First & Second Language Acquisition (Part I) Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in First & Second Language Acquisition (Part I) Deck (41):

How do children learn a mother tongue?

- they don't learn first language as math, literature, etc.
- they are not taught their language still they learn to speak, to communicate
- children learn their mother tongue by the time they are five or six years old
- learning first language it's like learning how to walk: you do not have to be taught how to do it
- it's not so easy to learn the second language. We need lots of time, years of practice and still it's not perfect in comparison with the first one


Theories of Learning: Behaviorism

- theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning
- 'conditioning' is the most important concept in this framework
- a certain response is associated with a certain stimulus


2 types of conditioning

- classical conditioning: the important factors in classical conditioning are:
- the unconditioned stimulus (ex. food)
- the unconditioned response (ex. salvation)
- the conditioned stimulus (ex. the bell)
- operant conditioning: animals learn behavior pattern as the result of trial-and-error in order to get a reward or avoid punishment


Perception of speech in early infancy

- experiments show that children can distinguish voiced and voiceless sounds when they are 1 month old
- if these perceptual mechanisms are innate they should be universal for all babies


Arguments in support of universality

- all languages are acquired with equal ease before the child turns 4 or 5
- experiments described by Peter D.Eimas believed that we are inborn with 2-3 categorizes of voicing whether or not the distinction is important in their home language
- Janet Walker found that at 6 months all children could distinguish sounds in all different languages. By 1 year or 10 months the babies are no longer universal phoneticians, they turn into their parents
- people who learn at least 2 languages in early childhood appear to retain a greater flexibility of the vocal musculature and are more likely to learn to speak an additional language in their adult years without the "accent of their native language"
CONCLUSION: between 6 months - 1 year, the effects of the environment overrode their innate ability to distinguish the sounds of all languages
- the extremely early acquisition of pitch patterns may help to explain the difficulty adults have in learning intonation of a second language
- children are predisposed to perceive some acoustic differences and not others. The differences they can perceive are important to language learning


Evidence against Behaviourism

- pigeons cannot be taught to jump for food
- children do not learn by imitation
- children do not learn language by operant conditioning (rewards)


Evidence for templating learning

- bees only learn odour, colour, shape of a food source
- birds are innately preprogrammed with the tempo of their species' birdsong
- infants are innately preprogrammed with various perceptual mechanisms specific to language


By the age 5-8 a child:

- will have dissected the language into: its minimal separable units of sound and meaning
- will have discovered the rules of recombining sounds into words, the meaning of individual words, and the rules for recombining words into meaningful sentences


What does it mean to acquire a language?

- the emergence of language in children results in a grammar



- the mental system that allows people to speak and understand a language


2 Reasons for believing that the development of linguistic skills must involve the acquisition of a grammar

- mature language users are able to produce and understand a unlimited number of novel sentences. Made possible because of the grammar they acquired as children
- their speech errors provide valuable clues about how the acquisition process works. Children' don't just imitate, they create their own rules


Grammar of a language includes:

- rules of phonology, describes how to put sounds together to form words
- rules of syntax, which describe how to put words together to form sentences
- rules of semantics, describe how to interpret the meanings of words and sentences
- rules of pragmatics, describe how to participate in a conversation, how to sequence sentences and how to anticipate the information needed


The study methods of language acquisition

- Naturalistic = diary study for extended period of time to observe development as an ongoing process in individual children
- Experimental = linguistic knowledge of different children compared at a particular point in development



- investigators observe and record children's spontaneous utterances
- is longitudinal (examine over a extended period of time)
- disadvantage: speech samples only capture a small portion of their utterances



- is cross sectional = investigates and compares the linguistic knowledge of different children at a particular point in time
- tasks that test children's comprehension, production, or imitation skills
- disadvantage: children's ability to comprehend is usually more advanced than their ability to produce sentences, their performance can be affected by extraneous factors


Prerequisites for language: overgeneralize

- all children overgeneralize or overregularize a single rule before learning to apply it more narrowly and before constructing other less widely applicable rules
- children have to hear the adult form of an irregular verb before all overregularizations are eliminated



- errors that result from the overly broad application of a rule
- one of the best indications that children have mastered an inflection rule is from their ability to apply it to forms they have not heard before


Meaning errors

- the meanings that children associate with their early words sometimes correspond closely to the meaning employed by adults
- the match is less than perfect


Prerequisites for language: underextension/overextension

- children tend to have a different range of referents from adult usage
- underextension = children use a word to refer to an object in a very restricted context
ex. using a dog to refer to their own family dog ONLY
- overextension = children use a word to refer not to just one specific object, but to a whole range of object
ex. the use of doggie to any four-legged animal
- another reason for overextension it to compensate for a limited vocabulary


prerequisites for language: sentences

- all children speak in one-word sentences before they speak in two-word sentences


prerequisites for language

- overgeneralizations/overregularizations
- overextensions/ underextensions
- speak one word sentences before they speak two word sentences
- universal grammar


the one word stage

- children began to produce one-word utterances between the ages of 12-18 months
- they are holophrases = one word utterances that expresses the meaning that is associated with an entire sentence in adult speech. Children choose the most informative word that applies to the situation at hand
- at this stage comprehension is more advanced than production


the two word stage

- within a few months of their first one word utterances, children begin to produce two word mini sentences
- they almost always exhibit proper word order


prerequisites for language: universal grammar

- the similarities in language learning for different children and different languages are so similar that many believe that the human brain is pre programmed for language learning
- children are born with prior knowledge of the type of categories, operations, and principles that are found in a grammar (universal grammar)



- not every feature of a language's grammar can be inborn
- part of the language acquisition process involves parameter setting = determining which of the options permitted by a particular parameter is appropriate for the language being learned


caregiver speech

- differs from others in:
- its simplified vocabulary (more limited vocabulary use)
- systematic phonological simplification of some words
- higher pitch
- exaggerated intonation and stress
- short, simple sentences, which contain fewer function words, few incomplete sentences, more imperatives and questions
- higher proportion of questions (among mothers) or imperatives (among fathers)
- more repetitions, few utterances per conversational turn
- more restricted vocabulary


baby talk

- speech with a simplified vocabulary and phonological simplification of some words


caregiver speech: how does it help in language acquisition?

- clear pronunciation, clear pauses help the children to understand the beginning and the end of the utterances
- a simplified vocabulary helps to make the most important words active among children
- stress is exaggerated, it helps the kids to learn the appropriate word stress
- syntactic simplification has a clear function: children construct their initial grammar on the basis of the short, simple, grammatical sentences that are addressed to them in the first year or two


Correcting language

- "mistakes" made by children are actually positive signs that children are discovering the patterns of language, an essential aspect of the language acquisition process
- speech errors can tell us a lot about how language works
- it is virtually impossible to speed up the language-learning process by correcting children
- children benefit less from frequent adult correction of their errors than from true conversational interaction


Stages and step of first language acquisition

- the stages are universal, every child goes through the same stages of language acquisition
- there is no specific age at which a child enters any of the following stages
- there is no correlation between intelligence and speed of acquisition
1. cooing
2. babbling
3. one-word stage
4. two-word stage
5. telegraphic speech



- under 1 month or 2 months
- non-linguistic sounds



- 6-8 months
- linguistic sounds that are independent of the particular language to which children are exposed to
- indicates universality
- even deaf children babble
- children from different linguistic communities exhibit significant similarities in their babbling
- variations in pitch, loudness, length (suprasegmental phenomena)
- at the end of this stage the vocalization possess all characteristics of adult speech


suprasegmental phenomena

- variations in pitch, loudness, length


one-word stage

- 1-2 years
- comprehension comes before production
- by age 6 most children have mastered about 13,000 - 14,000 words
- early words are concrete nouns, verbs
- out of the first 50 words produced by children, 2/3 are nouns
- each one word utterance is associated with an entire sentence in adult speech
- children learn not just meaning, but also syntax


two-word stage

- 2-3 years
- increase in child's vocabulary
- gradual onset of multi-word utterances
- many binary syntactic-semantic relations are expressed: agent-action, action-theme, agent-location, possessor-possessed, action-locative, entity-locative, entity-attrivute, demonstrative-entity


telegraphic speech

- acquisition of grammar
- 3-5 years
- short and simple sentences, usually words rich in semantic content: these words are informative, have stress
- lacks function words, tense endings, plural endings, prepositions, conjunctions, articles
- fixed word order
- telegraphic = speech resembling to the clipped style of language found in the telegram


the acquisition of function words and grammatical morphemes

- grammatical morphemes are acquired in a certain order. No one factors can be considered of primary importance in determining the acquisition of the morphemes
- children overregularization/overgeneralization
- each child discovers the patterns of language afresh
- order:
-s (plural), -'s, s' (possessive), -s (third person singular)


the acquisition of negative sentences

- negative sentences are also acquired in an orderly rule-governed way (universal for all children)
1. attach "no" to the beginning of the sentence (external negation)
2. the same rule + more complex rules. The negatives appear after the subject and before the verb but inside the negated phrase
3. the use of pronouns in negative sentences


the acquisition of semantics

1. overgeneralization based on similarities of movement, texture, size, and shape
2. narrowing-down until eventually the words more or less coincided with the meanings accepted by adult speakers of the language


acquisition of the sound system

- children overgeneralize also sounds
- vowels are acquired before consonants (by age 2-3)
- stops are acquired before other consonants
- stressed syllables are more likely to be retained in children's pronunciation than are unstressed
- substitution is involved in early language acquisition


is there a critical period for acquiring a language?

- Yes!!
- the ability to require a first language in an effortless and ultimately successful way begins to decline from age 6
- there is a critical age beyond which children are not able to acquire a language natively