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How Children Acquire Language

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Presentation on theme: "How Children Acquire Language"— Presentation transcript:

1 How Children Acquire Language

2 Four Theories about Language Acquisition
Imitation (modeling) Reinforcement (Rewards and Punishment) Constructing grammar from input/experience (1- 3 are all learning theories) Absorption of a specific language into an already existing general language structure in the brain: “innateness hypothesis”

3 Imitation : Children memorize words and sentences they hear from a language.
Cons Children use forms of words that adults never say The mistakes children make are consistent between children and between language groups Children produce words and sentences they have never heard. Children undertand words and sentences they have never heard. X Pros Language symbols are arbitrary and not logically connected to the things they represent Children only learn the language people around them speak Consensus says “Cons” Win ! 

4 Reinforcement: Children learn to speak by being praised or corrected by adults.
Cons Corrections are rare when total number of speech events is considered. Praise is rare when the total number of speech events is considered. Even without ANY praise or corrections children acquire language Praise or corrections frequently don’t change child language. X Pros ??????? Consensus says “Cons” Win ! 

5 Input/Experience : Children figure out and learn grammatical patterns from hearing adult language patterns Cons The speed with which children acquire all of the grammatical patterns of a language is so rapid that is is difficult to see how they can figure out all grammar from experience in so short a time Pros Children make systematic mistakes in grammar by “over regularizing” forms A Tie?

6 Over Regularized Forms
Verb Forms Children learn such past tense patterns as e.g. walked, hugged, wanted, then apply the rules to irregular verbs e.g.“bringed”, “eated”, “runned” Nouns Given nonsense nouns like “wug” children make them plural by adding “s” and Children regularize plurals of irregular nouns e.g. womans, mans

7 Innateness Hypothesis 1
Innateness Hypothesis 1. Children’s brains have a “language acquisition device” that already contains the full range of structural possibilities inherent in language (“universal grammar”) . This device absorbs the specific language the child hears Children use the structural patterns they hear and discard the structural patterns they do not hear Children do not have to learn structural patterns. They only have to choose between them.

8 Lenneberg’s Six Components of Innate Behavior
Emerges before it is necessary. Is not the result of a conscious decision. Is not triggered by external events. Teaching and practice have little effect There is a regular developmental sequence Emerges during a critical period of development

9 Language emerges before it is necessary.
Language emerges between the ages of 12 and 24 months while the child is completely dependent on parents for survival. Although language will be an important survival tool, it is important to survival at this age.

10 2. Language acquisition is not the result of a conscious decision.
There is no evidence that children decide to learn language. Early language is an spontaneous game that happens between babies and their caretakers, not a conscious goal.

11 3. Language acquisition is not triggered by external events.
There is nothing that causes the emergence of language to begin. All children begin playing with sound and language regardless of the context in which they live. Children require input, but even children who do not interact with others begin the stages of language acquisition. Without external input they may not succeed in acquiring language, but they still initiate the same behaviors as isolated children.

12 4. Teaching and practice have little effect on language acquisition.
Parents do not give lessons to their children to get them to acquire language. Praise and correction do not occur with enough frequency to account for language proficiency Praise and correction may have little effect on language acquisition. Children produce language they have not heard from others Children learn language too rapidly to logically derive all linguistic rules from experience

13 “Poverty of the Stimulus”
If language is learned, then children should only produce words and sentences they have heard. If language is learned, then children should only understand words and sentences they have heard.

14 5. There is a regular developmental sequence to language acquisition.
Language is acquired in a universal series of stages regardless of the cultural and/or linguistic context a. Babbling b. Holophrastic speech (1 word) c. Telegraphic speech (2 word) d. Functional morpheme acquisition order e. Acquisition of negatives

15 a. Babbling 4 to 12 months Babies begin with strings of sounds and by 12 months are babbling the full range of sounds used in human speech. Syllables can be detected in babbling Intonation patterns can be detected in babbling Deaf children babble with gestures

16 b. Holophrastic Speech At about 1 year
The first stage of symbolic connection of sounds with meanings One word sentences e.g. Go! e.g “afuf” e.g. “ahbee”

17 c. Telegraphic Speech 18 to 24 months Two word sentences
e.g. Mommy up. e.g. Me go. Evidence of syntax – ordering two meaning symbols Lack function words like articles, helping verbs, etc.

18 c. Functional Morphemes
At 2 ½ to 3 years Add functional morphemes that adjust the meanings of words 1. Addition of ing to verbs 2. Add prepositions in and on 3. Addition of “s” 1st to plural nouns 2nd to possessive nouns 3rd to present tense verbs 4. Addition of articles (a, an, the) 5. Forms of “to be” (is going ra th go)

19 c. Acquisition of Negatives
1. No in front of sentence “No I go.” 2. Negative between subject and verb “I no go.” 3. Correct grammatical integration

20 6. There is a critical period for language development.
Childhood stages are quite regular Ability to acquire language after puberty declines in all humans regardless of cultural and/or linguistic context People who learn a language after puberty retain their first language accent. Deaf individuals who learn to sign after puberty sign significantly differently than those who learn before.

21 Language Development and Lateralization of the Brain
Lenneberg hypothesized that the acquisition of language is tied to the lateralization of the brain, which begins at about 2 years old and proceeds until puberty.

22 Isabelle and Genie ISABELLE GENIE found at 6.5 years
cognitively delayed no aural linguistic input lived w/ deaf mom in isolation at 8.5 yrs, achieved normal language skill GENIE found at 13 years cognitively delayed no linguistic input chained in dark room learned complex vocabulary but never acquired syntax

23 Video Out of the Mouths of Babes

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