pragmatics Phonology: the system of sounds that a particular language uses. Includes not only the language's basic units of sound, or phonemes, but also rules about how we put phenomes together to form words and rules about the proper intonation patterns for phrases and sentences Phonemes: a language's basic units of sound Phonemes are considered basic units of sound because they are the smallest sound units that affect meaning Changing a phoneme changes the meaning of a word Ex: By changing the initial phoneme in the word bat, we can make the very different word cat By changing the middle phonemem we can make yet another word, bit Important feature of phonological rules is that they are generative they are applicable beyond the cases in which they are based Ex:Anative English speaker knows that kib is not a word in English, but it is nonetheless a possible sound pattern in the language's system. In contrast, bnik is not possible in english Semantics: the study of word meanings and word combinations Comprehension of written as well as spoken language requires not only knowledge of specific words and their definitions but also an understanding of how we use words and how we combine them in phrases, clauses, and sentences Thus, as children mature intellectually, their semantic knowledge continues to grow Grammar: describes the structure of a language and consists of two major parts: morphology and syntax Morphology: concentrates on the smallest units of meaning in a language, such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words (root words = Morphemes) Rules for altering root words to produce such things as plurals, past tenses, and inflections are part of a language's morphological system Syntax: the aspect of grammar that specifies how words are combined into sentences Ex: each language has syntactic rules for expressing grammatical relations such as negation, interrogation, possession, and the arrangement of subject and order in a statement The rules of syntax allow us to vary word order so that we are not limited to one way of saying what we mean Ex: We can say, After class, I went to the library and listened to some music, but the syntactically incorrect sentence, I listened to some music after class and I went to the library is ambiguous and unclear The fourth component of language: pragmatics: rules for the use of appropriate language in particular contexts Pragmatics directly concerns effective and appropriate communication Ex: a child learns that certain forms of language are more appropriate in some situations Research in pragmatics studies how children learn to take turns speaking, to remain silent while others speak, and to speak differently in such different settings as the classroom and playground Theories of Language Development The Learning (Environmental) View: Claims and Limitations Traditional learning explanations use the principle of reinforcement to explain language development Skinner stated that parents or other caregivers selectively reinforce each of the child's babbling sounds that is most like adult speech and by giving attention to these particular sounds and showing approval when their baby utters them, parents encourage the child to repeat them Thus, according to Skinner, by approving infant's closest approximations to adult speech sounds, parents shape their child's verbal behaviour into what increasingly resembles adult speech Other Learning theorists (Bandura) propose that the child learns through imitation or observational learning The child picks up words, phrases, and sentences directly by imitating what he hears Then, through reinforcement and generalization (applying what he has learned to new situations), child learns when it is appropriate or inappropriate to use particular words However, Learning theory is not useful as a sole explanation of language acquisition for several reasons: (1) The number of stimulus-response connections that is, specific linkages between a baby's vocalization and a parent's reinforcing response that would be needed to explain language, even the language of a very young child, is so enormous that a child could not acquire all of them even in a lifetime, not to mention a few short years (2) Naturalistic studies of parent-child interaction fail to support learning theory Ex: Mothers are just as likely to reward children for truthful but grammatically incorrect statements as they are to reinforce the child for grammatically incorrect utterances Parents are concerned to teach them acceptable behaviour as well as correct language So it's difficult to see how adult reinforcement alone might account for the child's learning of grammar (3) We cannot predict the vast majority of language utterances from opportunities to observe specific utterances by others Ex: utterances that are closely tied to environmental cues, such as Hello, Watch out! or You're welcome are relatively rare. For most sets of circumstances, language entails more creative responses than can be accounted for by a learning theory (4) Learning theory accounts have not explained the regular sequence in which language develops Children in North American culture and other cultures seem to learn the same types of grammatical rules and in the same order Ex: they learn active constructions before they learn passive constructions They learn to say, Taisha and Neville prepared the posters for the class presentation before they learn to say The posters for the class presentation were prepared by Taisha and Neville (5) Learning theory portrays child as playing a passive role in language development, although evidence shows that the child plays an active and creative role For all these reasons, Learning theory alone is not considered a viable explanation for language acquisition. An alternative explanation - The Nativist view suggests that language acquisition unfolds as a result of the unique biological properties of the human organism The Nativist View: Claims and Limitations Chomsky most influential in terms of nativist position. Proposed that children are born with a Language-acquisition device (LAD): an innate mental structure that guides their acquisition of language and, in particular, grammar. Nativists argue that the human child is biologically predisposed to acquire human language. They contend that because language ability is an inherited species-specific characteristic, all languages of the species must display universal features; In other words, they must share certain characteristics They are correct in this assumption. For instance, speakers of all languages create a vast number of spoken words by combining a relatively small set of the possible vocal sounds humans can make Finally, all languages have grammars, and nativists claim that these grammars share certain formal properties as well (eg the subject-predicate relationship) Children can learn language even in a restricted environment where little input is given into
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