Baby Talk How Infants Become Children. Questions about Language Acquisition Is language innate? If it is, what skills allow children to learn language?
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Questions about Language Acquisition Is language innate? If it is, what skills allow children to learn language? What part does “caretaker” speech play in language acquisition? What is the schedule for acquisition? How do children learn the subsystems? How do we describe a child’s language?
Innateness of Language Children seemed primed from birth to learn language. –Watch faces of people carefully Newborns distinguish their parents’ speech from that of others. Newborns distinguish their native language from foreign languages.
Preconditions for Acquisition Language is dependent on live human interaction. Language is culturally and contextually determined. Children must be intellectually and physically capable of acquiring language.
Theories of Language Acquisition Imitation Theory: Children learn by listening and reproducing what they hear –Does not account for regular speech errors –Does not account for a “child grammar” Reinforcement Theory: Children earn praise and reward –Correction usually factual –Correction rarely works
Child as “Grammar Builder” Active Construction: Children build the rules of their own grammar –Children analyze utterances around them for sound and grammatical content –Hypothesize rules to account for patterns –Test their patterns through speech –Children eventually “prune away” inaccurate rules
Baby Talk Caretaker language may help children acquire language. Simplified speech with exaggerated sounds, frequent questions, simplified words, reference to child’s environment. Conversational even when child is preverbal. Changes as child’s stage of acquisition changes.
Pre-linguistic Stages Birth thru mid-teens (ha-ha): crying 3-6 months: Cooing. Production of “velar” consonants [k] [g]; vowels 6-10 months: Babbling. Production of a variety of sounds along with recog- nizable patterns of intonation. Usually CV sounds.“Alien language.” 10 months-beginning speech: Sound- play.
Holophrastic Stage 12-18 months. Single unit utterances. Single words for real-world references: mama, dada, milk, cookie, kitty, cup. Simplified phrases: whasa? For “What’s that?” Associative.
Two-word Stage: 18-20 months Child’s vocabulary exceeds fifty words. By 24 months, complex patterns implying sentential relationships. –Cat bad, baby chair, baby sleep. The Cat is bad. This is baby’s chair. The baby needs to sleep. Child capable of understanding up to 2000 and producing 200-400 words.
Telegraphic Stage: 2-3 years Quantity of multiple word utterances. At first, only lexical morphemes. –Baby want ball. –Baby sleep. Later, you find simple inflectional endings and function words. –Baby want a ball. –Baby is asleep. –Baby sleeping.
Process of Acquisition Children acquire--they are not “taught.” First must decode the speech stream, breaking utterances into their component parts. Derive rules from speech. Word-play.
Morphology By the age of three, children begin to acquire inflectional morphology: -ing, -s (plural). Overgeneralize the rules: foots, mans, boyses, footses, feetses. Children learn through interaction with language: reading, parents, other children. Children don’t learn to speak from TV.
Sequence of Morpheme Acquisition -ing plural –s possessive –s the and a regular past tense –ed third person singular –s auxiliary be
Syntax Stage I (18-26 months). –Questions: Addition of wh- word: Where kitty? Where horse go? –Negatives: Addition of no: No fall. Stage II (22-30 months). –Questions: Rising intonation. –Negatives: Addition of don’t and can’t. Stage III (24-40 months). –Questions: Inversion of verb: Can I have a piece? –Negatives: Additional auxiliaries: didn’t, isn’t
Semantics Overextension of meaning. Use of middle-level term: animal-dog- poodle. Overextension of meaning in particular dimensions. –Motor vehicles: trucks (movement, purpose, setting). –Stuffed animals: bears (shape, texture, context). –Fly: insects (size, context).