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BBI 3209 LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Wong Bee Eng Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication Universiti Putra Malaysia.

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Presentation on theme: "BBI 3209 LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Wong Bee Eng Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication Universiti Putra Malaysia."— Presentation transcript:

1 BBI 3209 LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Wong Bee Eng Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication Universiti Putra Malaysia

2 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 2 Unit 4 – The role of UG in L1 acquisition Unit 5 – The observable phenomena in SLA/ SLL Unit 6 – The cognitive approach to SLA/ SLL Unit 7 – The role of universal grammar in SLA/ SLL

3 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 3 Unit 4 – The role of UG in L1 acquisition Universal Grammar Principles Parameters L1 Acquisition

4 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 4 Unit 5 – The observable phenomena in SLA/ SLL Transfer of properties of the L1 into the L2 - Phonological properties - Morphological properties - Syntactic properties Staged development in SLA/ SLL Systematicity in SLA/ SLL across learners Variability in SLA/ SLL Incompleteness in SLA/ SLL

5 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 5 Unit 6 – The cognitive approach to SLA/ SLL The Perceptual Saliency Approach Learnability/Teachability Hypothesis Information Processing Models - McLaughlin’s information processing model - Andersen’s ACT* model

6 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 6 Unit 7 – The role of universal grammar in SLA/ SLL THE UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR APPROACH The main goals of linguistic theory are to answer the following questions:  What constitutes knowledge of language?  How is knowledge of language acquired?  How is knowledge of language put to use?

7 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 7 1. What Constitutes Knowledge of Language?  Knowledge of language – subconscious mental representation of language which underlies all language use.  We inherit a universal set of principles and parameters (Chomsky, 1981, 1986a, 1986b).  Principles – invariant

8 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 8  Parameters – a limited number of open values which characterize differences between languages.  This approach – provides a detailed descriptive framework for second language (SLA) research.

9 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 9 2. How is Knowledge of Language Acquired?  The logical problem of language learning – degenerate input.  UG – makes the task easier.  In SLA – learners are faced with the same logical problem of constructing a grammar of the L2 on the basis of fragmentary input and of having to construct abstract representations on the basis of the samples of language they actually encounter.

10 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 10 The manner in which L2 learners go about this is probably NOT the same as the process in L1 acquisition – 3 reasons  A. different needs  B. already have an L1 – with the parameters set to the values of the L1  C. L2 learners – cognitively mature, able to solve problems, able to deal with abstract concepts.

11 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM How is Knowledge of Language Put to Use?  UG is concerned with knowledge of language – competence, not how language is used in real life – performance.  Performance – domain of a theory of language use, in which linguistic competence is only one aspect.  Another aspect of language use also has to define how we access our knowledge base (affected by sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic variables).

12 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 12 Arguments from L1 acquisition  L1 acquisition – NOT linked to intelligence.  Dissociation between language development and cognitive development (aspects of cognition)  Williams syndrome – a metabolic disorder – heart defects, mental retardation, distinctive facial expression  Bellugi et al. (1993) – a dissociation between language development and the kind of cognitive prerequisites which Piaget argue are necessary for language development in such children.

13 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 13  Smith and Tsimpli (1995) - Christopher – savant – brain damaged but can read, write and communicate in about 17 languages.  Has low performance IQ but has an average/above average verbal IQ.

14 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 14  Specific Language Impairment – SLI (Gopnik and Crago, 1991; Pinker, 1994).  Children – cognitively normal but language impaired  Characterized by language being deficient in specific ways, possibly inherited – some aspects of language at least might be genetically controlled.

15 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 15  Language seems separate from other aspects of cognition although the 2 interact  Language itself seems to be modular in nature  Broca’s aphasia (front and above the left ear) – impaired speech production – effortful, hesitant and non-fluent, almost no grammatical structure, mainly specific nouns and few verbs - comprehension of speech remains good

16 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 16  Wernicke’s aphasia – results from injury to the Wernicke’s area (around and under the left ear.  Effortless, fluent and rapid speech but vague and incomprehensible – grammatically complex and well structured, but lacking in content words with specific meaning; general Ns and Vs (something, stuff, put, did)  comprehension of speech – impaired.  Specific areas of the brain deal with specific aspects of language.

17 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 17  6 Features of Language Development (Biologically triggered behaviour) (Aitchison, 1989, p.67 based on Lenneberg (1967))  1. The behaviour emerges before it is necessary.  2. Its appearance is not the result of a conscious decision.  3. Its emergence is not triggered by external events (though the surrounding environment must be sufficiently ‘rich’ for it to develop adequately).

18 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 18  4. Direct teaching and intensive practice have relatively little effect.  5. There is a regular sequence of ‘milestones’ as the behaviour develops, and these can usually be correlated with age and other aspects of development.  6. There may be a ‘critical period’ for the acquisition of the behaviour.

19 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 19 UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR WHAT DOES UG CONSIST OF? The theory has many versions.  from phrase structure rules to  the Principles and Parameters framework (Chomsky, 1986a,b; 1987) to  the Minimalist Programme (Chomsky, 1995).  essentially the goal is the same, i.e. to characterise the innate language faculty.

20 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 20  The different versions have varying emphases – this is the result of search for descriptive adequacy – to account for the details of increasing numbers of typologically unrelated languages while the search for explanatory adequacy – to make effective cross-language generalizations..

21 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 21  A theory of language must show how each particular language can be derived from a uniform initial state under the ‘boundary conditions’ set by experience. … The search for descriptive adequacy seems to lead to ever- greater complexity and variety of rule systems, while the search for explanatory adequacy requires that language structure must be invariant, except at the margins. (Chomsky, 2000: 7)

22 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 22 Principles  Initial state – a set of universal principles which specify the limited possibilities of variation – parameters. Parameters  Need to be fixed (set).  Language learning – constrained.

23 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 23 E.g. of a principle – Structure Dependency The knowledge that languages are Structure Dependent can explain Subject Auxiliary Inversion, Passivisation, etc. The way we move elements is not based on the linear order of the sentence. Structure Dependency – a principle of UG

24 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 24 Also part of our UG endowment  Syntactic categories – both lexical and functional and do no have to be learnt.  Universal inventory of categories that the child selects from on the basis of the input, as not all languages will make use of all categories or their features.

25 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 25 PARAMETERS Languages – organized hierarchically in terms of phrases (structure – dependency).  But there are rules which differ between languages – Parameters.  E.g. Head Parameter – specifies the position of the head in relation to its complement(s).

26 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 26  Parameters – language –specific knowledge.  Head parameter and it is stated as:  The parameter that determines the relative positioning of heads with respect to their complements (Radford, 1997; 20).  ‘a language is… a set of specification for parameters in an invariant system of principles of UG’ (Chomsky, 1995: 388).

27 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 27  Language acquisition – learning the LEXICON; i.e. learning the VOCABULARY of the language and settings of parameters.  Abstract principles – specified as before.  Parameters – contained in the FUNCTIONAL categories only.

28 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 28 L1 Acquisition  The core element of a phrase is the head.  Complements optionally modify the head.  Another type of modifier is the Specifier – also an optional modifier.

29 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 29  In L1 acquisition, children would know that sentences are made of phrases which comprise the Specifier-Head-Complement structure.  They don’t have to learn this since this is part of the child’s innate knowledge.  But they would not know the exact ordering of these elements in their language.  They need linguistic input in order to set the head parameter.

30 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 30  The number of possibilities with regard to the ordering of these three elements is constrained. The following are the possibilities:  Specifier-Head-Complement (like the English language)  Specifier-Complement-Head  Head-Complement-Specifier

31 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 31  Examples of utterances of a 20-month-old boy (from Radford, 1997: 22). Head (V) Complement Touch heads Cuddle book Want crayons Head (P) Complement In school To mummy With potty

32 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 32  Acquiring this aspect of word order involves the simple task of setting a binary (two-way) either head-first or head-last parameter at its appropriate value.  In other words, UG would tell the child that the only possible choices are for languages to be head-first or head-last.

33 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 33 Universal Grammar and second language acquisition Theoretical relevance of UG to SLA/SLL Clear from its appeal in L1 acquisition – as it is a theory of natural languages and so to say that it has no part to play in SLA is to say L2es are not natural languages. A major impetus for SLA research was the discovery that L1 and L2 acquisition are similar in many ways, e.g. the morpheme studies.

34 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 34 L1 acquisition – due to a blueprint in the brain. L2 learners – go through fairly rigid stages too although here it is more complicated –  L2 learners are more cognitively mature  L2 learners already know at least one other language  L2 learners have different motivations for learning an L2.

35 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 35 The notions of  Initial State  Steady State

36 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 36  These facts have important implications that have to be addressed.  If the UG hypothesis is the right one for L1 acquisition, then a number of logical possibilities exist for SLA.

37 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 37 A.L2es are not UG-constrained L2es are not constrained by UG principles and parameters, and they do not behave like natural languages.

38 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 38 B. L2es are UG-constrained i. Full access: the whole of UG is available to L2 learners, in the same way as it is to L1 learners. ii. Partial access: Some parts of UG are not available any longer.

39 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 39 Principles and parameters in SLA/SLL Studies to show learners do not violate the structure dependency principle. Learners seem to know that the L2 will be hierarchically structured in terms of phrases, rather than linearly ordered.

40 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 40 Debates and hypotheses about parameter resetting Empirical evidence 3 views/hypotheses A. L2 learners have no access to UG B. L2 learners have full access to UG. C. L2 learners have partial access to UG.

41 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 41 3 views/hypotheses A. L2 learners have no access to UG UG is no longer available to L2 learners. Proponents of this view argue that there is a ‘critical period’ for language acquisition during children’s early development, and that adult L2 learners have to resort to other learning mechanisms.

42 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 42 Reasons  The commonsense observation that immigrant children become native-like speakers of their L2, whereas their parents rarely do (see e.g. Johnson and Newport, 1989).  However, adult grammars are generally UG- constrained (Hawkins, 2001; White, 2003).

43 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 43  Studies tend to focus on differences between L1 and L2 acquisition, and on differences in the end result of the acquisition process.

44 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 44 B. L2 learners have full access to UG. 3 sub-views Full access/no transfer – UG continues to underpin SLA, for adults as well as children and there is not such thing as a critical period.

45 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 45 Full transfer/full access – L2 learners have full access to UG principles and parameters, whether or not they are present in the learners’ L1.

46 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 46 Full access/impaired early representations – Learners can reset parameters to the L2 values, but hat initially, learners lack functional categories altogether. Minimal Trees approach – only lexical categories are projected initially, which transfer from the L1. Valueless Features Hypothesis – similar account; both lexical and functional categories are transferred early on (with a short stage in which only lexical categories are transferred early on), but functional categories lack values such as tense, agreement, etc. and are present as syntactic markers only (i.e. inflections may be lacking, but the syntactic operations linked to these categories are in place.)

47 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 47 C. L2 learners have partial access to UG 2 sub-views No parameter resetting Learners only have access to UG via their L1. They have already accessed the range of principles applying to their L1, and set parameters to the L1 values, and this forms the basis for L2 development. Other principles and parameter settings are not available to them, and if the L2 has parameter settings different from those of their L1, they will have to resort to other mechanisms in order to make the L2 data fit their internal representations. Such mechanisms – rooted in general problem-solving strategies, and not UG-based.

48 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 48 Impaired functional features L2 grammars are UG-constrained, but not all parameter settings are available to the learners. L2 learners try to accommodate the L2 grammar within the settings they already have, i.e. access to parametric options is unlike L1 acquisition.

49 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 49 a. Modulated structure building Learners begin with ‘minimal trees’, lexical projections determined by L1. Functional projections develop gradually, with L1 functional features transferring on to the L2, but only when the relevant syntactic representation has been sufficiently elaborated to instantiate the property in question.

50 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 50 b. Constructionism The L2 learner uses a coalition of resources – a UG template, L1 transfer, primary linguistic data, its mediation in social discourse (input and intake) and instructional bootstrapping – to construct L2 vocabulary and grammar.

51 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 51 Evaluation Scope and achievement of the UG approach The UG view of language The UG view of language acquisition The UG view of the language learner

52 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 52 EVALUATION OF UG-BASED APPROACHES TO SLA A. The UG Theory  The UG theory is a theory of language (linguistic theory) which aims to describe and explain human language, not a learning theory.  It is only indirectly relevant to SLA research – to understand the acquisition process and what it is that learners have to acquire.  UG research – primarily concerned with the description and explanation of the formal system underlying language.

53 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 53  In the past, it focused mainly on morphosyntax – outstanding research which will feed into a comprehensive SLA theory.  Recently, more interest has been shown in phonology, morphology and the lexicon.  However, semantics, pragmatics and discourse are still not considered.  Scope – does not include a theory of processing, or a theory of learning.  It is a property theory, not a transition theory.

54 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 54 The UG view of language  The object of study is still the sentence and its internal structure, rather than any larger unit of language. This includes the study of smaller units (words, morphemes and phonemes) and how different elements relate to one another.

55 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 55 Criticisms  Major criticism – it studies language clinically, in a vacuum, as a mental object rather than a social or psychological one.  This approach views the speaker/learner not as an individual with varied characteristics, nor as a social being but as an idealized receptacle for the UG blueprint (innate knowledge).  The emphasis is not on the speaker/learner (the person) but on language as the object of study.  In spite of these criticisms – it is highly influential as a linguistic theory and is the most sophisticated tool for analyzing language today.

56 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 56 The UG view of language acquisition Weaknesses  UG-based approaches criticized for the same reasons as the theory itself.  In the past - concerned with syntax mainly.  Now, the areas of phonology, morphology and the lexicon are being investigated.  Semantics, pragmatics and discourse ignored.

57 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 57  Concerned mainly with the developmental linguistic route followed by L2 learners – concerned with documenting and explaining the nature of L2 linguistic system.  It ignores the social and psychological variables which affect the rate of the acquisition process.

58 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 58 Strengths  The UG approach to SLA research – highly influential and fruitful.  Has generated a wealth of studies that have enhanced our understanding of L2 morphosyntactic development.

59 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 59  It is useful tool for linguistic analysis – to describe the interlanguage of the learners, the L2 and the L1 of the learner. Researchers are able to formulate well- defined and focused hypotheses in empirical work. SLA research – increase our knowledge of human language (the main aim of UG theory).

60 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 60  It is useful in explaining some facts about SLA. E.g. it has informed our understanding of the phenomena of staged development and systematicity in SLA – i.e. if learners are constrained by UG, their development should be staged and systematic (just like L1 development is). This theory can explain transfer/cross-linguistic influence in terms of principles and parameters – i.e. whether parameters can be reset.

61 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 61 The UG view of the language learner Only interested in the learner as the possessor of a mind that contains language; assumption is all humans are endowed with such a mind, and variations between individuals are of little concern to UG theorists.

62 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 62 Conclusion  Meet the criteria of a good theory as it makes explicit statements of the grounds it aims to cover and the claims it makes, by having systematic procedures for theory evaluation, by attempting to explain and describe some of the L2 phenomena and by engaging increasingly with other theories in the field.

63 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 63 Final Examination Questions will be based on units 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the module and the second face-to-face lecture.

64 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 64 Types of questions: MCQs T/F Structural Short essays/paragraphs

65 Wong Bee Eng FBMK UPM 65 Assignment 2 Deadline for submission: Week 11, Sem Topic: Provide a historical overview of the major frameworks (linguistic, psychological, and cognitive perspectives) on Second Language acquisition (SLA).  Include your name, matriculation number, topic of your assignment, and date due.  Assignment should be typed and double-spaced with 12 pt. font.  Use APA style in your citations and references.  Turn in a hard copy and an electronic version to my on the due date.  Do NOT plagiarise.

66 References  Mitchell, R. and Myles, F. (2004). Second Language Learning Theories (2 nd ed.). London: Arnold.  Ortega, L. (2009). Understanding second language acquisition. London: Hodder Arnold.  VanPatten, B. & Williams, J. (Eds.) (2007). Theories in Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.


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