16240 13First Language AcquisitionSP08

Topics: Linguistics, Language acquisition, Noam Chomsky Pages: 13 (1163 words) Published: January 5, 2015
First Language Acquisition
“The capacity to learn language is deeply
ingrained in us as a species, just as the capacity
to walk, to grasp objects, to recognize faces.
We don’t find any serious difference in children
growing up in congested urban slums, in
isolated mountain villages, or in privileged
suburban villas”
Dan Slobin, The Human Language Series 2 (1994)
1

First Language Acquisition
Every language is complex.
Before the age of 5, the child knows most of
the intricate system of grammar.
Use the syntactic, phonological, morphological
and semantic rules of the language
Join sentences
Ask questions
Use appropriate pronouns
Negate sentences
Form relative clauses
2

1

First Language Acquisition
Learning to speak and understand a
language is different than learning to read
and write.
“ We are designed to walk.. That we are
taught to walk is impossible. And pretty
much the same is true of language.
Nobody is taught language. In fact you
can’t prevent a child from learning it”
Chomsky 1994
3

Issues in first language
acquisition
How do children acquire such a complex system
so quickly and effortlessly?
Does a child decide to consciously pursue certain
skills? (e.g., walking)
Do babies make a conscious decision to start
learning a language?
We correct children’s errors sometimes. Does it
help?
‘Nobody don’t like me’
4
Noisy data

2

Theories of language acquisition
Nature vs. Nurture
Behaviorism (1950s)
Children learn language through imitation,
reinforcement and analogy
He go out.
A my pencil
What the boy hit?
Nobody don’t like me
5

Theories of language
acquisition
Innateness hypothesis
Children are equipped with an innate
template for language (Language
Acquisition Device and Universal
Grammar)
Evidence: we end up knowing more about
language than what we hear around us.
The same stages in all cultures and
languages
6

3

Basic requirements
Environment and interaction to bring
this capacity into operation- E.g. Genie
– cultural transmission
The child must be physically capable
(being able to hear)
Interaction.
All these requirements are related.

7

The acquisition schedule
In spite of different backgrounds, different
locations, and different upbringings, most
children follow the very same milestones in
acquiring language.
The biological schedule is related to the
maturation of the infant’s brain to cope with
the linguistic input
Young children acquire the language by
identifying the regularities in what is heard
and applying those regularities in what they
say
8

4

Caretaker Speech (motherese)
A type of simplified speech adopts by
someone who spends time with the child
characterized by:
Frequent use of questions
Simplified lexicon
Phonological reduction
Higher pitch- extra loudness
Stressed intonation
Simple sentences
A lot of repetition

Oh, goody! Now Daddy will push choo choo!
9

Caretaker Speech (motherese)
Assign interactive roles to young children
MOTHER: Look!
CHILD: (touches picture)
MOTHER: what are those?
CHILD: (vocalizes a babble string and smiles)
MOTHER: yes, there are rabbits
CHILD: Vocalizes and smiles
MOTHER: (laughs) yes, rabbit

10

5

L1 acquisition
Stage

Typical
age

description

cooing

3-5
months

Vowel-like sounds

babbling

6-10
months

Repetitive CV patterns

One-word stage

12-18
months

Single open-class words or
word stems

Two-word stage

18-20
months

"mini-sentences" with

24-30
months

sentence structures of lexical
words no functional or

Telegraphic stage

simple semantic relations

grammatical morphemes

Later multiword stage

30+
months

Grammatical or functional
structures emerge

11

Cooing
Few weeks: cooing and gurgling, playing with
sounds. Their abilities are constrained by
physiological limitations
They seem to be discovering phonemes at this point.
Producing sequences of...
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