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Chapter 10

Psychology 2040A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Language Acquisition Device, Bound And Unbound Morphemes, Noam Chomsky

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Psych 2040A
Chapter 10: Development of Language and Communication Skills
Five Components of Language
language: a small number of individually meaningless symbols (sounds, letters,
gestures) that can be combined according to agreed-on rules to produce an infinite
number of messages
communication: the process by which one organism transmits information to and
influences another
vocables: unique pattern of sound that a prelinguistic infant uses to represent objects,
actions, or events
psycholinguists: those who study the structure and development of childrenʼs
five components of language include: phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, and
and semantics
phonology: the sound system of a language and the rules for combining these
sounds to produce meaningful units of speech
basic units of sound, or phonemes
no two languages have the same phonemes
morphology: the rules governing the formation of meaningful words from sounds
ie. adding ʻ-edʼ to a past tense verb
use of prefixes and suffixes
semantics: refers to the meanings expressed in words and sentences
morphemes: smallest meaningful units of language - two types
Free morphemes: can stand alone as words
Bound morphemes: cannot stand alone but change meaning when attached
to a free morpheme
syntax: the structure of a language; the rules specifying how words and
grammatical markers are to be combined to produce meaningful sentences
changing the order of words in a sentence can change its meaning
pragmatics: principles that underlie the effective and appropriate use of language
in social contexts
pragmatics also involve sociolinguistic knowledge - culturally specific rules
specifying how language should be structures and used in particular social
also includes the ability to interpret nonverbal signals that often help clarify the
meaning of a message
Theories of Language Development
nature/nurture or nativist/empiricist point of view

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learning theorists represent the empiricist point of view
they say that language is learned over time
however, other theorists point out that children all over the world exhibit similar
linguistic achievements at about the same age - linguistic universals - an aspect of
language development that all children share
there is also another view in which some believe that language acquisitions reflects a
complex interplay among a childʼs biological predispositions, her cognitive
development, and the characteristics of her unique linguistic environment
The Learning (or Empiricist) Perspective
emphasis on imitation and reinforcement - according to this theory, caregivers
ʻteachʼ language by modeling and reinforcing grammatical speech
adults begin to shape a childʼs speech by selectively reinforcing those aspect of
babbling that most resemble words, thereby increasing the probability that these
sounds will be repeated
Evaluation of the Learning Perspective
parents who frequently encourage conversations and who produce many novel
and sophisticated words in the context of play, storybook reading, and other
supportive interventions have children who are more advanced in their
language development than age-mates whose parents converse less often or
use a less diverse vocabulary.
The Nativist Perspective
Linguist Noam Chomsky, argued that the structure of even the simplest of
languages is incredibly elaborate to be taught or learned via trial-and-error
proposed that humans come equipped with a language acquisition device
(LAD) - an inborn linguistic processor that is activated by verbal input; an innate
knowledge of grammar that humans possess, which might enable young
children to infer the rules governing othersʼ speech and to use these rules to
produce language
Slobin does not assume that children have innate knowledge of language, but he
thinks that children have language-making capacity (LMC) - hypothesized set of
linguistic processing skills that enable children to analyze speech and to detect
phonological, semantic, and syntactical relationships
this capacity guides the childrenʼs own attempts to communicate
Support for the Nativist Perspective
linguistic universals as clear evidence that language must be guided by some
species-specific biological blueprint
language also seems to be species-specific
no species has even devised anything in the wild that closely resembles an
abstract, rule-bound linguistic system
Brain Specialization and Language
language centre is located in the left hemisphere.
aphasia: a loss of one or more language functions
Brocaʼs area: frontal lobe of the left hemisphere that controls language
Wernickeʼs area: located in the temporal lobe of the left hemisphere that is
responsible for interpreting speech

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infants are capable of discriminating important phonetic contrasts in the first
few days and weeks of life
The Sensitive-Period Hypothesis
sensitive-period hypothesis: the notion that human beings are most
proficient at language learning before they reach puberty
right hemisphere of a childʼs relatively unspecialized brain can assume any
linguistic functions lost when the left hemisphere is damaged.
learning a first language is easier in early life
case of Genie and Chelsea (p. 385)
puberty is also another threshold for when learning a 2nd language
learning a second language before puberty activates the same
languages areas in the brain
learning a second language after puberty activates different language
areas in the brain
Problems with the Nativist Perspective
nativists donʼt really explain language development by attributing it to a built-in
language acquisition device
explanation would require how such an inborn processor sifts through
linguistic input and infers the rules of language, yet nativists are not at all
clear about how a LAD or LMC works
it is like saying physical growth is biologically programmed - and then stopping
there, failing to identify the underlying variables that explain why growth follows
the course that it takes
nativist perspective is incomplete, it is really more a descriptions of language
learning than a true explanation
The Interactionist Perspective
interactionist theory: the notion that biological factors and environmental
influences to interact to determine the course of language development
language development results from a complex interplay among biological
maturation, cognitive development, and an ever-changing linguistic environment
that is heavily influenced by the childʼs desire to communicate
Biological and Cognitive Contributions
according to this viewpoint, young children all over the world talk alike and
display other linguistic universals because they are all members of the same
species who share many common experiences
infants first words rely heavily on objects they have manipulated or on actions
they have performed - aspects of experience that they can understand through
their sensorimotor schemes
like the nativist, interactionists believe that children are biologically prepared to
acquire a language
preparation consists not of a LAD or LMC, but a powerful human brain that
slowly matures, allowing children to gain more and more knowledge, which
gives them more to talk about
believes that grammatical speech arises out of social necessity
Environmental Support for Language Development
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