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Flashcards in A Historical Overview of Acquisition Theory Deck (24):

Who was Skinner and what was his theory/what concept did he propose?

Skinner was an American psychologist and a key representative of the behaviourist theory. He proposed the theory that all behaviour is a result of the conditioning we have experienced rather than any freedom of choice. He proposed that children learn through imitation and introduced the concept of operant conditioning.


How is operant conditioning defined?

The idea that either a positive or negative response given by a caregiver can influence the way in which a child talks on future occasions.


What is positive reinforcement?

The positive feedback given to a child which is thought to encourage similar performance again.


What is negative reinforcement?

The lack of feedback, correction or negative feedback that might prevent a child from making the same error repeatedly.


What is a problem with operant conditioning?

Children are more likely to be corrected on the truth value of their utterances than the linguistic accuracy, so negative reinforcement does not occur very often.


What is a problem with negative reinforcement?

There is evidence to suggest that children do not respond to correction and that it can actually hamper their language development.


What is the main argument against the 'imitation' theory?

Children do not suddenly produce grammatically complete Standard English sentences, instead, they build up their language gradually, refining their speech as they develop.


Who is Noam Chomsky and what concept is he best known for?

Chomsky is an American linguist, best known for introducing the concept of a Language Acquisition Device (LAD).


What is LAD?

Language Acquisition Device - as proposed by Chomsky, the idea that all humans are born with an innate language learning capacity.


What is universal grammar?

A term coined by Chomsky - the notion that all human languages possess similar grammatical properties which the brain is 'hard wired' to be able to decode and use.
Used in relation to Chomsky's theory to describe this global capacity for children to learn languages at similar rates and in similar ways.


What are virtuous errors?

Grammatical errors that are understandable and logical through an incorrect assumption being made about grammar rules e.g. 'I swimmed'


Why are virtuous errors used as a justification for the LAD?

The child is attempting to apply the rules that they recognise from the language around them - they are unlikely do have heard this construction from a caregiver so it will not, therefore, be imitated.


Why is the LAD often rejected as a theory?

It does not place sufficient importance on the role of caregivers to influence language acquisition, and evidence suggests that children who lack sufficient exposure to language and interaction will never really catch up with their language acquisition.


What key study rejects Chomsky's theory?

Genie - between the ages of 20 months and 13 years, a young girl was locked up and exposed to no social interaction or talk. When discovered, she had no speech, and despite numerous interventions, she was not then able to acquire language beyond a very basic level. This seems to reinforce another concept, of a critical period.


What is a critical period?

The age at which a child will be most receptive to learn language (suggested by Lenneburg to be up to the age of 5).


Who was Jean Piaget and what was his theory?

Piaget was a highly influential developmental psychologist and a key figure in 20th century thinking surrounding child development.
He suggested that children would not develop until particular stages of cognitive development had been reached, and that children develop their own understanding through exploring and questioning the world around them.


What is cognitive development?

A child's development of thinking and understanding.


Who was Bruner and what did he reject/propose?

Bruner was a psychologist, who rejected Chomsky's LAD and focused his research on the importance of a child's interaction with caregivers as the key to language development. He suggested the importance of a LASS, and that the way in which carers question, encourage, and support the child through scaffolding enables children to gradually develop their speech.


What is a LASS?

Language Acquisition Support System - proposed by Bruner (i.e. the caregivers and other individuals who play a key role in a child's language development.


What is scaffolding?

The support provided by caregivers through modelling how speech ought to take place, in order to help the child's language development.


Who was Vygotsky and what did he suggest?

Vygotsky was a Russian developmental psychologist whose ideas only became influential in the 1970s.
He suggested the importance of 'doing' for a child to be able to develop, and also focused on the importance of the caregiver to act as a more knowledgeable other. Through this, the adult can direct the child to move within the zone of proximal development, providing the necessary support, or scaffolding, for the child to venture beyond their current level of ability.


What is a more knowledgeable other (MKO?

The older participant in an interaction who might offer support to a child so that they can further their own development or learning.


What is the zone of proximal development? (ZPD)

The area between what a child can already do, and what is beyond their reach. It is the area into which a caregiver might enable the child to progress by offering the necessary support or scaffolding.


What is the cognitive linguistic approach?

A further rejection of Chomsky's ideas. For example, Tomasello outlines a usage-based model of language acquisition and development, arguing against language being a special 'instinct'. Instead, the ability to learn language is both primarily social, and relies on using the same kinds of cognitive processes as other forms of learning, such as walking, drawing etc.