Three variables of language acquisition Environmental Cognitive Innate
Linguistic Environment Basic questions: Is exposure to language needed for language acquisition? Does the exposure have to be within a particular time frame? What types of language input are most useful?
Feral Children Victor: found in France in 1797 about 12 or 13 years old. Trained at the age of 16 for 5 years. Victor would name objects that were presented but would not request them by using their names. He developed a gestural communication system. He associated a particular name with a particular object, rather than a class of objects.
Isolated Children Genie was confined to the home for 13.5 years, and had very little exposure to language. Her language development was uneven. Phonologically, she could not use correct speech sounds but showed signs of using intonation appropriately. Semantically, she began acquiring vocabulary within 2 months and developed like a normal child. Her syntactic development was slow. She displayed few grammatical morphemes and no complex syntactic devices. She strung together content words with little grammatical structure: I like hear music ice cream truck.
Motherese Characteristics of Motherese PhonologicalExaggerated intonation, clear articulation SyntacticShorter sentences SemanticUse of diminutives, concrete referents PragmaticPreponderance of directives and questions
Motherese Hypothesis Strong form: Features of motherese are necessary for language to develop properly. The absence of these features would lead to a child’s language difficulty. Weak form: These features assist a child’s development. Researches: correlational approach and experimental approach
Motherese Hypothesis Correlational studies: limited relationships between parental speech and child language. Mothers who used more yes/no questions had children who used more auxiliaries but most aspects of child language were unrelated. Experimental studies: language development can be facilitated if children are presented with new syntactic information related to the child’s previous sentence. Child: allgone truck. Experimenter: Yes, the truck is all gone.
Cognitive Process Operating principles Induction Sensorimotor schemata
Operating Principles. APay attention to the ends of words. BThe phonological forms of words can be systematically modified. CPay attention to the order of words and morphemes. DAvoid interruption or rearrangement of linguistic units. EUnderlying semantic relations should be marked overtly and clearly. FAvoid exceptions. GThe use of grammatical markers should make semantic sense.
Operating Principles The principles explain early child grammar: Children use fixed word order to create meanings. (C) Children segment words into free and bound morphemes by noticing different versions of the same word (B) or by noticing the kinds of linguistic elements that may serve as bound morphemes (A) Children often overregularize grammartical morpheme. (F)
Induction We notice similarities among several instances and draw a generalization based on these similarities. Induction facilitates the child’s acquisition of lexicon.
Sensorimotor schemata Piaget (1952): sensorimotor period (first 2 years), the schemata the child uses to organize experience are directly related to taking in sensory information and acting on it. Sensorimotor period ends at the acquisition of object permanence, the notion that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived.
Sensorimotor schemata Later tests showed various results, but generally support the cognitive approach to language acquisition. They seem to conclude that it is not enough for the child to be presented with a given lexical item – the child must be cognitively ready to learn the item before it will be given much attention.
Innate mechanism Language bioprogram hypothesis Parameter setting theory
Language Bioprogram Hypothesis Bickerton (1981): we have an innate grammar that is available biologically if our language input is insufficient to acquire the language of our community. Pidgins and Creoles: In pidgins, there is no recognizable syntax. Word order is widely used but often related to the speaker’s native language. Complex sentences are absent. Sentences often lack verbs.
Language Bioprogram Hypothesis In Creoles, word order is consistent. Complex sentences are used with relative clauses. There is a distinction between definite and indefinite articles. All of these are the result of the language bioprogram. Bickerton found Hawaiian Creole was strikingly similar to Creoles created by children in very different parts of the world.
Parameter Setting Grammar can be defined in terms of a set of parameters corresponding to each of the subsystems of the language, with each parameter having a finite number of possible settings. Language acquisition is a process of reduction of parameters to identifying which settings apply to one’s native language.
Parameters Head parameter: Each phrase has one element that is most essential. In English noun phrases, the head noun comes first. In Japanese, the heads appear last. Null-subject parameter: In Italian, it is acceptable to drop the subject of a sentence, but not In English..
Subset Principle Children begin to search through possible languages by beginning with the smallest subset available (that is, the most restrictive language). If there is no evidence from their linguistic input that this is their native language, they proceed to the next largest subset until they find a match.