What does „language aquisition“ mean? = The way in which we learn languages. the process of learning a native or a second language.
Language acquisition We are not born speaking! Language must be acquired. If we think of all that is entailed in knowing a language, it seems quite a challenge. What Does a Baby Hear?
Language instinct? Language is innate – only surface details need be learned? Human brain pre-programmed for language? Language a result of general cognitive abilities of the brain? Neither tells us what specific language to learn or particular structures to memorize.
Language Universals What evidence is there for innate knowledge of certain basic language features present in all human languages? LINGUISTIC UNIVERSALS > UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR All languages have: A grammar Basic word order (in terms of SOV, etc.) Nouns and verbs Subjects and objects Consonants and vowels Absolute and implicational tendencies E.g., If a language has VO order, then modifiers tend to follow the head)
“Universal Grammar” Humans then learn to specialize this “universal grammar” (UG) for the particulars of their language. Word order, syntactic rule preferences Phonetic and phonological constraints Lexicon Semantic interpretations Pragmatic ways to converse
Follow milestones 5. Follow milestones In spite of different backgrounds, different locations, and different upbringings, most children follow the very same milestones in acquiring language.
Observe a critical period 6. Observe a critical period What is a critical period? For first language acquisition, there seems to be a critical period of the first five years, during which children must be exposed to rich input. There is also a period, from about 10-16 years, when acquisition is possible, but not native-like.
The Critical Period Hypothesis CPH: Proposed by Lenneberg This hypothesis states that there is only a small window of time for a first language to be natively acquired. If a child is denied language input, she will not acquire language Genie: a girl discovered at age 13 who had not acquired her L1 (-- Isabelle and Victor) Normal hearing child born to deaf parents, heard language only on TV, did not acquire English L1
Caretaker Speech A register characterized by: Simplified lexicon Phonological reduction Higher pitch Stressed intonation Simple sentences High number of interrogatives (Mom) & imperatives (Dad) Caretaker Speech Caretaker Speech
Acquisition of phonetics Few weeks: cooing and gurgling, playing with sounds. Their abilities are constrained by physiological limitations. 4 months: distinguish between [a] and [i], so their perception skills are good. 4-6 months: children babble, putting together vowels and consonants. This is not a conscious process! Experiment with articulation 7-10 months: starts repeated babbling. 10-12 months, children produce a variety of speech sounds. (even ‘foreign’ sounds)
Acquisition of phonology Early stage: Unanalyzed syllables 15-21 months: words as a sequence of phonemes. Mastery of sounds differing in distinctive features (e.g., voicing) mama, dada bananana.na Duplicated syllables: mama, dada - CV is main syllable structure. They reduce = banana [na.na] 2 syllable words Early mastery of intonation contours (even in non-tone languages) fisfish Perception comes before production (‘fis’ or ‘fish’?) Phonological Processes
Lexicon Begin with simple lexical items for people/food/toys/animals/body functions Lexical Achievement: 1-2 years old200-300 words (avg) 3 years old900 words 4 years old1500 words 5 years old2100 words 6-7 years old2500 words High school grad40,000 – 60,000 words! “5,000 per year, 13 words a day” -- Miller & Gildea
But Don’t Animals Know Words, Too? Yes, but…what about…? Just (very) just (only) just (right) Just (very) brilliant vs. just (only) a little dirty vs. a just (right) person Blunt (dull)blunt (sharp) Blunt (dull) instrument vs. blunt (sharp) comment literally (meaning figuratively) I was literally (meaning figuratively) climbing the walls. Clip (on)clip (off) Clip (on) a pin vs clip (off) hair Cleave (together)cleave (apart) Cleave (together) vs cleave (apart) Dust (remove)dust (sprinkle) Dust (remove) or dust (sprinkle) inflammable And what does inflammable mean?
The acquisition of morphosyntax At about 12 months, children begin producing words consistently. One-word stage One-word stage (holophrastic stage): Name people, objects, etc. An entire sentence is one word Two-word stage: Approximately 18-24 months Use consistent set of word orders: N-V, A- N, V-N… With structure determined by semantic relationships agent+action (baby sleep) possessor+possession (Mommy book) Telegraphic stage Telegraphic stage (only content words)
Negative Formations Negatives no/not 1 st stage - attach no/not to beginning of sentence (sometimes at end) don’t can’t 2 nd stage – negatives appear between subject and verb (don’t stayed at beginning in imperatives, but not can’t) nobody/nothinganybody/anything is do 3 rd stage – appearance of nobody/nothing & anybody/anything & inconsistent use of “to be” verb is and auxiliary “dummy” do verb.
Question Formations Where daddy go? 1 st stage – wh- word placed in front of rest of sentence: Where daddy go? Where you will go? 2 nd stage – addition of an auxiliary verb: Where you will go? Where will you go? 3 rd stage – subject noun changes places with the auxiliary: Where will you go?
Acquisition of Semantics Concrete before abstract: ‘in/on’ before ‘behind/in front’ Overextensions: Using ‘moon’ for anything round Using ‘dog’ for any four-legged animals Underextensions: The word ‘bird’ may not include ‘pigeon’, etc