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Introduction to Linguistics 9 L1 & L2 Acquisition

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1 Introduction to Linguistics 9 L1 & L2 Acquisition
Prof. Jo Lewkowicz

2 The miracle of language
Bt age 4 English speaking children know 10,000+ words, equivalent of 10 new words per day Compare this with number of words you have learned in English during past week/month/year

3 Chronology of L1 acquisition
V. early stage Approx 6 mths Approx 1 year One-word stage Crying, smiling, cooing (4 -7 mths use pitch & loudness to play with ‘cooing sounds’) Babbling (e.g. dadada; bababa, mama) Children begin to realise the concept that words refer to something. As nos. words increases, so babbling decreases. When this starts varies from one child to another. What may be 2 words in adult language may be 1 word for a child , e.g. ‘allgone’. Also children may overextend words (e.g. bunny to mean many things such as doll, bear, toy lion etc.) Children may also underuse a word, e.g. ‘tree’ referring to leafless tree in winter and not to one in spring, summer.

4 From sound to syntax Sounds/pro-nunciation Syntax
Children learn some sounds more quickly than others Often delete a sound or syllable (e.g. ‘tein’ for ‘train’; ‘dedo’ for ‘potato’), replace one sound for another (‘wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’) May perceive sound differences they cannot produce Combining words together starts at approx 2 years. At first, speech is telegraphic, i.e. only content words used, e.g. mummy gone; Ethan no go. Sequence of learning predictable (especially noticeable in terms of morphology)

5 Interest in L1 acquisition
Interest in L1 acquisition has long history Example is the experiment carried out by Mogul Emperor in India in 16th century First comprehensive theory of language acquisition is developed by Skinner in late 1950s

6 Behaviourist views of L1 acquisition
Believed that language learned through imitation and habit formation BUT What we say is unique so children are unlikely to remember exactly what they have heard Children are creative in their language use: say things they will never have heard before Children overgeneralize rules, e.g. In English add ‘ed’ ending to past tense of irregular verbs Evidence that children also from an early stage accommodate to their speakers Children hear vast quantities of language – too much to remember everything

7 Mentalist approach All humans are hard-wired to learn to speak: defining factor for humanity. If this is so, how to we ‘classify’ those persons born without the power of acquiring spoken language? Children cannot simply learn from what they hear as this is often fragmentary, ungrammatical and imprecise. YET Parents do accommodate their speech when taking to infants: speak more slowly, more clearly and often in complete sentences Children have huge amounts of practice Parents do direct infants attention to aspects of language Infants early own can discover the limits of their communicative competence, which may lead to further L1 acquisition

8 Roger Brown’s contribution to L1 acquisition theory
Studies 3 unrelated children for a period of time. Found that there was a consistent pattern in what the children learned Found that they learned grammar in the same order but at a different rate Found that frequency with which the children encountered morphemes did not relate to the order in which they learned them But, children will not learn constructions they never hear.

9 Halliday’s contribution to L1 acquisition
Child starts by developing a ‘proto-language’: one-to-one correspondence between utterance & meaning At this stage there is no grammar & no words (as we know them) Sounds uttered are functioning as signs – drawing caregivers attention When words first appear a single word used to mean many things, i.e. overgeneralization: dog may mean: I like the dog, go away dog, I want a dog, etc.

10 Functionalist views of L1 acquisition
First utterances are not imitations of adult language Children go through number of stages in acquiring their language Acquire words then grammar When words first appear a single word used to mean many things, i.e. overgeneralization: dog may mean: I like the dog, go away dog, I want a dog, etc Children learn to nominate a topic of conversation early on. They also know how to take turns in the interactive process Learn to talk about the hear and now before talking about things that are not present Suggest that children do not learn words and then grammar to make meaning, but they learn to function using language to fulfil certain functions and as they do so, they acquire grammatical accuracy. Language acquisition stimulated by our drive to meet physical and emotional needs, including the need to socialise and become members of social groups.

11 Things young children can do with language
Satisfy material needs Get others to do things Interact socially Express their own uniqueness Explore the world Use language imaginatively Later 7th function = informative

12 What we know about L1 acquisitions
All healthy babies are ‘predisposed’ to learning their L1 in the spoken form, i.e. there is some mechanism or LAD (language acquisition device) in the brain. Learning, however, will only take place if babies hear language around them (they will not learn words/structures they do not hear). As young children learn their L1 they practice endlessly what they learn. Although the rate at which young children acquire their L1 varies, they follow a fixed sequence of learning. The order in which certain features of language are learned does not depend on the frequency with which they hear adults using the structures, e.g. they will learn plural ‘s’ (books) or the ‘ing’ (going) form before third person singular ‘s’ (he speaks).

13 Example of acquisition order
Present progressive (ing) 2/3. in, on Plural (-s) Past irregular Possessive (-’s) Uncontractible copula (is, am, are) Articles (a, the) Past regular (-ed) Third person regular (-s) Third person irregular (source: Brown, Roger (1973). A First Language. CUP)

14 SLA Second language acquisition is the study of learning a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. language having learned/started to learn an L1. This learning may take place in naturalistic or classroom settings. Researchers look at both the language used at various stages of learning (product) as well as the mental processes and environmental factors that influence that learning (process) Understanding SLA is important for knowing how to approach the teaching of 2nd/foreign languages Emerged from contrastive analysis studies (of similarities and differences between languages) Built on prevailing theories of psychology as well as knowledge/ understanding of L1 acquisition

15 Some facts about SLA Errors are important for SLA (both for learning the L2 and for studying the process of L2 acquisition) SLA is systematic and, to a large extent, universal Order in which grammatical features such as morphemes are acquired are largely fixed regardless in which order they are taught. Individual differences do determine how well SLL acquire a language. Many learners stop developing while still short of target-like competence

16 Language errors Initially errors were seen as something bad – to be avoided at all cost: in line with behaviourist psychology. Now recognise that errors in SLL are a stage through which learners must go through Errors that L2 learners make are universal: omission (compare with L1 acquisition) overgeneralization (compare with L1 acquisition) transfer errors (from L1) Negative transfer

17 Studies of errors Studies have shown that errors are:
Systematic (not random) Cannot always be predicted by CA Ls move through certain stages characterized by particular types of errors, i.e. go through an interlanguage phase Ls attempt to construct their own rules of language based on existing knowledge which may result in errors such as overgeneralization of regular past tense form

18 Early stages of L2 acquisition
Silent period (esp. for young learners): learners may be learning but they make no attempt to say anything Early speech characterized by: Formulaic chunks, e.g Can I have ...; What’s your name? I was born on 3rd June 1989 Propositional simplification: Ls leave out words, e.g. Me no blue = I have no blue crayon Ls then begin to acquire grammar and as they do so, they appear to follow a similar route in terms of accuracy and the errors they make

19 Example of the learning process
Stage Description Example 1 Ls fail to mark the tense for past time ‘eat’ 2 Ls begin to produce irregular past tense form ‘ate’ 3 Ls overgeneralize regular past tense form ‘eated’ 4 Sometimes Ls produce hybrid forms ‘ated’ 5 Ls produce correct irregular past tense forms

20 Individual differences and SLA
Age Language aptitude Motivation Learning skills, styles and strategies Personality type (introversion/ extroversion) Tolerance to errors

21 Fossilization Most learners do not reach full competence in every aspect of the target language, i.e. they do not go through all the stages of learning outlined in slide 11 for every aspect of the language. In such cases their ‘inertalnguage’ is said to have fossilized, i.e. their errors are consistent and systematically used At what point learners language development fossilizes depends on a number of factors including: Ls’ language aptitude Ls’ motivation to acquire language proficiency Ls’ needs

22 Critical age hypothesis
At around puberty the two spheres of the brain begin to harden and the left hemisphere takes on the responsibility for language. Prior to this, the brain has a great deal of plasticity which seems to facilitate language learning, at least in terms of pronunciation. After reaching this critical age, Ls appear to have greater difficulty in acquiring a 2nd language Research has suggested that there may not be a cut-off point for language – rather a different critical period for pronunciation and for syntax Few adults after reaching the critical period learn to pronounce a 2nd language without a trace of an accent.

23 What is the optimal age for SLL?
Because of the critical period hypothesis it is often believed that young children are more efficient language learners than adolescents or adults. This is true in terms of acquiring a native-like accent, but not so in terms of the rate at which they learn vocabulary or structures of the new language.

24 Age differences in SLA Younger advantage Older advantage
Brain plasticity Not analytical Fewer inhibitions (usually) Weaker group identity Simplified input more likely Learning capacity Analytic ability Pragmatic skills Greater knowledge of L1 Real-world knowledge

25 When does SLA takes place?
Like babies learning their L1, SLL need to have opportunities to hear and practice the language they are learning. The following may facilitate SLL: modified input - foreigner talk / comprehensible input interaction in which negotiation of meaning takes place scaffolding: the process by which Ls utilise discourse to help them construct structures that are outside their competence opportunities for comprehensible output

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