2 10.2 Theories of child language acquisition 10.1 IntroductionLanguage acquisition refers to the child’s acquisition of his mother tongue, i.e. how the child comes to understand and speak the language of his community.10.2 Theories of child language acquisitionA behaviorist view of language acquisitionTraditional behaviorists view language as behavior and believe that language learning is simply a matter of imitation and habit formation. A child imitates the sounds and patterns of the people around him; people recognize the child’s attempts and reinforce the attempts by responding differently, the child repeats the right sounds or patterns to get the reward. The child learns the language gradually in much the same way as habit-forming. So imitation and practice are preliminary, discrimination and generalization are key to language development in this theory.The behaviorist theory of child language acquisition offers a reasonable account of how children acquire some of the regular and routine aspects of the language, yet how they acquire more complex grammatical structures of the language requires a different explanation.An innatist view of language acquisitionThe linguist Noam Chomsky, claims that human beings are biologically programmed for the language and that the language develops in the child just as other biological functions such as walking.
3 Originally Chomsky referred to this innate ability as Language Acquisition Device. The LAD was described as an imaginary “black box” existing somewhere in the human brain. The “black box” is said to contain principles that are universal to all human languages. Children need access to the samples of a natural language to activate the LAD, which enables them to discover his language’s structure by matching the innate knowledge of basic grammatical system to that particular language. Later Chimksy prefers to this innate endowments as Universal Grammar and holds that if children are pre-equipped with UG, then what they have to learn is the ways in which their own language makes use of these principles and the variations ion those pronciple which may exist in the particular language they are learning.An interactionist view of language acquisitionThe interactionist view holds that language develops as a result of the complex interplay between the human characteristics of the child and the environment in which the child develops. Integrated with the innatist view, the interactionist further claims that the modified language which is suitable for the child’s capability is crucial in his language acquisition.10.3 Cognitive factors in child language developmentThe cognitive factors relate to language acquisition mainly in two ways. First,language development is dependent on the concepts children form about the world and what they feel stimulated to communicate at the early and later stages of their language development.
4 10.4 Language environment and the Critical Period Hypothesis For example, children at early stage can use two word utterances o express a wide range of meanings; but they may not use English perfect tense until they have acquired the underlying concept of “present relevance” around the age of four and a half. Meanwhile, the ‘present relevance’ embodied in the perfect tense helps to stimulate the English-speaking children to form that concept. Thus, as children’s conceptual development leads to their language development, it is likely that their language development also helps in the formation and enhancement of the concept.Secondly, the cognitive factors determine how the child makes sense of the linguistic system himself instead of what meanings the child perceives and expresses. Many careful studies of children’s acquisition sequences and errors in various language have revealed that children have some “operating principles” for making sense language data.10.4 Language environment and the Critical Period HypothesisA specific and limited time period for language acquisition us referred to as Critical Period Hypothesis.There are two versions of the CPH. While the strong one suggests that children must acquire their first language by puberty or they will never be able to learn from subsequent exposure, the weak holds that language learning will be more difficult and incomplete after puberty.10.5 Stages in child language development
5 10.5.1 Phonological development 10.5.2 Vocabulary development a) Under-extensionChildren do not learn the meaning of a word “all at once”. When a child learns a new word, he may well under-extend it or overextend it.b) Over-extensionOverextension happens when a child a takes a property of an object and generalizes it. Later rather than immediately following the acquisition of a word. It is likely to occur.Grammatical developmentAround the age of two, children begin to produce two-word utterances. They are typically the examples of telegraphic speech. This kind of speech contains content words which give us the information and lacks the function elements, or function words which by themselves tell us nothing.Pragmatic developmentWhile children are acquiring morpho-syntax and vocabulary, they are also acquiring pragmatics, or how to speak to others in an appropriate manner. These include, for example, the greetings to be use, the taboo words, the polite forms of address and the various styles appropriate to different speech situations of his community.
6 10.6 Atypical development Reference books The atypical language development includes:hearing impairment (which may cause a delayed language acquisition),mental retardation (which may cause a delayed language acquisition),autism (language impairment from the very beginning),stuttering (repetition of sounds, syllable, or phrases where the speaker can not “release” the words),aphasia (partial or total loss of language due to brain damage) and dyslexia and dysgraphia (disorders in reading and writing which may be acquire or developmental).Reference booksG oodluck, H. Language Acquisition: A Linguistic IntroductionPeccei, J. S. Child Language NewThe End