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Chapter 8

PSYC 1010 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Language Acquisition Device, Metalinguistic Awareness, Noam Chomsky

Course Code
PSYC 1010
Rebecca Jubis

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Readings Chapter 8
What is language?
Language: consists of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols,
that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages
Language is symbolic; sounds & written words are used to represent objects, actions, events
& ideas
Language is semantic; they are meaningful
Language is generative; symbols combine to generate a message
Language is structured; a limited number of ways to structure language rules
The Structure of Language: Phonemes
Phonemes: the smallest speech units in a language that can be distinguished
Humans are capable of recognizing only about 100 basic sounds
English dictionary uses about 40 phonemes
The Structure of Language: Morphemes & Semantics
Morphemes: the smallest unit of meaning in a language
Approximately 50 000 English morphemes including prefixes and suffixes
Semantics: the area of language concerned with understanding the meaning of
words/word combinations
The Structure of Language: Syntax
Syntax: a system of rules that specify how words can be arranged into sentences
Must have a subject + verb
Moving Toward Producing Words
3-month old infants can distinguish phonemes from all of the worlds languages
This ability gradually disappears between 4-12 months

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In a bilingual home, an infant can distinguish the two languages before speaking
There are optimal periods in language acquisition
By 7.5 months, infants begin to recognize common word forms
By 8 months they can understand the meanings of familiar words
Babbling lasts until around 18 months
Babbling is a motor achievement in which the babbling reflects the brains maturation
in controlling the motor operations needed to eventually produce speech
Babbling is a key linguistic achievement
Deaf babies exhibit manual babbling with their hands instead of mouth
Age General Characteristics
1-5Reflexive communication: vocalizes randomly, coos, laughs, cries, engages in vocal play,
discriminates language from non-language sounds
6-18 Babbling: verbalizes in response to the speech of others; responses increasingly
approximate human speech patterns
10-13 First words: uses words, typically to refer to objects. Ie, ball
12-18 One-word sentence stage: vocabulary grows slowly; uses nouns primarily; overextensions
18-24 Vocabulary spurt: fast mapping facilitates rapid acquisition of new words
2Two-word sentence stage: uses telegraphic speech; uses more pronouns & verbs
2.5Three-word sentence stage: modifies speech to take listener into account;
overregularizations begin
3Uses complete simple active sentence structure; uses sentences to tell stories that are
understood by others; uses plurals
3.5Expanded grammatical forms: expresses concepts with words; uses four-word sentences
4Uses five-word sentences
5Well developed & complex syntax: uses more complex syntax; uses more complex forms to
tell stories
6Displays metalinguistic awareness
Using Words
Toddlers say between 3-5 words by 18 months
Their receptive vocabulary is greater than their productive vocabulary
They can comprehend more words they hear, than saying the actual words

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Toddlers can understand 50 words way before they can say 50 words
Easier to say nouns than verbs first
Vocabulary spurt is between 18-24 months
By the 1st grade, the average child has a vocabulary of 10 000 words, and 40 000 by 5th grade
Some two year olds can learn 20 words a week
Fast mapping: the process which children map a word onto an underlying concept
after only one exposure
Due to improved articulation skills, improved understanding of syntax, underlying
cognitive development
Overextension: occurs when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a wider set of
objects or actions than it is meant to. Ie, a child might use the word ball for anything
thats round. Occurs between age 1-2.5
Underextensions: occur when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower
set of objects or actions than it is meant to. Ie, a child might use the word doll for
only one particular doll
Combining Words
Children combine words into sentences near the end of their 2nd year
Telegraphic speech: consists mainly of content words; articles, prepositions & other
less critical words are omitted. Ie, give doll rather than please give me the doll
Telegraphic speech is not cross-cultural universal
Mean length of utterance (MLU): the average length of youngsters spoken
statements (measured in morphemes)
By end of 3rd year, most children can use plural or past tense expressions
Overregularizations: occur when grammatical rules are incorrectly generalized to
irregular cases where they dont apply ie, the girl goed home instead of the girl
went home
This occurs in all languages
Refining Language Skills
Metalinguistic awareness: the ability to reflect on the use of language
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