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Introduction _____________________________________

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1 Introduction _____________________________________
First Language Acquisition Neal R. Norrick Saarland University

2 Outline First Language Acquisition Developmental sketch
Natural order of acquisition Innateness Debate Development of the Innateness Debate Writing grammars for stages of acquisition Trace the history of research in Language Acquisition References

3 First Language Acquisition
Natural acquisition with no special learning necessary Critical period resulting from a combination of factors: development of connections between nerve cells myelination of nerve cells lateralization of brain functions dominance of left hemisphere corresponding development of motor skills general cognitive stages of development (Piaget)

4 Developmental sketch Age Language General 9 babbling crawling 10
first words recurrent, maintained (ba)nana(na) for 'banana, food, mama' standing up, claps hands, holds spoon 11 5-10 recurrent words; fulfills requests like: bring me the blue ball first steps, recognizes pictures in books 12 5 distinct vowels, 5 distinct consonants starts walking

5 Developmental sketch Age Language General 13 recognizable words
Daddy, nein, ball, allgone running, climbing furniture 14 imitations: horse, train reduplications: choochoo, byebye, taktak ‘clock’ simple puzzles, turns book pages 16 20+ words recognizes own name, points to himself: Where’s Nicky? 18 Vocabulary explosion, 2-word units: ducky allgone, Nicky haben climbs stairs without rail

6 Developmental sketch Age Language General 20
3-word units: Nicky cookie haben also: haben Nicky cookie hangs on monkey bars; points to eyes, nose, mouth 22 verb + particle: lock up, deck zu 4-word units: Mami Auto fahren kauft Inni gute Nacht sagen dramatic play; stuffed animals, dolls 24 Verb endings: Inni spuckt bisschen statement: Nicky auch essen question: Nicky auch essen, ja? command: Nicky auch essen word formation: cutter ‘knife’ auskleben ‘tear apart’ umwärts kicks soccer ball, plays hide-n-seek, draws details: ears, tails, wheels

7 Developmental sketch Age Language General 26 Particles:
Mami ist weggegingt das ist runtergefallt Comparison: Pferdchen ein kleineres Mond größer als Daddy Monologues/stories: Mami kommt darein, tic-tac Danke, Post schickt dadi draws objectively identifiable figures, recognizes colors 27 Future orientation: Let’s build a castle, I’ll put it in sings melodies

8 Developmental sketch Age Language General 28 Recursive structures:
Ich weiß nicht, wen der Deckel verloren hat. Questions with when, how counts to 5, recognizes letters: N, C, O 30 Conditionals: Ich suche, ob ich den Hase finde. Timmy ist traurig, wenn das Osterhäschen hier schläft. Plans: I want to read a book about a story

9 Developmental sketch Age Language General 32 First real narratives:
It was a wooden lamby And it was on the floor in a barn And they took it home And they washed it And it wasn't ugly builds Legos; draws people beside tree and house with chimney and windows 34 Reports on TV program: Plötzlich kamen zwei Krokodile und haben das Kälbchen ge'essen Reports on activities: I'm pretending this is a castle Predicts: It's gonna be real beautiful, you're gonna love it learns to peddle trike

10 Developmental sketch Age Language General 36 Phonetics:
Voiced th: initial okay in the, this etc medial v in other Voiceless th: initial s in sing final f in both vocalizes final l and r mispronunciations: amimals, cimamon, pasketti Morphology: double plurals: mens, feets, mices double preterites: sawed, standed regularized preterites: goed, sitted reverse word-formations: popcorner mowgrasser

11 Developmental sketch Age Language General
36 Syntax: Negation: I see it not That doll sits not right Questions: What it did? What the lady said? Counting: fiveteen 16 Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) as standard measure of first language development as opposed to age

12 Natural order of acquisition
"Why mama and papa?" Jakobson maximum contrast CV syllable reduplication

13 Natural order of acquisition
Order of acquisition for syntax one-word utterances with holistic meaning two-word utterances with no fixed word order three-word utterances without inflections, prepositions or other markers then they begin to acquire syntax

14 Natural order of acquisition
Brown's (1973) order of acquisition for syntax: 1. present progressive girl playing 2. prepositions ball in water 3. plural toys, dishes

15 Innateness Debate Innateness: Assume children know innately what they cannot learn by observation Chomsky (1986: 150) writes: What we "know innately" are the principles of the various subsystems [phonology, syntax, thematic structure etc] of So [the initial state of the child's mind] and the manner of their interaction, and the parameters associated with these principles. What we learn are the values of the parameters and the elements of the periphery (along with the lexicon to which similar considerations apply).

16 Innateness Debate  That is: we "know innately" that sentences will have noun phrases and verb phrases in some order, but we have to learn the order  We need input to learn the whole vocabulary of our language, including the special syntactic properties of the vocabulary we learn  We need input to set parameters like word order, use of cases versus prepositions etc  And we need input for the periphery, i.e. all the structures and rules characteristic for the particular language we hear

17 Innateness Debate But if input supplies all this information, shouldn't it supply enough information to learn the basic principles? But why separate language ability from all other cognitive skills? Is human language qualitatively different from animal language?

18 Innateness Debate Consider Hockett’s “design features” of language:
Arbitrariness: no relation between word and concept Duality of patterning: two independent structural levels: phonology, syntax; higher-level segments (words) are composed of lower-level (phonemes) segments Displacement: no causal connection between utterance and context Reflexivity: language can focus metalingually on itself Prevarication: language can function to deceive or misinform

19 Innateness Debate Vocabulary: Webster’s dictionary 500,000 words
Average educated person’s vocabulary: 40,000 (and another 40,000 proper names, idioms, sayings) monolingual speakers acquire about 3,000 words per year or about 8 words every day

20 Innateness Debate Even within the Chomskyan scheme, there is debate on whether the principles and parameters are complete in the newborn child (like the heart) or whether they develop over time (like the teeth, which slowly grow and appear, then are replaced by an adult system)

21 Development of the Innateness Debate
Poverty of Stimulus Argument  Some patterns in language are unlearnable from positive evidence alone due to the hierarchical nature of languages You are happy. Are you happy? Possible rules: (1) the first auxiliary verb in the sentence moves to the front (2) the 'main' auxiliary verb in the sentence moves to the front

22 Development of the Innateness Debate
But compare: The girl who is on the bus is happy. *Is the girl who __ on the bus is happy? Is the girl who is on the bus __ happy?  Children do not see sentences like this enough to decide which rule works but nobody ever chooses the wrong rule

23 Development of the Innateness Debate
Grammaticality judgments: Who do you think Mary knows? Who do you think that Mary knows? Who do you think knows Mary? *Who do you think that knows Mary?

24 Development of the Innateness Debate
Note translations Chomsky posits LAD and UG Child Language researchers countered by showing caregivers using simple, grammatical sentences as well as repetitions & expansions Kevin (20 months, 21 days) takes puppet Kevin: Dougall. Dougall, Dougall. Mother: He's a lovely Dougall, isn't he? Eileen (24 months, 8 days) points puppet toward television Eileen: Skippy a telly. Mother: That's Skippy on the telly.

25 Development of the Innateness Debate
Chomsky argues competence requires negative evidence as basis for grammaticality judgments Al is easy to please - It is easy to please Al Sue is eager to please - *It is eager to please Sue Child Language researchers claim kids learn to make grammaticality judgments only later (in school) argue that judgments are based on semantic factors It is eager unacceptable for ungrammatical reasons

26 Development of the Innateness Debate
Gold proves mathematically that natural languages are unlearnable in principle without negative evidence Child Language researchers show caregivers making corrections, esp. in expansions (as above) and responses Billy: Daddy fixit? Father: Yeah. Daddy'll fix it for you. Janik(4,8): Mami, ich will mit dich. Mother: Mit? Janik: Dir.

27 Development of the Innateness Debate
Chomskyites argue that caregivers are more concerned with truth and appropriateness of kids' talk than grammaticality They find language communities where kids receive little if any controlled input or feedback from caregivers, and they learn language anyway Child Language researchers went back to study input, e.g. as a register like foreigner talk This led to study of interaction and hence to kids developing pragmatic competence, including interaction between kids

28 Development of the Innateness Debate
We find kids correct each other from c. 4 1/2 yrs on Nick (4;3): I'm his- I'm a Santa. Who are you? Coco (2;7): Santa Mrs. Nick: No, Mrs. Santa. Come on, let's break the other people's house down. Coco (3;2): Und sie waren in dem Wald in die Nacht. Nick (4;10): In der Nacht.

29 Development of the Innateness Debate
Due to influence of linguistic pragmatics, frame theory and richer theories of learning, Child Language researchers re-emphasized: input feedback and strategies of learning, esp. negative evidence

30 Development of the Innateness Debate
We find kids not only provide negative evidence, but even engage in metalinguistic talk: Nick: Daddy, Coco hat gesagt güter. Das kann man nicht sagen, oder? Me: Nee, was muss man sagen. Nick: Coco meint besser. Coco: Nein, güter. Nick: Nein, Coco, besser. Du musst besser sagen. Coco: Lass mich, das ich sage. Nick: {lacht} Jetzt hat Coco wieder Unsinn gesagt. Nick (5;9): Coco, look at these mouses. Coco (4;1): Mice. Nick: Same thing.

31 Development of the Innateness Debate
Operating Principles & Universals of acquisition (Slobin) Whether parts of language acquisition are innate or not, developing kids seem to follow specific strategies and their acquisition processes reveal universals Operating Principles identify word units pay attention to the ends of words Universals postposed forms learned before preposed forms one-to-one marking is acquired earlier than compound markings unchanging singular articles like French le are acquired faster than der/den/dem

32 Writing grammars for different stages
“shoe”  different contexts, meanings, but no grammar yet “mama shoe”  different contexts & meanings suggest grammar even if child also says “shoe mama” ‘here is mama’s shoe’ nomination, location ‘this shoe belongs to mama’ possession ‘I’ll take this shoe to mama’ agent-action maybe just: ‘mama – shoe’ X relation Y  compare adult: “Carol’s shoe”  differentiate grammar and pragmatics!

33 Trace the history of research in Language Acquisition
diary studies: one kid, language and behavior longitudinal studies: few kids, whole range large scale studies: usually just morphemes, MLU interactional studies: CDS, child-child  approach determines scope and type of results

34 References Brown, Roger A first language: The early stages. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chomsky, Noam Language and mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World. Hockett, Charles The problem of universals in language. Jakobson, Roman Why 'mama' and 'papa'? Selected writings, vol. I: Phonological studies, ed. by Roman Jakobson, 538–545. The Hague: Mouton. Piaget, Jean The language and thought of the child. New York: Meridian Books. Slobin, Dan I. (ed.) The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

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