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NATURE OR NURTURE?. First language acquisition theories. FLA theories: Historical perspectives. 1. Behaviourism : (Pavlov, Skinner) Tabula rasa Imitation Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement Focus on the role of environment. Objections. 1. "What children say"

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  1. NATURE OR NURTURE? First language acquisition theories

  2. FLA theories: Historical perspectives 1. Behaviourism: (Pavlov, Skinner) Tabula rasa Imitation Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement Focus on the role of environment

  3. Objections • 1. "What children say" • Jean Berko (1958): wug-wugs, gling-glinged-glang • wented, taked, mices, mouses, sheeps • ett, kenyért, lót, tégem • > Analogous thinking • 2. "What children don't say" • McNeill (1966): • CHILD: Nobody don't like me. • MUM: No, say "nobody likes me". • CHILD: Nobody don't like me. • (eight repetitions of this dialogue) • MUM: No, now listen carefully, say "nobody likes me". • CHILD: Oh! Nobody don't likes me. • > Inability to imitate

  4. Nativism • Chomsky: focus on genetic pre-programming Based on 1. the Argument from the Poverty of the Stimulus 2. evidence of rule governed language generation LAD, language universals • Example: SVO components in sentences - 75% of the world's languages: SVO (English, French, Vietnamese) or SOV (Japanese, Tibetan, Korean) - 10 - 15% VSO ( Welsh) or VOS (Malagasy) - 10-15% free word order (Latin, Hungarian), but SOV common Márta tortát evett. „Setting the parameters” – matching UG to particular language

  5. Criticism of Chomsky 1. Competence – performance • Performance igored • Competence judged on the basis of intuitions: Do these judgements really reflect the way people use the language? 2. Core grammar – peripheral grammar - focus on core grammar only: How to determine what is core grammar? (We was …, double negation) 3. Syntax vs. semantics • 'Colourless green ideas sleep furiously' • 'My mother, he no like bananas‘ 4. Ignoring meaning, function, context the situation in which children learn L1

  6. Functionalism • Focus on imput: Interaction vs. exposure • Bruner’s Language Acquisition Support System (LASS) - parents communicate in ritualistic scenarios - easily comprehensible and predictable language - emotionally charged situations - repetition of acts and language

  7. Motherese, parentese (interaction, initiation, response) 1. Simplified in grammar and meaning 2. Shorter sentences - from about 8 words per sentence to 4, when speaking to two year olds 3. More restricted range of sentence patterns 4. Expansion and repetition of sentences

  8. 5. Slower speech 6. Use of special words and sounds 7. High pitch 8. Large number of questions and utterances with high rising intonation - looking for feedback. 9. Embedded in the here and now.

  9. Findings from motherese The language that children hear is by no means so partial and ungrammatical as suggested by Chomsky a large number of WH forms However • No close correlation between motherese and child speech. • Not all social groups adapt speech to young children

  10. Children do not simply repeat the language they hear from their caretakers. • They also produce utterances that they have never heard. Eszel tégem?

  11. Motherese: focus on meaning, not on grammar Child : Mamma isn't boy, he a girl. Mother : That's right. Child : And Walt Disney comes on Tuesday. Mother : No he does not. • Children’s mistakes not random errors - own grammar. INTERLANGUAGE

  12. Negation sequence of English-speaking children 1. 'No' and 'Not' appear as single word sentences. 2. Two-word sentences - 'No car', 'Not gone' etc. 3. Negative words used within constructions You no do that, Mummy 4. Negative auxiliaries appear. - Won't, can't 5. Not replaces no. Double negatives 6. Any, hardly, scarcely during early years of school.

  13. Connectionism • Focus on neuro-programming: neurons, synapses, wiring, circuits • Where does language reside in the brain? Is there a LAD? • Answer from neurology - Lateralisation - Left hemisphere: language and logical functions

  14. Aphasia studies • Paul Broca 1861: a patient called „Tan” • Broca’s area: responsible for grammatical structuring • Broca’s aphasia: inability to form correct sentences, patient is aware of difficulty

  15. Carl Wernicke, 1874: Wernicke’s area • Wernicke’s aphasia: grammatical correctness, semantically meaningless, unaware of problem

  16. Relation between Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas

  17. Phases of development • Before birth: neurons, wiring for life functions • 0/1: "biological exhuberance", neurons connect via axons and dandrites; in response to environmental impulses • Language: vocal map of L1 is formed • 1/10: flexible neuron connections, new ones are easily formed • Language: sensorimotor connections are still flexible (no accent!), vocabulary is learnt through repeated exposure and interaction • After 10: "pruning" • Language: fixed synapses

  18. GENETICALLY PROVIDED BRAIN POTENTIAL RICH ENVIRONMENT = RICH BRAIN "Experts now agree that a baby does not come into the world as a genetically preprogrammed automaton or a blank slate at the mercy of the environment ... Learning happens by the interaction of the genes and the environment.„ (S. Begley)

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