Chapter 2 Notes.docx

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Narayan, Chandan

Chapter 2: The Human Capacity for Language Children and Language Acquisition:  Children (usually) acquire language quickly and effortless while it difficult for adults to learn a new language, linguistic to analyze a language, or even for a computer scientist to generate an artificial language  Most children begin to talk by the time they are a year old, they start combining words as early as one and a half, and they converse in fluent grammatical sentence by 2 or 3  This ability speaks directly to the hypothesis of biological innateness o The theory that humans are biologically equipped with the knowledge of universal elements of language structure, that comes into play in the course of language acquisition o It varies considerably for example the Generativists traditionally adopt the stance that what is innate (within us) is an actual language faculty o While others assume a biological basis but disagree that there is a special mental “organ” and rather frame linguistics abilities in terms of general cognitive abilities  General facts about language acquisition that supports the innateness view o Cross-Linguistic uniformity of developmental sequences o Poverty of the stimulus o Critical Period Poverty of Stimulus:  It is the position that children do not receive enough data to acquire language simply from what they hear  If they did, there would be great variations  Thus, language must be acquired without instruction  Every child’s exposure to language is uniform and yet children in a speech community converge upon a common grammar Overgeneralization:  It is the application of a grammatical rule more broadly than it is generally applied  For example children say “mouses, foots, bringed, goed” without hearing it from native speakers (Ex. Wug test)  As they continue to learn, there natural rules accommodate the exceptions  This tells us that children formulate/understand grammatical rules when exposed to language Evidence for Universal Grammar:  For example, children will make some mistakes forming questions as they learn but one mistake they won’t make is this (Who did John see Mary with? Vs. Who did John see Mary and?”  Children simply know that the question formation rule works in sentences like the first one with the preposition with, but not with coordination with and. This suggests that children have some grammatical information already in their heads  Another interesting point about the question formation rule is in these sentences ( what do you think what’s in there? Or What do you think what she said?). The second what seems off for an adult speaker. The child doesn’t simply modify her grammatical rule to conform to the adult version when she hears the adult talk (they form their own grammatical rules and don’t learn by imitation or through correction)  However, her rule conforms to the way questions are formed in German (Was denkst du was darin ist?--- What thinks you wh
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