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Chapter 9 Language acquisition

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  1. Chapter 9Language acquisition Q1: How is a language acquired? Q2: How can any language be acquired by children in a very short time?

  2. Language Acquisition Device (LAD) Children & Language Acquisition Children can acquire a language in a very short time because there is something ( the LAD) endowed in the brain. LAD The LAD will generate the grammar of a language so that language is acquired naturally just like a child acquiring the ability to walk. Acquired vs. Learned Children do not need to learn, when times come or when their cognition development reaches to such an extent, they can speak.

  3. outline 1. Research Methodology 2. Theories of Language Acquisition 3. Stages of Language Acquisition 4. Basis of Language Acquisition 5. Summary

  4. 1. Research methodology The target of first language acquisition is focused on phonology, syntax, morphology& pragmatics. How to collect data is one of the most important steps. Two important methods for LA are: (1) Observations (2) Experiments

  5. 1.1 Observations when & how First language acquisition began with observation. When and how are first sounds produced? example-YuanrenChao & his granddaughter Yuanren Chao reported what he observed (weekly, 3 hours a week) about the language acquisition of his granddaughter, resulting in important documents.

  6. (3) example-TimithyShopen & his son recorded his son’s history of language acquisition TimithyShopen (a linguistic scholar) observed and recorded his son Paul’s history of language acquisition. phonological, morphological & syntactical developments A detailed record on phonological , morphological, and syntactical developments was the basis of his diary, which has become one of the most important documents in the field of first language acquisition.

  7. 1.2 Experiments a topic & knowledge The researcher of an experiment has to prepare himself with a specific topic and some basic knowledge about child’s language acquisition. general procedures 1. select a topic 2. review related literature 3. preparation (ex. prepare pictures for words) 4. recruit potential subjects 5. have a pilot study 6. find more subjects to conduct a research

  8. example 1. Select a Topic the acquiring of /s/ preceding /p, t, k/ of children under 3 2. Review Related Literature ---the /s/ preceding /p, t, k/ is quite different from the /s/ in other contexts ---the sound /s/ as in seat, sun, sock is acquired quite early for American children, about at 2-3 years old ---the /s/ before /p, t, k/, e.g. spoon, sky, stick, is not stable for most American children before 5

  9. 3. Preparation: prepare some pictures for words like following

  10. 4. Recruiting: recruit potential subjects under 3 from neighbors or kindergartens 5. A Pilot: have a pilot study 6. A Research: conduct a research with more subjects

  11. 2. Theories of language Acquisition Some theories have been proposed with a view to characterizing the nature of language acquisition. 2.1 Theory of Imitation 2.2 Theory of Reinforcement 2.3 Theory of Grammar Construction

  12. 2.1 Theory of Imitation Tenet The tenet of imitation theory lies in the observation that language acquisition begins with imitation. Imitate When children are exposed in a language environment, they imitate what is heard.

  13. Imitate ---copy their parents Most 4-5 years old children talk almost the same way of their parents. Tones, gestures, intonation, and manners are, to the effect, an exact copy of what their parents usually do. ---no models If parents are not able to speak, e.g. deaf or suffered from other diseases, children usually fail to acquire a language due to the fact that they have no models to imitate.

  14. The Weakness Not all language behaviors result from imitation (simplification, making errors & creation) ---simplification Simplification is an essential step for children’s language acquisition. e.g. banana[bnn]  [nn] spoon [spun] [pun]

  15. ---errors Children can never avoid errors in their early acquisition. Most American children commit errors in tense. e.g. I wented to the park yesterday. I don’t want nothing. ---creation Most of children language is, amazing enough, full of creation. Some innovation can be found in their sentences or vocabulary. e.g. Children like to pretend to take their toys far away to the sky or to where they think is interesting.

  16. 2.2 Theory of Reinforcement Behaviorism This theory is in spirit based on behaviorism. Reinforcement (+ / –) ---positive: A positive reinforcement refers to speech like praising, encouraging, or saying something good to children when they achieve well. ---negative: Negative reinforcement refers to punishments or scolding or finding faults, by which children would realize that learning is important.

  17. Two Disadvantages-1: having no idea of reinforcement Parents are concerned with is speech act or behaviors (polite in expressions, gentle in tones…). e.g. Child: I wented to the park yesterday. Parent: No, that’s not true. You went to Grandma’s. care less: the wrong use of ‘wented’ care more: the true information---It is Grandma’s that the child went to, but not to the park. ) content > word / language Parents pay more attention to contents than what word or language is used.

  18. Two Disadvantages-2: ignorance ignorance Before a certain age even if a child is taught how to speak the child may ignore what is taught. example-other spoon vs. other one spoon Although the child has been reinforced (trained) in the use of ‘other spoon’, he still returns his own use of ‘other one spoon.’

  19. CHILD: Want other one spoon, Daddy. FATHER: You mean, yow want “the other spoon? CHILD: Yes, I want other one spoon, please, Daddy. FATEHR: Can you say “the other spoon?” CHILD: Other…one…spoon. FATHER: Say…“other.” CHILD: Other. FATHER: Spoon. CHILD: Spoon. FATHER: Other…spoon. CHILD: Other…spoon. Now give me other one spoon.

  20. No Need for Reinforcement After a certain age, depending on individual difference, a child would get rid of such errors, There is no need to have reinforcement. Cognition The theory of reinforcement fails to account for the mystery of language acquisition. Cognition might play a role in this respect.

  21. 2.3 Theory of Grammar Construction The LAD ( Language Acquisition Device) innate / part of the Universal Grammar (UG) biological / it grows (immature  mature) The Application of the UG A language is acquired in lieu of the application of the UG.

  22. The Application of the UG (exposure) exposed to a language environment  (LAD) the language initiates the LAD  (generating) a fixed x-bar structure will be generated  (lexicon + subcategorization) acquired more & more lexicon + related subcategorization (sentence structure) aproper lexicon is inserted to the terminal node of a sentence structure according to the x-bar of that language

  23. e.g. rule internalization Children: I “wented” to the park yesterday. Children: I “goed” to the park. Children construct the rule (in a past tense): all the vowels are suffixed with -ed words like went, go, like…work the same  adding -ed more exposure  more adjustment The more exposure to the language, the more children will adjust their rules.

  24. Berko’s experiments: the use of -s for English plural nouns [s] : the suffix -s is added to words ending with a voiceless consonants (e.g. tapes, works, seats). [z]: the -s is suffixed to words ending with a voiced consonant, it is read voiced (e.g. combs, bags, beds). participants students of 1st,2nd, 3rd grades

  25. (1) Berko drew a weird animal. Berko: This is a wug. There are two of them now. There are two ___ ? Students: There are two wugs [wgz]. (2) He drew another weird picture for an animal called bik. Berko: There are two of them. Now there are two ___ ? Students: There are two biks[bks].

  26. Implications word-for-word vs. rule-for-rule Berko’sexperiments strongly argue for the theory of grammar construction that children do not acquire word for word, they acquire rule for rule. grammar construction (+) It is grammar construction that helps account forwhy children can acquire a complicated language system in so short a time with so limited exposures.

  27. 3. Stages of language acquisition Language acquisition is examined or observed according to different stages of children’s cognition. 3.1 Babbling 3.2 One Word Stage 3.3 Stage of Two Words 3.4 Phonological Acquisition 3.5 Syntactic Acquisition 3.6 Semantic Acquisition

  28. 3.1 Babbling 3-4 months ---begin to show babbling ---only mothers can guess what is meant ---bilabials  alveolar consonants 6 months ---begin to use their mother tongue ---suprasegments (tones, stress, & intonation) are acquired in the beginning

  29. suprasegments  segment Experiments indicate that suprasegments are acquired before segments. (1) in English (rising & falling intonation) Children of the English language are able to distinguish rising intonation from falling intonation. (2) in Mandarin (rising & falling tone) In Taiwan, it has been noted that children of six months are able to distinguish the rising tone (the second tone) from the falling tones (the fourth tones) of Mandarin Chinese.

  30. 3.2 One Word Stage (12 months old) holophrastic sentences Children use one word for a sentence or a semantic unit, which is also called holophrastic sentences. e.g. milkI want milk. / That is milk. substituted sounds Children begin to have clearer sounds, though sounds are substituted.

  31. e. g. Amhhl’sdata In (a), the [s] is substituted with [t], and in (b) & (c), [g] with [k], [l] with [g], respectively.

  32. insertion or simplification Sometimes, insertion or simplification takes place at this stage. e.g. a Chinese data

  33. patterns of simplification There are patterns for children’s simplification in phonetics. (a) syllable simplification: stop  [tap], desk  [dk],[kan]  [ka:] (b) substitution: bus  [bt], sea [tiy],tung [du:] (c) assimilation: tell  [dl], big  [pk]

  34. perception  production perception + production Language acquisition is composed of perception and production. perception > production Children are much better in perception. perception  production Most children are able to understand what is heard at this stage.

  35. e.g. a dialogue GUEST: (pointing to fish in the aquarium) What is it? CHILD: It’s [fs] (fish ). GUEST: Oh, so it is [fs]. How beautiful [fs]. CHILD: No. It is [fs], not [fs]. GUEST: Is it not [fs]? CHILD: No. GUEST: No? It’s not [fs]. It is [f]. Child: (Happily) Yes. It is [fs]. perception (V) & production (X) The child, though failing to pronounce the [] sound, can fully understand fish should be pronounced [f].

  36. 3.3 Stage of Two Words (24 months) after 24 months Children step to the stage of two words, using two words instead one for expression. e.g. Baby chair, Daddy car, Here doggie… referring to different meanings A phrase of two words can be referred to different meanings. e.g. Baby chair  This is the baby’s chair. Baby (I) want to sit on the chair. Baby (I) am now on the chair.

  37. telegraphic stage The phrases are telegraphic without involving with morphological suffixes (e.g. -s, -ed, etc.) or syntactic derivations (e.g. nominative, objective, possessive inflections ). a telegraph (short & brief) be verbs (X) inflectional suffixes (X) morphological suffixes (X) e.g. Get there by 10. Wait reply.  I will get there by 10, and now I am waiting for your reply.

  38. e.g. The two-word phrases are straightforward, without having any suffixes.

  39. Stage of Three-Word (X) Three words (X) There is no stage of three-word in the literature of LA. speak like adults do Soon after the stage of two words, children get to the world of infinity for they are able to speak like what adults do. more words (V) phonological changes (V) transformation in sentences(V)

  40. 3.4 Phonological Acquisition after 50 tokens Children begin to build their own phonological knowledge after they are able to speak 50 tokens. phonological knowledge phonetic inventories phonemes syllable structure stress tonal rules

  41. bee [bi] & pea [pi] Children can distinguish voicing, e.g. bee [bi] from pea [pi], at an early stage. perception (V) production (X)---[s] or [] Even if they fail to pronounce [s] or [], children try to show that they are different in their mind. mouth [maut]& mouths [maudit] vs. mouse [maut] & mice [maut] An experiment shows that children who pronounce mouth and mouse identically [maut] distinguish them in the use of plural forms, mouths being [maudit], but mice being [maut].

  42. communication > errors Some sounds are not correctly spoken. All the errors, if they should be termed ‘errors,’ are of patterns and they never stop children from communication. simplification strategies Children have got phonological knowledge at an early age though using simplification strategies.

  43. Children have got the ideas of a syllable, an onset & • a vowel (the nucleus-cannot be eliminated) • CV / CVC (C: consonant , V: vowel) • Simple structure is preferred. • aunt [/at] • To get a CVC syllable structure, a glottal stop is usually inserted to the onset position of a syllable without onset. • spoon [pun], sprite [rat] • When they encounter with a complicated onset (CCV), • one of the consonants in the onset position will be deleted.

  44. It occurs to children that stress plays an important role. banana & brownie In the simplification of syllables with a stress, The stressed syllable remains intact. e.g. banana [bn@n] nana[n@n] brownie[brawni] [bawn] /[bawni]

  45. 3.5 Syntactic Acquisition the stage of one word The difference between statements and interrogative sentences is indicated by falling and rising intonation. the stage of two words The syntactic structure is full of diversities.

  46. all the samples (only two words) in syntactic structure & theta-role (quite different) inflectional or derivational suffixes (X)

  47. different meanings vs. mothers  communication • The different semantic meaning is revealed by intonation or contexts. From the same ‘this chair,’ mothers can judge what it means simply by contexts or by intuition, which helps communication to be successful between parents and children.

  48. the later stage (after 3 years old) grammatical functions instead of the forms ---begin to use inflectional & derivational suffixes e.g. -ing, -s/es ---can distinguish the -s e.g. possessive (John’s brother, Micky’s Dad) plural nouns (books, toys, seats) verb of the 3rd singular nominative (He walks away. John comes here.) the acquisition of sentential difference  LA matured negation sentences, interrogative sentences, sentences involved with transformation and / or movements

  49. 3.6 Semantic Acquisition lexicon, social & cultural background, and cognition developments (close related) arbitrary Children acquire lexical semantics by viewing a concrete object or a picture. e.g. cats, birds& mouse cats, birds, and mouse are arbitrarily endowed with the referenceto specific objects

  50. connotation social / cultural background  meanings differ e.g. mice  cute & lovely (Disney publications / films) mice  dirty & devil (live in a far remote country) abstract Semantics is quite abstract for children. It takes time for children to adjust the abstract referential point in the beginning. e.g. space: this & that (the speaker’s ‘that’ vs. the listener’s ‘this’)