2 objectives Know the language system a child of the age 5 acquire. List the issues that are related to 1L acquisition.Explain the theories that interpret 1L acquisition.List the requirements for L1 acquisition.Explain the role of Caretaker speech (motherese) in L1 acquisition.Explain the stages of L1 acquisition.Explain how children develop morphological, syntactic and semantic language systems.
3 “The capacity to learn language is deeply ingrained in us as a species, just as the capacity to walk, to grasp objects, to recognize faces. We don’t find any serious difference in children growing up in congested urban slums, in isolated mountain villages, or in privileged suburban villas” Dan Slobin, The Human Language Series 2 (1994)
4 First language acquisition Every language is complex.Before the age of 5, the child knows most of the intricate system of grammar:Use the syntactic, phonological, morphological and semantic rules of the languageJoin sentencesAsk questionsUse appropriate pronounsNegate sentencesForm relative clauses
5 Issues in first language acquisition How do children acquire such a complex system so quickly and effortlessly?Does a child decide to consciously pursue certain skills? (e.g., walking)Do babies make a conscious decision to start learning a language?We correct children’s errors sometimes. Does it help?“Nobody don’t like me”
6 Theories of language acquisition Nature vs. NurtureBehaviorism (1950s)Children learn language through imitation, reinforcement and analogy- Look at these examplesHe go out.A my pencilWhat the boy hit?Nobody don’t like me
7 Theories of language acquisition Innateness hypothesisChildren are equipped with an innate template for language (Language Acquisition Device and Universal Grammar)Evidence:we end up knowing more about language than what we hear around us.The same stages in all cultures and languages
8 Basic requirementEnvironment and interaction to bring this capacity into operation- E.g. GenieThe child must be physically capable(being able to hear)Interaction.All these requirements are related.
9 The acquisition schedule In spite of different backgrounds, different locations, and different upbringings, most children follow the very same milestones in acquiring language.The biological schedule is related to the maturation of the infant’s brain to cope with the linguistic inputYoung children acquire the language by identifying the regularities in what is heard and applying those regularities in what they say.
10 Caretaker Speech (motherese) A type of simplified speech adopts by someone who spends time with the child characterized by:Frequent use of questionsSimplified lexiconPhonological reductionHigher pitch- extra loudnessStressed intonationSimple sentencesA lot of repetitionexample: Oh, goody! Now Daddy will push choo choo!
11 Caretaker Speech (motherese) Assign interactive roles to young childrenMOTHER: Look!CHILD: (touches picture)MOTHER: what are those?CHILD: (vocalizes a babble string and smiles)MOTHER: yes, there are rabbitsCHILD: Vocalizes and smilesMOTHER: (laughs) yes, rabbit
12 L1 acquisition Stage Typical Age Description cooing 3-5 months Vowel-like soundsbabbling6-10 monthsRepetitive CV patternsOne-word stage12-18 monthsSingle open-class words orword stemsTwo-word stagemonths"mini-sentences" withsimple semantic relationsTelegraphic stage24-30 monthssentence structures of lexicalwords no functional orgrammatical morphemesLater multiword stage30+ monthsGrammatical or functionalstructures emerge
13 CooingFew weeks: cooing and gurgling, playing with sounds. Their abilities are constrained by physiological limitationsThey seem to be discovering phonemes at this point.Producing sequences of vowel-like sounds- high vowels [i] and [u].4 months- sounds similar to velar consonants [k] & [g]5 months: distinguish between [a] and [i] and the syllables [ba] and [ga], so their perception skills are good.
14 Babbling Different vowels and consonants ba-ba-ba and ga-gaga 9-10 months- intonation patterns and combination of ba-ba-ba-da-daNasal sounds also appear ma-ma-ma10-11months use of vocalization to express emotionsLate stage- complex syllable combination (ma-da-gaba)Even deaf children babbleThe most common cross-linguistic sounds and patterns babbled the most, but later on they babble less common sounds
15 The word stage (holophrastic) Single terms are uttered for everyday objects ‘milk’, ‘cookie’, ‘cat’Produce utterance such as ‘Sara bed’ but not yet capable of producing a phrase.Differ from adult language:[da] dog[sa] sock[aj] light[daw] downConvey a more complex message
16 Two-word stage Vocabulary moves beyond 50 words By 2 years old, children produce utterances ‘baby chair’, ‘mommy eat’Interpretation depends on contextAdults behave as if communication is taking place.
17 Telegraphic stageBy 2 years & a half, they produce multiple-word speech.Developing sentence building capacity.E.g. ‘this shoe all wet’, ‘cat drink milk’, ‘daddy go bye-bye’Vocabulary continues to growBetter pronunciation
18 The acquisition process The child does not acquire the language by imitating adults but really they are trying out constructions and testing them.CHILD: my teacher holded the baby rabbit and we patted themMOTHER: did you say your teacher held the baby rabbit?CHILD: yes. she holded the baby rabbit and we patted themMOTHER: Did you say she held them tightly?CHILD: no, she holded them loosely
19 Developing Morphology By 2-and-a-half years old- use of some inflectional morphemes to indicate the grammatical function of nouns and verbs.The first inflection to appear is –ing after it comes the –s for plural.Overgeneralization: the child applies –s to words like ‘foots’ ‘mans’ and later ‘feets’ and ‘mens’
20 Developing Morphology The use of possessive ‘s’ appears ‘mommy’s bag’Forms of verb to be appear ‘is’ and ‘are’The –ed for past tense appears and it is also overgeneralized as in ‘goed’ or holded’Finally –s marker for 3rd person singularpreset tense appears with full verbs firstthen with auxiliaries (does-has)
21 Developing syntaxA child was asked to say the owl who eats candy runs fast and she said The owl eat candy and he run fast.The development of two syntactic structures- three stagesForming questionsForming negatives
22 Forming questions 1st stage: Insert where and who to the beginning of an expression with rising intonationE.g. sit chair? Where horse go?2nd stage:More complex expressionE.g. why you smiling? You want eat?3rd stage:Inversion of subject and verbE.g. will you help me? What did I do?
23 Forming negatives Stage 1: Putting not and no at the beginning e.g. not teddy bear, no sit hereStage 2:Don’t and can’t appear but still use no and not before VERBSe.g. he no bite you, I don’t want itStage 3:didn’t and won’t appeare.g. I didn’t caught it, she won’t go
24 Developing SemanticsDuring the two-word stage children use their limitedvocabulary to refer to a large number of unrelatedobjects.Overextension: overextend the meaning of a word on the basis of similarities of shape, sound, and size.e.g. use ball to refer to an apple, and egg, a grape and a ball.This is followed by a gradual process of narrowing
25 Developing Semantics Antonymous relations are acquired late The distinction between more/less, before/after seem to be later acquired.