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Chap 12. Process of Language Acquisition. 2008. 11. 27 김 민 경. Main Points. How Language is acquired? Linguistic Environment Gross environmental neglect (feral & isolated children) Retard language acquisition Cognitive Processes Cognitive process are correlated with language development

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Chap 12. Process of Language Acquisition

2008. 11. 27

김 민 경


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Main Points

  • How Language is acquired?

    • Linguistic Environment

      • Gross environmental neglect (feral & isolated children) Retard language acquisition

    • Cognitive Processes

      • Cognitive process are correlated with language development

    • Innate Mechanisms

      • Children given poor linguistic input  Create communication systems similar to early child language


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The Linguistic Environment

  • Feral and Isolated Children

  • The Critical Period Hypothesis

  • Motherese


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Feral and Isolated Children (1/3)

  • Feral children

    • Grown up in the wild

    • Ex) Victor case

  • Isolated children

    • Grown up with extremely limited human contact

    • Ex) Genie case


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Feral Children - Victor (2/3)

  • Found in the woods of France in 1797, was captured as a naked 12 (or 13)-year-old boy

  • No speech (normal hearing, utterance of some sounds)

  • Itard (physician) tried to train him to be socialized and to use language for 5 years

  • In general, Victor’s language progress was poor

    • Able to comprehend language, but practically unable to produce it

    • The only 2 pronounced words: “milk”, “oh my god”

    • The majority of his communication consisted of grunts and howls


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Isolated Children - Genie (3/3)

  • Rescued in 1970, at the age of 13 in California, she could not stand erect and was unable to speak except 2 words: “Stopit”, “Nomore”

  • Very little exposure to language during her imprisonment

    • From the age of 20 months, lived in nearly total isolation and was attached to a potty by a special harness for most of the day

    • Her father did not speak to her but communicated through barking

  • By a program of language remediation

    • 1970: one-word utterances, ex) “No. No. Cat” [13 y.]

    • 1971: her language resembled that of a normal 18-20 months old child

      • Distinction between plural and singular nouns

      • Tow-word utterances, ex) “Want milk”, “Big teeth” [14 y.]

    • No vocabulary explosion after 18-20 months

    • Incapable to produce questions (Ex. “I where is graham cracker on the top shelf?”)

  • Semantic development: rapid & extensive, Syntactic development: slow

    • Ex) I like hear music ice cream truck (Curtiss, 1981) : Little grammatical structure

    • Ex) Think about Mama love Genie (Curtiss, 1981)

       Cognitive development in advance of language development


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The Linguistic Environment

  • Feral and Isolated Children

  • The Critical Period Hypothesis

  • Motherese


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The Critical Period Hypothesis (1/5)

  • There is a period early in life in which we are especially prepared to acquire a language

    • There are neurological changes in the brain that leave a learner less able to acquire a language

    • Most commonly, these changes are assumed to occur near puberty


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The Critical Period Hypothesis (2/5)

  • Johnson and Newport (1989)

    • Examined Korean and Chinese who had immigrated to the US at various ages between 3 and 39 years of age

    • Grammatical Test (Figure 12.1)

    • Correlated age of arrival and scores on the test above

      • Strong negative correlation ( r=-.87): arrived (0 ~ 16)

      • No correlation: arrived (16 ~ 40)

         Concluded that fundamentally different processes are involved in younger versus older learners



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The Critical Period Hypothesis (4/5)

  • Criticism

    • Bialystok and Hakuta (1994)

      • Simply moved the boundary between the younger and older groups from 16 to 20 years and found significant negative correlations for each group

    • Hakuta, Bialystok and Wiley (2003)

      • 1990 US Census from 2.3 million immigrants with Spanish and Chinese language backgrounds

      • Self-reported language proficiency

        • “not at all”, “not well”, “well”, “very well”, “speak only English”

      • No sharp breaks before and after 15 years of age (gradual decline)


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The Critical Period Hypothesis (5/5)

  • Criticism

    • Snow and Hoefnagel-Hohle (1978)

      • Tested all English-speaking family embers who moved to Holland for one year and were learning Dutch

      • Adolescents did best > adults > children

      • Old learner seemed to do better initially but they reach a plateau; younger learners eventually catch up and pass them

    • The evidence from second-language acquisition research has not provided unequivocal evidence for the critical period hypothesis

    • Young children generally learn L2 better than older children and adults, at least in the long run

    • Younger and older learners differ in cognitive development and may bring somewhat different cognitive strategies on the task of L2 acquisition


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The Linguistic Environment

  • Feral and Isolated Children

  • The Critical Period Hypothesis

  • Motherese


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Motherese (1/4)

  • The ways adults speak to young children

    (Adult-to-Child Language) : see Table 12.1

  • In general, speech to children learning language is shorter, more concrete, more directive, and more intonationally exaggerated than adult-directed speech

  • Such properties would assist children in their language development but data on this question are relatively scarce, and widely different opinions exist on the matter


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Motherese (2/4)

  • Motherese Hypothesis

    • There is a relationship between the speech adjustments adult make and children’s language development

    • Strong form of the motherese hypothesis

      • Motherese features are necessary for language to develop properly; absence of features  child’s language difficulty

    • Weak form of the motherese hypothesis

      • Motherese features assist a child’s development

    • (1) Correlational Approach &(2) Experimental Approach


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Motherese (3/4)

  • (1) Correlational studies

    • Newport & Gleitman, 1977

    • Limited relationships between parental speech and child language. Mothers who used more yes/no questions had children who used more auxiliaries but most aspects of child language were unrelated


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Motherese (4/4)

  • (2) Experimental studies

    • Nelson, Carskaddon, Bonvillian,1973

    • Language development can be facilitated if children are presented with new syntactic informationrelated to the child’s previous sentence.

    • (1) Recast-sentence group

      • Received new sentences related to the child’s sentence

        • Child: Allgone truck

        • Experimenter: Yes, the truck is all gone

    • (2) New-sentence group

      • Received relatively short, grammatical sentences that excluded the content words of the child’s previous utterance

    • (3) Control group (received no special treatment)

    • Recast-sentence group (>> Control, > New-sentence)


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Cognitive Processes

  • Operating Principles

  • Sensorimotor Schemata

  • Cognitive Constraints

  • Impairments of Language & Cognition


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Operating Principles

  • Children’s preferred ways of taking in information (See Table 12.2, p335)

  • Useful in explaining certain patterns in early child grammar

    • Children use fixed word order to create meanings. (C)

    • Children often overregularize grammatical morpheme. (F)

  • Useful in understanding children’s acquisition of complex sentences

    • First attempting to form negatives and questions, children often simply place the negative or question marker at the front of a simple declarative sentence (D)


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Cognitive Processes

  • Operating Principles

  • Sensorimotor Schemata

  • Cognitive Constraints

  • Impairments of Language & Cognition


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Sensorimotor Schemata (1/2)

  • Cognitive development – Piaget

    • Believed that intelligence was not random, but was a set of organized cognitive structures that the infant actively constructed through the adaptation to the environment

  • Stages of Cognitive Development

    • Sensorimotor period of development (0~2 y.)

      • Child use body and senses: banging, sucking, throwing

    • Acquisition of object permanence (near end of S.P.)

      • Notion that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived


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Sensorimotor Schemata (2/2)

  • Cognitive development & Child’s language development (two predictions)

    • Very young infant (not acquired object permanence)

      • Should use words referring to concrete objects

        • Large number of “here and now” words

    • Infants (mastered object permanence)

      • Should begin to use words referring to objects or events that are not immediately present

        • Ex) allgone truck, more milk

    • Specific language and cognitive achievements occur with very short time lags or nearly simultaneously

    • Little support for the notion that cognition predates language by a significant period of time


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Cognitive Processes

  • Operating Principles

  • Sensorimotor Schemata

  • Cognitive Constraints

  • Impairments of Language & Cognition


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Cognitive Constraints (1/2)

  • Adult-to-Child language (a simplified and orderly pattern of data) is sufficient for normal language acquisition?

    • It seems unlikely that children explore every possible meaning of a given word from adults

    • Child may have certain expectations about word learning (Cognitive Constraint)

    • Three Possible Constraints

      • Whole object bias

      • A taxonomic bias

      • Mutual exclusivity bias


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Cognitive Constraints (2/2)

  • Whole object bias

    • When children encounter a new label, they prefer to attach the label to the entire object rather than to part of the object

      • Ex) dog (a label for the entire object rather than dog’s tail)

  • A taxonomic bias

    • Children will assume that the object label is a taxonomic category rather than a name for a individual dog

      • Ex) dog is a label for a group of animals not just Fido

  • Mutual exclusivity bias

    • It refers to the fact that a child who knows the name of a particular object will then generally reject applying a second name to that object

      • Ex) Show me the X (X was a nonsense syllable)  much more likely to select the novel object

         Children have some clear biases or preferences in learning new words


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Cognitive Processes

  • Operating Principles

  • Sensorimotor Schemata

  • Cognitive Constraints

  • Impairments of Language & Cognition


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Impairments of Language and Cognition (1/3)

  • The notion that a close relationship exists between language and cognition has generally been supported by studies of individuals with Down syndrome

  • These individuals tend to have language delays that are proportionate to the severity of their cognitive disability

  • However, in certain individuals, there can be significant discrepancies between the level of cognitive functioning and the level of linguistic functioning

    • Genie

    • Williams Syndrome

    • Chatterbox syndrome


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Impairments of Language and Cognition (2/3)

  • Genie

    • Advanced cognitive skills relative to linguistic skills

      • Grammatically rudimentary but semantically more advanced

        • Adult: Why aren’t you singing?

        • Genie: Very sad

        • Adult: Why are you feeling sad?

        • Gene: Lisa sick

           This would provide evidence against the thesis that cognition is sufficient for language


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Impairments of Language and Cognition (3/3)

  • William Syndrome

    • Elfinlike facial appearance, mental retardation, cardiac defects

    • Despite their cognitive impairment, syntactic skills were found to be largely intact

  • Chatterbox Syndrome

    • Significant cognitive impairments & unexpected language abilities

       If normal cognitive development is necessary for normal language development, it should not happen at all


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Innate Mechanisms

  • The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis

  • Parameter Setting

  • The Issue of Negative Evidence


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The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis (1/3)

  • Language Bioprogram - Bickerton (1983, 1984)

    • Children have an innate grammar that, in the absence of proper environmental input, serves as the child’s language system  a linguistic backup system

  • Related studies

    • Case 1: Pidgins and Creoles (Bickerton)

    • Case 2: Studies of language development in congenitally deaf children (Golden-Meadow)

    • Case 3: Sign language in Nicaragua


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The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis (2/3)

  • Case 1: Pidgins & Creoles (refer to Table 12.3)

    • Pidgin: an auxiliary language that arises when speakers of several mutually unintelligible languages are in close contact (Bickrton, 1984)

      • Ex) Immigrant workers come to speak a simpler form of the dominant language of the area-just enough to get by

      • No recognizable syntax, often one word order, no complex sentence

    • Creole: when the children of these immigrants acquire a pidgin as their native language

      • Relatively sophisticated, complex sentences

      • Unlike pidgins, the creoles resembled the structural rules of other languages

  • Case 2: Congenitally deaf children

    • Children (13 months ~ 4 years), every 2-4 months, for 1.5 years

    • None of these children were exposed to conventional sign language

    • Nevertheless, the children invented a form of gestural language (Homesign) similar to the language of children with normal hearing

    • One-sign utterances appeared (18 months), followed by 2-3 sign utterances

       When linguistic input is minimal, deaf children may create a gestural language similar to normal children’s language


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The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis (3/3)

  • Bioprogram might operate in the absence of ordinary linguistic stimulation

  • What happen given appropriate linguistic input?

    • Bioprogram is suppressed and children learn the native language

    • Children use “Preemption Principle”; If you hear people using a form different from the one you are using, and do not hear anyone using your form, abandon yours and use theirs”

  • Cognitive processes associated with languageuse are not general purpose problem-solving processes but are instead restricted to language


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Innate Mechanisms

  • The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis

  • Parameter Setting

  • The Issue of Negative Evidence


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Parameter Setting (1/4)

  • Universal Grammar (Chomsky, 1981)

    • Grammar  a set of parameters corresponding to each of the subsystems of the language

      (Each parameter has a finite number of possible settings)

    • Various combinations of parameter settings  all of the languages of the world

    • Children are born with the knowledge of the parameters and their possible settings

    • Language Acquisition  identifying which parameter settings apply to one’s native language


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Parameter Setting (2/4)

  • Head Parameter (Cook, 1988)

    • Each phrase in the language has one essential element called head

    • Noun in noun phrases, verb in verb phrases

    • The head parameter specifies the position of the head within the phrase

      • English – a head first language

        • The man with the bow tie

        • Liked him

        • Nice to see

        • To the bank

      • Japanese – a head last language

        • Watashi wa nihongin desu (I Japanese am)


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Parameter Setting (3/4)

  • Null-Subject Parameter (Hyams, 1986)

    • Italian, Spanish – grammatically acceptable

    • English – not permitted

    • Children are born with this parameter set to the null-subject value (default value)

      • Ex) Play it

      • Ex) Eating cereal

      • Ex) Shake hands

      • Ex) See window


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Parameter Setting (4/4)

  • Subset Principle (Berwick and Weinberg, 1984)

    • Children begin to search through possible languages by beginning with the smallest subset available (that is, the most restrictive language). If there is no evidence from their linguistic input that this is their native language, they proceed to the next largest subset until they find a match


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Innate Mechanisms

  • The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis

  • Parameter Setting

  • The Issue of Negative Evidence


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The Issue of Negative Evidence

  • Positive Evidence

    • Evidence that a particular utterance is grammatical in the language that the child is learning

  • Negative Evidence

    • Evidence that a particular utterance is ungrammatical

  • Pinker (1990)

    • It would be very difficult to acquire a language from positive evidence alone

    • Negative evidence, which could constrain the problem space, is not generally available

    • Therefore, some constraints must be innate

       Although negative evidence is present and may assist language development, research has not shown that it is necessary

       Justification for innate mechanisms


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Summary

  • Three classes of variables are needed for a complete account of language acquisition

    • Linguistic Environment

      • Gross environmental neglect (feral & isolated children) Retard language acquisition

    • Cognitive Processes

      • Cognitive process are correlated with language development

    • Innate Mechanisms

      • Children given poor linguistic input  Create communication systems similar to early child language


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