Second language acquisition
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Second Language Acquisition. Yueh-chiu Wang National Penghu University. What is a language?.

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Second Language Acquisition

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Second language acquisition

Second Language Acquisition

Yueh-chiu Wang

National Penghu University


What is a language

What is a language?

  • A language is considered to be a system of communicating with other people using sounds, symbols and words in expressing a meaning, idea or thought. This language can be used in many forms, primarily through oral and written communications as well as using expressions through body language.


The nature of human languages

The nature of human languages

  • Based upon Victoria (2003), a number of facts related to all languages are shown as follows:

  • 1. Whatever humans exist, language exits.

  • 2. All languages are equally complex and equally capable of expressing any idea in the universe. The vocabulary of any language can be expanded to include new words for new concepts.


Second language acquisition

  • 3. All languages change through time.

  • 4. The relationships between the sounds and meanings of spoken languages and between the gestures and meanings of sign languages are for the most part arbitrary.


Second language acquisition

  • 5. All human languages use a finite set of discrete sounds or gestures that are combined to form meaningful elements of words, which themselves may be combined to form an infinite set of possible sentences.


Second language acquisition

  • 6. All grammars contain rules of a similar kind for the formation of words and sentences.

  • 7. Every spoken language includes discrete sound segments. Every spoken language has a class of vowels and a class of consonants.


Second language acquisition

  • 8. Similar grammatical categories (nouns, verbs) are found in all languages.

  • 9. There are universal semantic properties like “male” or “female”, “animate” or “human”, found in every language in the world.


Second language acquisition

  • 10. Speakers of all languages are capable of producing and comprehending an infinite set of sentences.

  • 11. Any normal child, born anywhere in the world, is capable of learning any language to which he or she is exposed.


Second language acquisition

  • 12. Every language includes the sound system (phonology), the structure of words (morphology), how words may be combined into phrases and sentences (the syntax), the ways in which sounds and meanings are related (semantics), and the words or lexicon.


Second language acquisition

  • The sounds and meanings of these words are related in an arbitrary fashion.


Linguistic competence vs linguistic performance

Linguistic competence vs. linguistic performance

  • Linguistic competence means you have the capacity to produce sounds that signify certain meanings and to understand or interpret the sounds produced by others.


The creativity of linguistic knowledge

The creativity of linguistic knowledge

  • Knowledge of a language enables you to combine words to form phrases, and phrases to form sentences. Knowing a language means being able to produce new sentences never spoken before and to understand sentences never heard before. This ability is referred to as part of creative aspect of language use.


Second language acquisition

  • Knowing a language includes knowing what sentences are appropriate in various situations.

  • Our creative ability not only is reflected in what we say but also includes our understanding of new or novel sentences.


Second language acquisition

  • Then, the knowledge of a language makes it possible to understand and produce new sentences.

  • All human languages permit their speakers to form indefinitely long sentences; creativity is a universal property of human language.


Linguistic competence

Linguistic competence

  • How you use this knowledge in actual speech production and comprehension is linguistic performance.


Slips of the tongue

Slips of the tongue

  • When we speak, we usually wish to convey some message. At some stage in the act of producing speech, we must organize our thoughts into strings of words. Sometimes the message is garbled. We may stammer, or pause, or produce slips of tongue.


Second language acquisition

  • For the most part, linguistic knowledge is not conscious knowledge. The linguistic system is learned subconsciously with no awareness that rules are being learned. This knowledge represents a complex cognitive system.


Descriptive grammar

Descriptive Grammar

  • The grammar is the knowledge speakers have about the units and rules of their language—rules for combining sounds into words (called phonology), rules of word formation (called morphology), rules for combining words into phrases and phrases into sentences (called semantics). It does not tell you how you should speak; it describes your basic linguistic knowledge. It explains how it is possible for you to speak and understand and make judgments about well-formedness, and it tells what you know about the sounds, words, phrases, and sentences of your language.


Prescriptive grammars

Prescriptive grammars

  • Prescriptive grammars such as Lowth’s are different from the descriptive grammars we have been discussing. Their goal is not to describe the rules people know, but to tell them what rules they should follow.


Second language acquisition

  • It is undeniable that the standard dialect may indeed be a better dialect for someone wishing to obtain a particular job or achieve a position of social prestige.


Universal grammar

Universal Grammar

  • The more linguists explore the intricacies of human language, the more evidence accumulates to support Chomsky’s view that there is a Universal Grammar that is part of the biological endowed human language faculty. We can think of UG as the blueprint that all languages follow that forms part of the child’s innate capacity for language learning.


Linguist theory

Linguist theory

  • A major aim of linguistic theory is to discover the nature of UG. It shed light on the nature of human language.

  • Linguistic theory is concerned not only with describing the knowledge that an adult speaker has of his or her language, but also with explaining how this knowledge is acquired.


Teaching grammars

Teaching grammars

  • Teaching grammars can be helpful to people who do not speak the standard or prestige dialect, but find it would be advantageous socially and economically to do so. Teaching grammars assume that the student already knows one language and compares the grammar of the target language with the grammar of the native language.


Second language acquisition

  • Children can acquire any language they are exposed to with comparable ease and even though each of these languages has its own peculiar characteristics, children learn them all in very much the same way.


Second language acquisition

  • The child’s inexorable path to adult linguistic knowledge and the uniformity of acquisition process point to


Mechanism of language acquisition

Mechanism of language acquisition

  • Do children learn through imitation?

  • Imitation cannot account for another important phenomenon: children who are unable to speak for neurological or physiological reasons learn the language spoken to them and understand it.


Language acquisition children

Language acquisition (children)

  • Children acquire a system of rules that enables them to construct and understand sentences, most of which they have never produced or heard before. Children, like adults, are creative in their use of language.


Do children learn through reinforcement

Do children learn through reinforcement?

  • In the behaviorist tradition, is that children learn to produce correct (grammatical) sentences because they are positively reinforced when they say something right and negatively reinforced when they say something wrong.


Second language acquisition

  • In fact, attempts to correct a child’s language are doomed to failure. Children do not know what they are doing wrong and are unable to make corrections even when they are pointed out.


Do children learn language through analogy

Do children learn language through analogy?

  • It has also been suggested that children put words together to form phrases and sentences by analogy, by hearing a sentence and using it as a sample to form other sentences.


Second language acquisition

  • In the connectionist model, no grammatical rules are stored anywhere. Linguistic knowledge, such as knowledge of the past tense, is represented by a set of neuron-like connections between different phonological forms.


Second language acquisition

  • As a model of language acquisition, connectionism faces some serious challenges. The model assumes that the language of the child’s environment has very specific properties. Another problem is that rules such as formation of past tense cannot be based on phonological form alone but must also be sensitive to information in the lexicon.


Do children learn through structured input

Do children learn through structured input?

  • Another suggestion is that children are able to learn language because adults speak to them in a special “simplified” language sometimes called motherese, or child-directed speech (baby talk). This hypothesis places a lot of emphasis on the role of the environment in facilitating language acquisition.


Second language acquisition

  • The adults adjusts his language to the child’s increasing linguistic sophistication. The exaggerated intonation and other properties of motherese may be useful for getting a child’s attention and holding it, but it is not a driving force behind language development.


Second language acquisition

  • Analogy, imitation, and reinforcement cannot account for language development because they are based on the implicit or explicit assumption that what the child acquires is a set of acquisition or forms rather than a set of grammatical rules.


Second language acquisition

  • Theories that assume that acquisition depends on a specially structured input also place too much emphasis on the environment rather than on the grammar-making abilities of the child.


Children construct grammars

Children construct grammars.

  • Language acquisition is a creative process. Children are not given explicit information about the rules, by either instruction or correction. They must somehow extract the rules of the grammar from the language they hear around them, and their linguistic environment does not need to be special in any way for them to do this.


Second language acquisition

  • Children are part of the innate blueprint for language that children use to construct the grammar of their language. The answer is that children acquire a complex grammar quickly and easily without any particular help beyond exposure to the language because they do not start from scratch. UG helps them to extract the rules of their language and to avoid many grammatical errors.


Second language acquisition

  • The innateness hypothesis also predicts that all languages will conform to the principles of UG. But there is little doubt that human languages conform to abstract universal principles and that human brain is specially equipped for acquisition of human language grammars.


Stages in language acquisition

Stages in Language Acquisition

  • Children’s early utterances may not look exactly like adult sentences, but child language is not just a degenerate form of adult language. The words and sentences that the child produces at each stage of development conform to the set of grammatical rules he has developed to that point.


Second language acquisition

  • The shaping by the linguistic environment that we see in perception also occurs in the speech the infant is producing. At around six months, the infant begins to babble. The sounds produced in this period include many sounds that do not occur in the language of the household. However, babbling is not linguistic chaos.


Second language acquisition

  • Gradually, the child’s babbles come to conclude only those sounds and sound combinations that occur in the target language. Babbles begin to sound like words, although they may not have any specific meaning attached to them. At this point adults can distinguish the babbles of an English-babbling infant from those of an infant babbling in other languages.


Second language acquisition

  • Babbling illustrates the readiness of the human mind to respond to linguistic input from a very early stage. During the babbling stage, the intonation contours produced by hearing infants begin to resemble the intonation contours of sentences spoken by adults.


Second language acquisition

  • The generally accepted view is that humans are born with a predisposition to discover the units that serve to express linguistic meanings, and that at a genetically specified stage in neural development, the infant will begin to produce these units—sounds or gestures—depending on the language input in language acquisition.


Second language acquisition

  • The “babbling as language acquisition” hypothesis is supported by recent neurological studies that link babbling to the language centers of the left hemisphere, also providing further evidence that the brain specializes for language functions at a very early age.


First words

First words

  • Some time after the age of one, children begin to use repeatedly the same string of sounds to mean the same thing. At this stage children realize the sounds are related to meanings. They have produced their first true words.


Second language acquisition

  • Most children go through a stage in which their utterances consist of only one word. This is called the holophrastic stage because these one-word utterances seem to convey a more complex message.


Second language acquisition

  • Children’s early pronunciations are not haphazard, however. The phonological substitutions are rule-governed. Children do not create bizarre or whimsical rules. Their rules conform to the possibilities made available by UG.


Second language acquisition

  • The child’s acquisition of morphology provides the clearest evidence of rule learning. Children’s errors in morphology reveal that the child acquires the regular rules of the grammar and overgeneralizes them. This overgeneralization occurs when children treat irregular verbs and nouns as if they were regular.


Second language acquisition

  • When children are still in the holophrastic stage, adults listening to one-word utterances often feel that the child is trying to convey a more complex message.


Second language acquisition

  • Around the time of their second birthday, children begin to put words together. At first these utterances appear to be strings of two of the child’s earlier holophrastic utterances, each word with its own single-pitch contour. Soon, they begin to form actual two-word sentences with clear syntactic and semantic relations.


Second language acquisition

  • The intonation contour of the two words extends over the whole utterances rather than being separated by a pause between the two words.


Second language acquisition

  • Telegraphic speech is also very good evidence against the hypothesis that children learn sentences by imitation. Adults—even those speaking motherese –do not drop function words when they speak to children.


Second language acquisition

  • By the age of 3, most children are consistent in their use of function morphemes. Moreover, they have begun to produce and understand complex structures, including coordinated sentences and embedded sentences of various kinds.


Second language acquisition

  • It may take a child several months or years to master those aspects of pragmatics that involve establishing the reference for function morphemes such as determiners and pronouns.


Second language acquisition

  • Though the stages of language development are universal, they are shaped by the grammar of the particular adult language the child is acquiring.


Second language acquisition

  • The ability of children to form complex rules and construct grammars of the languages used around them in a relatively short time is phenomenal. The similarity of the language acquisition stages across diverse peoples and languages shows that children are equipped with special abilities to know what generalizations to look for and


Second language acquisition

  • what to ignore, and how to discover the regularities of language.

  • Children develop language the way they develop the ability to sit up, stand, crawl, or walk. They are not taught to do these things. , but all normal children begin to do them at around the same age.


Second language acquisition

  • Children acquire some aspects of syntax very quickly, even while they are still in the telegraphic stage. Most of these early developments correspond to what we earlier referred to as the parameters of UG.


Stages in language acquisition1

Stages in language acquisition

  • Children’s early utterances may not look exactly like adult sentences, but child language is not just a degenerate form of adult language. The words and sentences that the child produces at each stage of development conform to the set of grammatical rules he has developed to that point.


Language acquisition

Language acquisition

  • Behaviorism: the second language view

    ** Learners receive linguistic input from speakers in their environment, and positive reinforcement for their correct repetitions and imitations. Language development is described as the acquisition of a set of habits.


Second language acquisition

  • For the behaviorist, errors are seen as first language habits interfering with the acquisition of second language habits. This psychological learning theory has often been linked to the contrastive analysis hypothesis (CAH). The CAH predicts that where there are similarities between the two languages, the learner will acquire target language structures with ease; where there are differences, the learner will have difficulty.


Cognitive theory a new psychological approach

Cognitive theory: a new psychological approach

  • Cognitive psychologists tend to see second language acquisition as the building up of knowledge systems that can eventually be called on automatically for speaking and understanding.


Second language acquisition

  • At first, learners have to pay attention to any aspect of the language which they are trying to understand or produce. Gradually, through experience and practice, learners become able to use certain parts of their knowledge so quickly and automatically that they are not even aware that they are doing it.


Creative construction theory

Creative construction theory

  • Learners are thought to ‘construct’ internal representations as ‘mental pictures’ of the target language. The internal representations are thought to develop, in predictable stages, in the direction of the full second language system.


Second language acquisition

  • Acquisition takes place internally as learners read and hear samples of the language that they understand. The speech and writing which the learner eventually produces is seen as an outcome of the learning process rather than the cause of learning as a necessary step in learning.


Explaining first language acquisition

Explaining first language acquisition

  • These descriptions of language development from infancy through the early school years show that we have considerable knowledge of what children learn in their early language development. Three main theoretical positions have been advanced to explain it: behaviorist, innatist, and interactional/developmental perspectives(Lightbown & Spada, 2006).


The behaviorist perspective say what i say

The behaviorist perspective: Say what I say

  • With regard to language learning, the best-known proponent of this psychological theory was B.F. Skinner. According to this view, the quality and quantity of the language the child hears, as well as the consistency of the reinforcement offered by others in the environment, would shape the child’s language behavior.


Second language acquisition

  • This theory gives great importance to the environment as the source of everything the child needs to learn.

  • Behaviorism seems to offer a reasonable way of understanding how children learn some of the regular and routine aspects of language, especially at the earliest stages. However, children who do little overt imitation acquire language as fully and rapidly as those who imitate a lot.


The innatist perspective it s all in your mind

The innatist perspective: It’s all in your mind

  • Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential figures in linguistics, and his ideas about how language is acquired and how it is stored in the mind sparked a revolution in many aspects of linguistics and psychology, including the study of language acquisition.


Second language acquisition

  • A central part of his thinking is that all human languages are fundamentally innate and that the same universal principles underlie all of them. He argued that children are biologically programmed for language and that language develops in the child in just the same way that other biological functions develop.


Second language acquisition

  • For Chomsky, language acquisition is very similar. The environment makes only a basic contribution—in this case, the availability of people who speak to the child. The child or the child’s biological endowment will do the rest.


Second language acquisition

  • He hypothesized that children are born with a specific innate ability to discover for themselves the underlying rules of a language system on the basis of the samples of a natural language they are exposed to. This innate endowment was seen as a sort of template, containing the principles that are universal to all human languages.


Second language acquisition

  • The innatist perspective emphasizes the fact that all children successfully acquire their native language. Even children with very limited cognitive ability develop quite complex language systems if they are brought up in environments in which people interact with them. This is seen as support for the hypothesis that language is somehow separate from other aspects of cognitive development and may depend on a specific module of the brain.


The critical period hypothesis

The Critical Period Hypothesis

  • Chomsky’s ideas are often linked to the critical period hypothesis (CPH) –the hypothesis that animals, including humans, are genetically programmed to acquire certain kinds of knowledge and skill at specific times in life. Beyond those ‘critical periods’, it is either difficult or impossible to acquire those skills.


Second language acquisition

  • With regard to language, the CPH suggests that children who are not given access to language in infancy and early childhood will never acquire language if these deprivations go on for too long.


Second language acquisition

  • It is difficult to find evidence for or against the CPH, since nearly all children are exposed to language at an early age. However, history has documented a few ‘natural experiments’ where children have been deprived of contact with language. Two of the most famous cases are those of Victor and Genie.


Second language acquisition

  • Although Victor and Genie appear to provide evidence in support of the CPH, it is difficult to argue that the hypothesis is confirmed on the basis of evidence from such unusual cases.


Second language acquisition

  • The innatist perspective is thus partly based on evidence for a critical period. It is also seen as an explanation for ‘the logical problem of language acquisition’.


Interactionalist developmental perspectives learning from inside and out

Interactionalist/developmental perspectives: learning from inside and out

  • Developmental psychologists and psycholinguists have focused on the interplay between the innate learning ability of children and the environment in which they develop. These researchers attribute considerably more importance to the environment than the innatist do even though they also recognize a powerful learning mechanism in the human brain.


Second language acquisition

  • They see language acquisition as similar to and influenced by the acquisition of other kinds of skill and knowledge, rather than as something that is different from and largely independent of the child’s experience and cognitive development.


Piaget and vygotsky

Piaget and Vygotsky

  • It is easy to see from this how children’s cognitive development would partly determine how they use language. The developing cognitive understanding is built on the interaction between the child and the things that can be observed.


Second language acquisition

  • For Piaget, language can be used to represent knowledge that children have acquired through physical interaction with the environment.


Second language acquisition

  • For Vygotsky (1978), He concluded that language develops primarily from social interaction. He argued that in a supportive interactive environment, children are able to advance to a higher level of knowledge and performance.


Second language acquisition

  • Piaget saw language as a symbol system that could be used to express knowledge acquired through interaction with the physical world. For Vygotsky, thought was essentially internalized speech, and speech emerged in social interaction.


Second language acquisition

  • Five central hypotheses constitute his ‘monitor model’: (1) the acquisition-learning hypothesis; (2) the monitor hypothesis; (3) the natural order hypothesis; (4) the input hypothesis; and (5) the affective filter hypothesis.


1 the acquisition learning hypothesis

1. The acquisition-learning hypothesis

  • According to Krashen, there are two ways for adult second language learners to approach learning a second language: they may ‘acquire’ it or they may ‘learn’ it. Essentially, he says, we acquire as we engage in meaningful interaction in the second language, in much the same way that children pick up their up their first language—with no attention to form.


Second language acquisition

  • We learn, on the other hand, via a conscious process of study and attention to form and error correction, most typically in formal language classrooms.


2 the monitor hypothesis

2. The monitor hypothesis

  • Krashen has specified three conditions necessary for monitor use: sufficient time, focus on form, and knowing the rules. The learned system, on the other hand, acts only as an editor or ‘monitor’, making minor changes and polishing what the acquired system has produced.


3 the natural order hypothesis

3. The natural order hypothesis

  • This hypothesis states that we acquire the rules of a language in a predictable sequence—some rules are acquired early while others are acquired late.


4 the input hypothesis

4. The input hypothesis

  • Krashen asserts that we acquire language in only one way—by receiving comprehensive input, that is, by understanding messages. If the input contains forms and structures just beyond the learners’ current level of competence in the language, then both comprehension and acquisition will occur.


5 the affective filter hypothesis

5. The affective filter hypothesis

  • The ‘affective filter’ is an imaginary barrier which prevents learners from using input which is available in the environment. Depending on the learner’s state of mind or disposition, the filter limits what is noticed and what is acquired. The filter will be ‘up or operating when the learner is stressed, self-conscious, or unmotivated. It will be ‘down’ when the learner is relaxed and motivated.


The critical period hypothesis1

The Critical Period Hypothesis

  • Lenneberg observed that this ability to develop normal behaviors and knowledge in a variety of environments does not continue indefinitely and that children who have never learned language cannot return to normal if these deprivations go on for too long. He argued that the language acquisition device, like other biological functions, works successfully only when it is stimulated at the right time.


Second language acquisition

  • A time is referred to as the ‘critical period’. There are two versions of the CPH. The strong version is that children must acquire their first language by puberty or they will never be able to learn from subsequent exposure. The weak version is that language learning will be more difficult and incomplete after puberty.


Second language acquisition

  • CPH suggests that there is a time in human development when the brain is predisposed for success in language learning. Developmental changes in the brain change the nature of second language acquisition. According to this view, language learning which occurs after the end of the critical period may not be based on the innate structures believed to contribute to first language acquisition or SLA in early childhood.


Second language acquisition

  • Rather, older learners depend on more general learning abilities—the same ones they might use to learn other kinds of skills or information. It is argued that these general learning abilities are not as successful for language learning as the more specific, innate capacities which are available to the young child.


Second language acquisition

  • The critical period hypothesis has been challenged in recent years from several different points of view. At least in the early stages of second language development, older learners are more efficient than younger learners.


Second language acquisition

  • In neurological research, it has not been demonstrated that the hypothesized changes take place in the brain at puberty. Much research seems rather to suggest that the brains of very young infants already have some areas which are specialized for processing language.


Second language acquisition

  • These studies have concluded that older learners almost inevitably have a noticeable ‘foreign accent’. Mark Patkowski studied the effect of age on the acquisition of features of a second language other than accent. Those who had begun learning their second language before the age of 15 could ever achieve full, native-like mastery of that language.


Second language acquisition

  • Patkowski found that age of acquisition is a very important factor in setting limits on the development of native-like mastery of a second language and that this limitation does not apply only to accent. These results gave added support to the critical period hypothesis for SLA.


Second language acquisition

  • Experience and research have shown that native-like mastery of the spoken language is difficult to attain by older learners.


Caretaker talk

Caretaker talk

  • In English, caretaker talk involves a slower rate of speech, higher pitch, more varied intonation, shorter, simpler sentence of patterns, frequent repetition, and paraphrase.

  • Furthermore, topics of conversation are often limited to the child’s immediate environment, the ‘here and now’.


Linguistic competence1

Linguistic competence

  • Linguistic competence is best described as internalized knowledge of a language.

  • Linguistic performance is the external evidence of language competence, and is usage on particular occasions when factors other than linguistic competence may affect its form.


What is language

What is language?

  • Language is the source of human life and power. When you know a language, you can speak and be understood by others who know that language. This means you have the capacity to produce sounds that signify certain meanings and to understand or interpret the sounds produced by others.


Second language acquisition

  • 1. The relationship between form and meaning is arbitrary.

  • Knowledge of a language enables you to combine words to form phrases, and phrases to form sentences. Knowing a language means being able to produce new sentences never spoken before and to understand sentences never heard before. The linguist Noam Chomsky refers to this ability as part of the creative aspect of language use.


Second language acquisition

  • All human languages permit their speakers to form indefinitely long sentences; creativity is a universal property of human language.

  • It is a difference between what you know, which is your linguistic competence, and how you use this knowledge in actual speech production and comprehension, which is your linguistic perforamnce.


Slips of the tongue1

Slips of the tongue

  • When we speak, we usually wish to convey some message. At some stage in the act of producing speech, we must organize our thoughts into strings of words. Sometimes the message is garbled. We may stammer, or pause, or produce slips of the tongue.


Second language acquisition

  • For the most part, linguistic knowledge is not conscious knowledge. The linguistic system—the sounds, structures, meanings, words, and the rules for putting them all together—is learned subconsciously with no awareness that rules are being learned.


What is grammar

What is grammar?

  • Descriptive grammar: It does not tell you how you should speak; it describes your basic linguistic knowledge. It explains how it is possible for you to speak and understand, and it tells you what you know about the sounds, words, phrases, and sentences of your language.


Prescriptive grammars1

Prescriptive grammars

  • The linguists wished to prescribe rather than describe the rules of grammar, which gave rise to the writing of prescriptive grammars.


Language universals

Language universals

  • The grammar includes everything speakers know about their language—the sound system, called phonology; the system of meanings, called semantics; the rules of word formation, called morphology; and the rules of sentence formation, called syntax. Lexicon is the vocabulary of words.


Second language acquisition

  • The laws of a language representing the universal properties of all languages constitute a universal grammar.

  • Chmosky, following the lead of the early rationalist philosophers, proposed that human beings are born with an innate “blueprint” for language , what we referred to as Universal Grmmar.


Second language acquisition

  • Children are able to acquire language as quickly and effortlessly as they do because they do not have to figure out all the rules of their language—the laws of language—are part of their biological endowment.


Animal languages

Animal languages

  • If language is viewed only as a system of communication, then many species communicate. Humans also use systems other than language to relate to each other and to send and receive messages, like so-called body language.


Talking parrots

Talking parrots

  • Language is a system that relates sounds or gestures to meanings. Talking birds such as parrots and mynah birds are capable of faithfully reproducing words and phrases of human language that they have heard, but their utterances carry no meaning.


The birds and the bees

The birds and the bees

  • Most animals possess some kind of “signaling” communication system. The imitative sounds of talking birds have little in common with human language, but the calls and songs of many species of birds do have a communicative function, and they resemble human languages in that they may be “dialects” within the same species.


Second language acquisition

  • Birdcalls and songs are fundamentally different kinds of communicative systems. The kinds of messages that can be conveyed are limited, and messages are stimulus controlled.


Second language acquisition

  • Birdcalls (consisting of one or more short notes) convey messages associated with the immediate environment, such as danger, feeding, nesting, flocking, and so on. Bird songs (more complex patterns of notes) are used to stake out territory and to attract mates.


Second language acquisition

  • The bees’ dance is an effective system of communication for bees. It is capable, in principle, of infinitely many different messages, like human languages; but unlike human language, the system is confined to a single subject—food source.


Second language acquisition

  • The number of repetitions per minute of the basic pattern in the tail-wagging dance indicates the precise distance; the slower the repetition rate, the longer the distance.


Language and thought

Language and thought

  • Human beings are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society… we see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.


Second language acquisition

  • Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis strong claims that the background linguistic system of each language is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual’s mental activity, for his analysis of impressions, for his synthesis of his mental stock in trade.


Second language acquisition

  • Linguistic determinism holds that the language we speak determines how we perceive and think about the world. Language acts like a filter on reality.


Second language acquisition

  • Linguistic relativism hold that different languages encode different categories and that speakers of different languages think about the world in different ways.


Second language acquisition

  • People’s thoughts and perceptions are not determined by the worlds and structures of their languages. Similarly, although languages differ in their color words, speakers can readily perceive colors that are not named in their language.


Second language acquisition

  • Politicians and marketers certainly believe that language can influence our thoughts and values. Politically correct (PC) language also reflects the idea that language can influence thought. Many people believe that by changing the way we talk, we can change the way we think.


Content words and function words

Content words and function words

  • Languages make an important distinction between two kinds of words—content words and function words. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are the content words.

  • Content words are sometimes called the open class words because we can and regularly do add new words to these classes.


Function words

Function words

  • There are other classes of words that do not have clear lexical meaning or obvious concepts associated with them, including conjunctions, prepositions, the articles, and pronouns. These kinds of words are called function words because they have a grammatical function. Function words are called closed class words.


Morphemes the minimal units of meaning

Morphemes: The minimal units of meaning

  • The linguistic term for the most elemental unit of grammatical form is morpheme. The word is derived from the Greek word morphe, meaning “form.” Im-possible: There are two morphemes.


Second language acquisition

  • A morpheme is an arbitrary unit of a sound and a meaning that cannot be further analyzed. Every word in every language is composed of one or more morphemes.


Second language acquisition

  • With respect to words, linguistic creativity means that not only can we understand words that we have never heard before, but we can also create new words.


Bound and free morphemes

Bound and Free Morphemes

  • Our morphological knowledge has two components: knowledge of the individual morphemes and knowledge of the rules that combine them. One of the things we know about particular morphemes is whether they can stand alone or whether they must be attached to a host morpheme.


Second language acquisition

  • Affixes, suffixes and prefixes are parts of the words. They are bound morphemes.


Word coinage

Word coinage

  • New words may be added to the vocabulary of a language by derivational processes. New words also enter a language in a variety of other ways. Ex. Keenex from the words clean and Jell-O from gel. Greek roots borrowed into English have also provided a means for coining new words.


Compounds

Compounds

  • Two or more words may be joined to form new, compound words. The kinds of combinations that occur in English are nearly limitless.


Acronyms

Acronyms

  • Acronyms are words derived from the initials of several words. Ex. NASA from National Aeronautics and Space Agency, UNESCO from United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.


Blends

Blends

  • Two words may be combined to produce blends. Blends are similar to compounds but parts of the words that are combined are deleted. Ex. Smog from smoke+fog

  • Motel from motor + hotel


Inflectional morphemes

Inflectional morphemes

  • Function words like to, it, and be are free morphemes. Many languages, including English, also have bound morphemes that have a strictly grammatical function. They mark properties such as tense, number, gender, case, and so forth. Such bound morphemes are called inflectional morphemes.


Second language acquisition

  • Inflectional morphemes in English typically follow derivational morphemes. Commit+ment+s

  • Polymorphemic words are words with more than one morpheme. Inflectional morphemes are determined by the rules of syntax. They are added to complete words.


Derivational morphemes

Derivational morphemes

  • Derivational morphemes, when added to a root or stem, may change the syntactic word class and/or the meaning of the word. Ex. Boy+ish means adding –ish to the noun boy derives an adjective.


Second language acquisition

  • Function words and bound inflectional morphemes are inserted into sentences according to the syntactic structure.


Brain and language

Brain and Language

  • The brain is the most complex organ of the body. It lies under the skull and consists of approximately 10 billion nerve cells (neurons) and billions of fibers that interconnect them.


Second language acquisition

  • The surface of the brain is the cortex, often called “gray matter”, consisting of billions of neurons. Beneath the cortex is the white matter, which consists of connecting fibers.


Second language acquisition

  • The cortex is the decision-making organ of the body. It receives messages from all the sensory organs, and it initiates all voluntary actions. It is “the seat of all which is exclusively human in the mind” and the storehouse of our memories.


Second language acquisition

  • Somewhere in this gray matter resides the grammar that represents our knowledge of language.


Second language acquisition

  • The left hemisphere supervises the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere supervises the left side. If you point with your right hand, it is the left hemisphere that controls your action, and conversely. This is referred to as contralateral brain function.


Broca s area

Broca’s area

  • Language was the first cognitive model to be localized in the brain via scientific evidence. In 1864 Paul Broca related language specifically to the left side of the brain. He stated that we speak with the left hemisphere. He based his finding on the observation that damage to the front part of the left hemisphere resulted in loss of speech, whereas damage to the right side did not.


Wernicke s area

Wernicke’s area

  • Unlike Broca’s patients, those with Wernicke’s aphasia spoke fluently with good intonation and pronunciation, but with numerous instances of lexical errors ( word substituitions), often producing jardon and nonsense words. They also had difficulty in comprehending speech.


Second language acquisition

  • MRI and PET studies reaffirm the lateralization of language.

  • It appears that even from birth the human brain is predisposed to specialize for language in the left hemisphere since language usually does not develop normally in children with early left-hemisphere brain lesions.


Split brains

Split brains

  • Split-brain patients also provide evidence for language lateralization for understanding brain functions. When the brain is surgically split, certain information from the left side of the body is received only by the right side of the brain, and vice versa.


Second language acquisition

  • Studies of split-brain patients reveal that in the human brain, as in the monkey brain, the two hemispheres are distinct. Moreover, the messages sent to the two sides of the brain result in different responses, depending on which side receives the message.


Second language acquisition

  • In a split-brain patient, information in the right hemisphere is inaccessible to the left hemisphere.


Second language acquisition

  • Various experiments of this sort have provided information on the different capabilities of the two halves. The right brain does better than the left in pattern matching tasks, in recognizing faces, and in spatial orientation. The left hemisphere is superior for language, for rhythmic perception, for temporal-order judgments, and for mathematical thinking.


Second language acquisition

  • Because of the crucial endowment of the left hemisphere for language, written material delivered to the right hemisphere cannot be read if the brain is split, because the information cannot be transferred to the left hemisphere.


Dichotic listening

Dichotic listening

  • Dichotic listening is an experimental technique that uses auditory signals to observe the behavior of the individual hemispheres of the human brain.


Language and brain development

Language and brain development

  • There is an intimate connection between language and the brain. Specific areas of the brain are devoted to language, and injury to these areas disrupts language. In the young child, injury to or removal of the left hemisphere has severe consequences for language development.


The critical period

The critical period

  • Children who do not receive linguistic input during their formative years do not achieve nativelike grammatical competence. Behavioral tests and brain imaging studies show that late exposure to language alters the fundamental organization of the brain for language.


The critical age hypothesis

The Critical Age Hypothesis

  • It is a part of the biological basis of language and states that the ability to learn a native language develops within a fixed period, from birth to puberty. During this critical period, language acquisition proceeds easily, swiftly, and without external intervention.


Second language acquisition

  • Tests of lateralization (dichotic listening and ERP) showed that Genie’s language was lateralized to the right hemisphere, even though the left hemisphere is normal predisposed for language . The evidence suggests that the critical period is for the acquisition of certain aspects of language, but not all aspects.


A critical period for bird songs

A Critical Period for Bird Songs

  • Bird songs lack certain fundamental characteristics of human language such as discrete sounds and creativity. The bird species for which a critical period has been observed are those whose “language” acquisition is guided by something akin to the innate human language ability.


Second language acquisition

  • Some bird species show no critical period. The cuckoo sings a fully developed song even if it never hears another cuckoo sing. These communicative messages are entirely innate. For other species, songs appear to be completely learned.


Second language acquisition

  • Apparently, the basic nature of the songs of the some species is present from birth, which means that it is biologically determined.


The evolution of language

The Evolution of Language

  • The relation between the continued use of language and the development of the brain has no doubt been far more important. If the human brain is structured and wired for the acquisition and use of language, how and when did this development occur? It seems to have arisen with the origin of the species.


God s gift to mankind

God’s gift to mankind

  • Although myths, customs, and superstitions do not tell us very much about language origin, they do tell us about the importance ascribed to language.


Second language acquisition

  • The belief that all languages originated from a single source—the monogenetic theory of language origin—is found not only in the Tower of Babel story in Genesis, but also in a similar legend of the Toltecs, early inhabitants of Mexico, and in the myths of other peoples as well.


The development of language in the species

The development of language in the species

  • Some people on both sides of the discontinuity view believe that language is species specific.

  • According to this hypothesis, the development of language is linked to the evolutionary development of the speech production and perception apparatus. This would be accompanied by changes in the brain


Second language acquisition

  • and the nervous system toward greater complexity.

  • The existence of mynah birds and parrots is evidence that this step is insufficient to explain the origin of language, because these creatures have the ability to imitate human speech, but not the ability to acquire language.


Second language acquisition

  • Lateralization certainly makes greater specialization possible. Research conducted with birds and monkeys, however, shows that lateralization is not unique to the human brain.


Second language acquisition

  • The search for these answers goes on and provides new insights into the nature of language and the nature of the human brain.


Second language acquisition

  • Language most likely evolved with the human species, possibly in stages, possibly in one giant leap. Research by linguists, evolutionary biologists, and neurologists support this view and the view that from the outset the human animal was genetically equipped to learn language.


Second language acquisition

  • Studies of the evolutionary development of the brain provide some evidence for physiological and anatomic preconditions for language development.


Language in society

Language in society

  • Idiolect: The unique characteristics of the language of an individual speaker are referred to as the speaker’s idiolect. English may be said to consist of more than 450 million idiolects.


Second language acquisition

  • When there are systematic differences in the way different groups speak a language, we say that each group speaks a dialect of that language. Dialects are mutually intelligible forms of a language that differ in systematic ways.


Second language acquisition

  • A dialect is not an inferior or degraded form of a language, and logically could not be so because a language is a collection of dialects.


Second language acquisition

  • Dialects and languages reflect the underlying rule systems—grammars that differ from one another. In truth, dialects and language exist on a continuum.


Second language acquisition

  • It is not surprising that a clear-cut distinction between language and dialect has evaded linguistic scholars. We shall, however, use the rule-of-thumb definition and refer to dialects of one language as mutually intelligible versions of the same basic grammar, with systematic differences among them.


Regional dialects

Regional dialects

  • Dialect diversity develops when people are separated geographically and socially. The change that occur in the language spoken in one area or group do not necessarily spread to another.


Second language acquisition

  • Dialect differences tend to increase proportionately to the degree of communicative isolation of the groups.


Second language acquisition

  • Changes in the grammar do not take place all at once in a speech community. They occur gradually, often originating in one region and spreading slowly to others, and often over the life spans of several generations of speakers.


Accents

Accents

  • Regional phonological or phonetic distinctions are often referred to as different accents. Thus, accent refers to the characteristics of speech that convey information about the speaker’s dialect, which may reveal in what country or in what part of the country the speaker grew up.


Second language acquisition

  • By the time of the American Revolution, there were three major dialect areas in the British colonies: the Northern dialect spoken in New England and around the Hudson River; the Midland dialect spoken in Pennsylvania; and the Southern dialect.


Second language acquisition

  • How regional dialects develop is illustrated by changes in the pronunciation of words with an r.


Dialect atlases

Dialect Atlases

  • Dialect atlases: Dialect differences are geographically plotted. The dialectologists who created the map noted the places where speakers use one word or another word for the same item. For example, 「krik」and 「krIk」for the creek whose differentiation based on the variation in pronunciation of the same word forms dialect areas.


Isogloss

Isogloss

  • Isogloss: A line drawn on the map to separate the areas is called an isogloss. When you cross an isogloss, you are passing from one dialect area to another.


Second language acquisition

  • The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a reference tool, whose aim is not to prescribe how Americans should speak or even to describe the language we use generally, the “standard” language. Instead, it seeks to document the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the United States—those words, pronunciations, and phrases that vary from one region to another.


Second language acquisition

  • Despite such differences, we are still able to understand speakers of other English dialects. Although regional dialects differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntactic rules, the differences are minor when compared with the totality of the grammar.


Second language acquisition

  • Dialects typically share most rules and vocabulary, which explains why the dialects of a language are mutually intelligible.


Social dialects

Social dialects

  • It is therefore not surprising that different dialects of a language evolve within social groups. Communication within a particular group is free and unconstrained.


Sociolinguistic analysis

Sociolinguistic analysis

  • Speakers from different socioeconomic classes often display systematic speech differences, even when region and ethnicity are not factors. These social-class dialects differ from other dialects in that sociolinguistic variables, while still systematic, are often statistical in nature.


Pidgins and creoles

Pidgins and Creoles

  • A lingua franca is typically a language with a broad base of native speakers, likely to be used and learned by persons, whose native language is in the same language family. Often in history, however, traders and missionaries from one part of the world have visited and attempted to communicate with peoples residing in another distant part.


Second language acquisition

  • Instead, the two groups use their native languages as a basis for a rudimentary language for few lexical items and less complex grammatical rules. Such a “marginal language” is called a pidgin. Tok Pisin is an English-based pidgin that is widely used in Papua New Guinea.


Second language acquisition

  • The variety of Tok Pisin used as a primary language in urban centers is more highly developed and more complex than the Tok Pisin used as a lingua franca in remote areas.


Lingua francas

Lingua Francas

  • One language is often used by common agreement. Such a language is called a lingua franca. English has been called “ the lingua franca of the whole world. French, at one time, was the lingua franca of diplomacy. Latin was a lingua franca of the Roman Empire and of western Christendom for a millennium.


Second language acquisition

  • Hindi and Urdu are the lingua francas of India and Pakistan.


Styles

Styles

  • Most speakers of a language speak one way with friends, another on a job interview or presenting a report in class, another talking to small children, another with their parents, and so on. These “situation dialects” are called styles, or registers.


Slang

Slang

  • Slang has been defined as “one of those things that everybody can recognize and nobody can define.” The use of slang or colloquial language, introduces many new words into the language by recombining old words into new meanings.


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