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How do children learn language? Sem I 2012-2013
L1 Acquisition and Behaviorism
Behaviorist ideas of language learning Before 1960‟s -- study of child language dominated by behaviorist approach to language learning. Proponent -- B.F. Skinner wrote “Verbal Behavior” (1957) According to behaviorists, language is not a mental phenomenon: it is behavior.
It is behavior, learned by a process called habit-formation in which the main components are:
Child imitates the patterns and sounds
heard in the environment. Child‟s attempts similar to adult models and reinforced through approvals or positive feedback. Child repeats sound and patterns, so that these become habits.
Child‟s verbal behavior is
conditioned or shaped until the habits become like adults‟. Child‟s own utterances seen as a faulty version of adult speech. Mistakes as results of imperfect learning.
Inadequacies of the Behaviorists’ Approach 1960‟s onwards -.The behaviorists‟ views ---.2.strongly opposed by Chomsky‟s linguistic theories & cognitive psychology .
. Underlying the actual behavior -.a complex system of rules which enable speakers to create and understand an infinite number of sentences (mostly never encountered before).Arguments against behaviorist theory of language learning: Basic view of language as verbal behavior is unacceptable. 1.
. . Process of extracting abstract knowledge from concrete examples cannot be explained by habit-formation.. What children learn is an abstract knowledge of rules (or competence). 2. (But not what they‟re exposed to -exposed only to people‟s speech or termed “performance”).Arguments against.
e. E.Continuation. 3.g Surface structure of sentence: (I) “John is easy to please” looks identical/same as that of (ii) “ John is eager to please” (i..) .. Rules are often reflected very indirectly in the actual surface structure of speech.Deep structure is different.
. Such information about deep relationships cannot be acquired simply by observing & imitating verbal behavior. ..Continuation. (I) the question of other people pleasing John. (ii) John himself who wants to do the pleasing.
) .Continuation. Learning task is complex... Yet occurs at a very early age and with exceptional speed By the age of 3 1/2 and 5: normallyendowed children have internalized all the basic structures of their language (This cannot be explained by habitformation alone.
.Continuation.. Children seem to be constructing their own rule systems. Children are exposed to different actual speech. . but they arrive at the same underlying rules as other children in the community. They pass through similar stages or sequences in acquiring these rules.
Children generally adapt towards the adult system. i. Rather..e. Child‟s language is not simply shaped by external forces.Continuation. creatively constructed by the child as s/he interacts with those around her/him. ..
Termed Language Acquisition Device or LAD .An innate language-learning capacity? The factors outlined led people to believe that children are born with an innate capacity for acquiring language.
it may already contain some of the universal . Provides children a means of processing the speech in the environment. Never fails to operate in normal human beings -. so that they can construct its underlying system. To enable it to operate so quickly.Characteristics of LAD Specific to human species (homosapiens).from infancy up to age 11 (debatable).
E. or basic grammatical relationships such as between subject and object. LAD as a term has lost its currency. Few people would question the basic notion: children possess an innate ability to acquire language.Continuation.. use of word order to signal meaning. .. features which are found in all known languages.g.
The other argument --..Continuation. The main debate -.language acquisition can be explained in terms of same cognitive capacity used by children in making sense of other aspects of their world. .the extent to which there is a specific capacity earmarked for language alone..
.Continuation. . this is significant in explaining why second language learning (L2 learning) is often difficult or even unsuccessful. Children‟s ability to discover relationships between subject and object in grammar may originate in their general ability to perceive the world in terms of agents and objects of action. If there is a special language learning capacity-and if the capacity declines at about the age of 12 or so.. Eg.
. articles and prepositions Earliest stage consists of one-word utterance.g.Grammatical Development in Children Main stages in a child‟s language development: 1. e.Telegraphic speech Lacks inflections and function words.
.Grammatical development of children…cont‟n Examples: allgone sticky (after washing hands) allgone outside (after closing the door) more page (asking adult to continue reading) sweater chair (showing where the sweater is) Utterances are very reduced such that the situation plays an important role in conveying meaning.
Even at this stage. Same two words may mean different things in different situations.Continuation.mother‟s socks (possession) or when mother was dressing him (agent and object). mommy sock -.. E. language is used creatively (for they can never have heard them before) .g..
. Researchers try to write the “grammars of children‟s speech”. the child is making use of an ability to combine items from a limited set to communicate meanings.. Two main classes of words: a restricted “pivot” class and a larger “open class” .Continuation. Like adults.
Conjunction (cup glass -..daddy‟s hat) .cup and glass) 2.Continuation. Another approach: focus on the meanings of the two-words Lois Bloom (1970): sentences containing two nouns used to express 5 kinds of relationships: 1.a party hat) 3.. Possession (daddy hat . Description (party hat .
g.mommy is reading a book) Dan Slobin (1979): studied communicative functions in children acquiring 6 different languages e..Continuation. Location (sweater chair . Agent .Object (mommy book ..showing where the sweater is) 5. 4. .
. Mamas Hut) . mehr Milch) 3. 1. Describing an event or situation (block fall. buch da) 2.Continuation. Indicating possession (my shoe.. Locating or naming (there book. puppe kommt) 5. Negating (not hungry. Demanding or desiring (more milk. Kaffee nein) 4.
wo Ball ) .Continuation. 7. Describing Milch Heiss) a person or thing (pretty dress.. Questioning (where ball. 6..
Even as processing capacity grows. Cat stand up table. . E.Development of inflections and function words Telegraphic stage goes beyond the twoword stage.g. the longer utterances are still telegraphic: Mamat want that.
) Roger Brown (1973) -.Continuation... articles such as “a” or “the”. (These are “morphemes”. .studied 3 children acquiring 14 of these morphemes. Children are still trying to master inflections ( “s” in want and stand .
Plural -s: two books 5.. Present progressive: -ing 2.. . Preposition: . Order of morphemes found: 1. Irregular past forms: She went.on 3.Continuation. Children master each morpheme gradually. Preposition: -in 4.
) 8.) 10. Uncontractible copula ( “is” in “Yes. Articles “the” and “a” 9... Regular past tense: -ed ( She walked. Possessive „s ( daddy‟s hat ) 7. she is ”. Regular third-person singular “s” (She runs. 6.) .Continuation.
..Continuation. and cannot relate to habitformation. He further added the idea of the child as an active contributor to the acquisition process (Brown‟s study was a longitudinal study). Brown found that the order of frequency does not correlate with order of acquisition. .
] . (Come + ed) [It came off. Where it goed? (Go + ed) [Where did it go?] It comed off. Children‟s acquisition of verb inflections --evidence of their active contribution to the learning process.Continuation..g.. e.
Acquisition of negatives: 1. First.g. No singing song. No the sun shining. the negative element is simply attached to the beginning or end. E. E.g. .Development of transformations Children also learn to carry out transformations of basic sentences to more complex sentences.
I no want envelope.g. He no bite you. the negative element is inserted into the sentence. 2.. E.. .Continuation. He don’t want it. Second stage.
. At this stage. E. 3. You don‟t want some supper. I am not a doctor. child begins to produce the appropriate part of do. be or the modal verb.g. Paul didn‟t laugh. ..Continuation.
E.. See hole? You can’t fix it? . children use intonation.Continuation.. In Yes/No questions.g. children first produce sentences in which the internal structure is not affected. In interrogatives.
. the use of inversion with the auxiliary do as in an adult system. the question word is placed in front of the sentence: Where daddy going? Why you caught it? Where my spoon goed? Later. For Wh-interrogatives. .Continuation..
g. Distinctions or fine differences in sentence structure is acquired late.Later development As the child grows. the limitations on his performance decreases. John asked Bill to come. . John promised Bill to come. E.
two-word utterances can be used for similar range of meanings . E.Cognitive Factors in First Language Acquisition How is first language acquisition related to cognitive factors? Language and concepts -.g.language development depends on concepts children form about the world and meanings they wish to communicate.
Continuation.e. i.. Perfect tense is acquired late.. after children have acquired the underlying concept of “present relevance” .
This explains why the passive is more difficult than the active voice. 2. -.Language-Learning Mechanism The child has a number of “operating principles” for making sense of data: 1. . Avoid exceptions. Underlying meaning-relationships should be marked clearly.
Children look for a system which is: (a) rule-governed in a consistent way.. and (c) where each item or distinction has a definite function in communicating meaning. (b) the clues to meaning are clearly displayed. Use of grammatical markers should make semantic sense. .Continuation..
and with fewer broken sentences. E. caretaker speech Characteristics of caretaker speech: 1. 2. . Generally spoken more slowly and distinctly. Contains shorter sentences. 3. More grammatical.g.Language Environment of the Child Language used by adults serve as models for the child.
. Contains fewer complex sentences: less variety of tenses range of vocabulary is limited more repetition speech related to the “here” and “now” More repetitions Caretaker speech helps children learn. 4.Continuation. ..
Why Study L1 Acquisition ? Why? Why? Why? .
Because… important source of data to infer from in studying how the second language or L2 is learned Information gleaned from L1 data – e. errors.g. structures. rules. all provide rich information on how utterances are produced and understood evidence for HOW we learn language . stages children go through. and words used.
That‟s all for today! THANK YOU .
THAT‟S ALL FOR TODAY! Thank You! .