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Stages of First Language (L1) Acquisition

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1 Stages of First Language (L1) Acquisition
We are designed to walk…That we are taught to walk is impossible. And pretty much the same is true of language. Nobody is taught language. In fact you can’t prevent the child from learning it. - Noam Chomsky The Human Language Series 2 (1994)

2 Why Do We Call it Acquisition?
Learning Intentional process Presupposes a teacher, teaching Teacher controls pace Acquisition Subconscious process Does not presuppose a teacher Child controls pace

3 Overview What are the conditions necessary for acquisition
Stages of first language acquisition

4 Conditions for Learning/Acquisition
Speech production and comprehension Making associations

5 Speech Production & Comprehension
Production vs. Comprehension What’s the difference? Production = Speaking Comprehension = Listening + understanding Speech production is NOT necessary for acquisition Comprehension IS necessary for acquisition All healthy children learn to understand and produce language There are some children who cannot speak or whose ability to speak is very limited. For example, children with cerebral palsy. Their disease makes it difficult to control the muscles necessary for producing sounds. In spite of this handicap, they are still able to understand what is said.

6 Speech Production & Comprehension
Children understand more language than they can produce All learners understand more words than they can produce At 12 months, the children can understand 10 words and can not produce any. Next, at about 14 months, they can understand 50 words and can produce 10. Finally, at about 17 months, they can understand 100 words and can produce 50.

7 Making Associations 1 Only hearing speech does not guarantee learning
Children must be able to make an association between what they hear and the meaning of the message

8 Making Associations 2 Vocabulary: hot Grammar: Daddy’s sleeping
A child doesn’t learn the word just by hearing it, but must also experience heat to make an association between the sound and the thing that sound represents. Grammar: Daddy’s sleeping A child learns the present progressive by making an association between the action observed and the grammar used Hot is a very common word that children learn early because of the danger associated with it. The child doesn’t have to be burned, but only has to feel some of the heat to be able to make the association. Hearing the sentence “Daddy’s sleeping” provides children with several kinds of information where the subject goes and how to express an action that’s happening at the moment of speaking. Ability to make associations becomes more sophisticated as a child matures. A child doesn’t have to experience directly; pictures and explanations can result in associations. For example, pictures of animals and explanations of words.

9 Stages of First Language Learning
Pre-babbling or Cooing Babbling One-word (Naming) Two-word Telegraphic (Two and three-word utterances) Transformational Ages are general tendencies. Each baby is unique, some are earlier and some later. Most interesting and important point is that all babies go through these stages at roughly the same time.

10 Pre-babbling: Before birth
Babies pay attention to voices starting three months before they are born. Babies can differentiate between voices & prefer their mother’s voice to other voices. Babies babble when they make nonsense sounds. Sometimes the sounds are similar to words, but we will assume that there is no meaning to the sounds. Mothers – both parents, but usually the mother plays the most important role Babies pay attention to voices from a very early age: it is probable that they start to do this three months before they are born. Cries for assistance within the first month Laughs and smiles for pleasure within first month

11 Pre-babbling: After birth
Babies soon learn to recognize their mother’s face and voice within 2 weeks after birth. They make an association between the two. Babies continue listening to speech. During the first few months they make vowel sounds and other non-speech noises (e.g. sounds that show pleasure & pain). Babies learn that different sounds lead to certain behaviors by their mothers (and thus have different meanings). Crying Laughing

12 Babbling Babies begin to make word-like sounds around 6 months (goo goo, gaa gaa) All babies make similar sounds Cannot distinguish between a Japanese baby’s babbling and an American baby’s Babbling is not associated with any meaning Mama is a common sound, but in this stage it is made at any time, any place, for any reason, and is not directed at the mother. Cannot differentiate between the sounds of an American or a Japanese baby at this stage

13 Purpose of Babbling Preparation for speech (words)
Opportunity to practice and play with sounds Vocal muscles and tongue are developing and giving the child more control of oral production

14 Naming (One-word utterances) 1
Recognize names of familiar objects and people Daddy, key, cookie, dog Responds to requests Give it to me.

15 One-word (Naming) 10-18 months
Babies say their first word around 10 months First words not very clear Same sounds as babbling, but there is a clear association Mama is used only when the baby’s mother is present A lot of variation, boys are usually a little later, bilingual children later still

16 Features of Naming Stage
Babies only use one-word utterances Babies mostly use words to name things One-word utterances can communicate more complex ideas Mama could mean Come here mommy. That’s my mommy. Where is mommy?

17 Rate of Vocabulary Development
Milestone Nelson (18 children) Fenson 1993 (1,789 children) 10 words 15 months (range 13-19) 13 months (range 8-16) 50 words 20 months (range 14-24) 17 months (range 10-24) Vocabulary at 24 months 186 words (range ) 310 words (range )

18 Telegraphic (2 to 3-word utterances)
Starts when babies are about 2 years old Understands two part commands Get your socks and put them in the basket. Understands contrasting meanings Hot & cold Stop & go Vocabulary exploding A few words to 200 – 300 words

19 2 and 3-word Utterances Child Utterances Possible Meanings
Possible Purpose Want cookie. I want a cookie. Request Joe see. I (Joe) see you. Informing No sleep. I don't want to go to sleep Refusal Where doll? Where is the doll? Question More extensive chart on page 4 of Unit 2 reading

20 Features of 2 and 3-word Utterances
Variety of purposes Usually only contains content words Words that express meaning Word order is grammatically correct Requests, informing, refusal and question. Naming stage mostly for naming, but this stage has many purposes. A second feature is that the utterances contain few function words such as articles, prepositions and conjunctions. Articles are words like a and the, prepositions are words like in and of and conjunctions are words like and and but. Children do make mistakes, but generally American babies will use SVO and Japanese babies will use SOV.

21 Transformational stage
Begins when children are 2.5 to 3 years old Utterances become more complex Begin to use grammatical morphemes Prepositions: in, on, for, etc. Plural endings: a cat vs. three cats Verb endings: I play vs. I played I don’t want to go to bed + I want to finish this game = I’ll go to bed after I finish this game

22 Learning Morphemes

23 Morphemes Order cannot be explained by frequency
Expect the most common to be learned first Most common not learned first Articles such as a and the are most frequent but they are not learned until later. Present progressive (ing) is learned first. Fairly easy to make a connection between ‘ing’ and actions happening to children. Also, children only have to discover one meaning for ing. Using ‘ing’ again, it is fairly distinct; whereas articles such as a and the are often difficult to hear.

24 Morphemes Morphemes that are easy to learn are
Easy to hear Easily connected to a meaning Morphemes that are not easy to learn Don’t affect the meaning of the utterance Aren’t easy to hear

25 Stages of First Language Acquisition - Summary
Conditions for acquisition Speech production and comprehension Making associations Stages of first language acquisition Pre-babbling Babbling Naming (One-word utterances) Telegraphic (Two- and three-word utterances) Transformational Important to note that stages are tendencies By the time a child is 5 years old, she is able to produce most of the important grammar of a language. Of course, she will continue learning new words and even more complex grammar, e.g., the passive tense, but even these are generally learned by the time when the child is 10 years old and most words are learned by the end of high school.

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