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Chapter 7

PSY100H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Critical Period Hypothesis, Language Acquisition, Pitch Contour

Course Code
Mark Schmuckler

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PSYB20 Chaper 7: Language and Communication
A crucial part to language learning is the social support provided by others as children learn to speak
What is Language? A system of communication in which words and their written symbols combine in
a rule governed ways that enable speakers to produce an infinite number of msgs
- Facilitates interpersonal communication
- Aids in learning
- Influences other people’s behaviour
- organize thinking
- Communication competence: the ability to convey thoughts, feelings and intentions
- Productive language: we produce communications, Receptive language: rcv communications
from others
Phonology: the system of sounds that a particular language uses, rules about how we put phonemes
together to form words and rules about the proper intonation patterns for phrases and sentences
- Phonemes: basic units of sounds (smallest unit)
Semantics: study of word meanings and word combinations (phrases, clauses and sentences)
Grammar: structure of a language, made up of morphology and syntax
- Morphology: study of a language smallest units of meaning, morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, and
root words) plurals, past tenses
- Syntax: specifies how words are combined into sentences
Pragmatics: rules that specifies appropriate language for particular social context
3 approaches to language acquisition
1. The Learning View
- Uses the principle of reinforcement or imitation to explain language development (Skinner)
- Child learns primarily through imitation/observational learning (picks up words, phrases,
sentences directly by imitating what they hear) reinforcement & generalization (applying to
new situations) learn when it is appropriate/inappropriate to use
- Limitations: 1) # of stimulus-response connections that would be needed to explain language is
so enormous child cannot acquire them all even in a lifetime, 2) naturalistic studies of parent-
child interaction fail to support, 3) children’s creative utterances, 4) have no explained the
regular sequence in which language develops
2. The Nativist View
- Language acquisition unfolds as a result of the unique biological properties of the human
organism (biologically predisposed to acquire)
- Language-acquisition device (LAD): an innate mental structure in NS that incorporates an innate
concept of language (to learn early and quickly)
- All languages must display universal features (share basic characteristics)
- Support for theory: 1) Even in situations w/incomplete environmental input, children can learn a
language, 2) Evidence that humans learn language far more easily during a critical period of
biological development
- Limitations: 1) the ability of animals to learn language, 2) language learning is a gradual process
and not completed as early as predicted, 3) difficult to account for the many different languages
humans speak, 4) gives the social context of language little recognition, 5) few theorists agree
about the exact nature of the types of grammatical rules that children learn
The critical period hypothesis
- A specific period in children’s development when they are sensitive to a particular
environmental stimulus that does not have the same effect on them when encountered
before/after this period
- From infancy to puberty
3. The Interactionist View
- language is learned in the context of spoken language but assuming as well that humans are in
some way biologically prepared to learning to speak
- concerned with the interplay btw biological and environment factors in the acquisition of
language see language learning as the integration of learning in multiple domains
- normal language develops as a result of a delicate balance btw parent and child understanding
Language-acquisition support system (LASS): a collection of strategies and tactics that environmental
influences initially, a child’s parents or primary caregivers – provide the language learning child
(facilitators of language acquisition)
3 Techniques that adults use to facilitate language acquisition
1. Non-verbal games
- Ex, peekaboo learn some structural features (such as taking turns)
2. Using simplified speech
- Infant-directed speech/child-directed speech (motherese): parents modify their speech when
they talk Talk more slowly and in higher-pitched voices, enunciate more clearly, exaggerate
pitch contour of their voices, often end sentences with a rising intonation
- Such speech positive emotions ^ the chances that children will understand the message
- A level of complexity slightly ahead may max learning, show signs not comprehending revert
to simpler speech
3. Elaborating on and rewording children’s own utterances to help them sharpen their
communicative skills
Expansion: they imitate and expand or add a child’s statement facilitate language development
(high-income families use this technique more often)
Recast: render a child’s incomplete sentence in a more complex grammatical form
- Ex, kitty eat what is the kitty eating?
- Correcting children’s utterances + guiding them toward more appropriate grammatical usage
develop linguistically at a faster rate, using questions and complex verb forms at an earlier age
The different aspects of the antecedents of language development
Pre-verbal communication
- Smiles seem important in helping infants learn how to coordinate vocalizations and to translate
expressions into effective communication
- Gestures and expressions play an important role in this process
- 3 4 months adults offer and show things to them, 6 months respond with smiles,
gestures, movements and sounds + use pointing to guide others’ attention to things , 1 year
can follow the point of another person (pointing children rcvs labels for objects in the
distance that interest them an learn about the world around them)
- Proto-declarative: a gesture that an infant uses to call attention to object
- Proto-imperative: use gesture to get another person to do something for them
- Joint visual attention: the ability to follow another person’s focus or gaze (important for social
interaction & referential communication)
- Only at 3 yrs do children recognize that gestures and language can be part of the same message
(integrated response!)
Early language comprehension
- Newborns prefer listening to speech or vocal music vs instrumental music
- Categorical speech perception (phoneme boundary effect): tendency to perceive as the same a
range of sounds belonging to the same phonemic group = ability to discriminate speech sounds
(as early as 1 month) suggest infants are born with innate mechanism for perceiving oral
language! (may be a property of mammals b/c not unique to humans boundaries in sound
- As babies develop lose their ability to distinguish the sounds to languages to which they have
not been exposed
Babbling and Other Early Sounds