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1st Language Acquisition. How do humans acquire speech. Language acquisition. We are not born speaking! We have a language instinct , but we must acquire our language nonetheless. If we think of all that is entailed in knowing a language, it seems a challenge. Language instinct.

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1st Language Acquisition

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1st language acquisition

1st Language Acquisition

How do humans acquire speech

language acquisition
Language acquisition
  • We are not born speaking!
  • We have a language instinct, but we must acquire our language nonetheless.
  • If we think of all that is entailed in knowing a language, it seems a challenge.
language instinct
Language instinct
  • Our language instinct does not tell us what specific language to learn or particular structures to memorize.
  • It does provide us with an innate knowledge of basic language features, present in all human languages.
  • Humans then learn to specialize this universal grammar for the particulars of their language.
innateness of language
Innateness of language
  • How do we really know this is an innate ability?
  • The biologist Eric Lenneberg defined a list of characteristics that are typical of innate behaviors in animals.
innate behaviors
Innate behaviors . . .
  • emerge before they are necessary.
  • do not appear as the result of a conscious decision.
  • do not appear due to a trigger from external events.
  • are relatively unaffected by direct teaching and intensive practice.
  • follow a regular sequence of “milestones” in their development.
  • generally observe a critical period for their acquisition
1 emerge before necessary
1. Emerge before necessary
  • When is language necessary?
  • When do children usually begin speaking/using language coherently?
  • Is this criterion met?
2 are not conscious
2. Are not conscious
  • Does a child decide to consciously pursue certain skills?
  • Do babies make a conscious decision to start learning a language?
  • Is this criterion met?
3 are not triggered
3. Are not triggered
  • What would prompt a child to take up soccer?
  • What would prompt a child to begin speaking?
  • Is this criterion met?
4 cannot be taught
4. Cannot be taught
  • We CAN teach grammar, and prescriptive rules of language. But we’re not talking about that here.
  • We correct children’s errors sometimes. Does it help?
  • In fact, “coaching” seems to hurt rather than help language ability in children.
  • Is this criterion met?
5 follow milestones
5. Follow milestones
  • In spite of different backgrounds, different locations, and different upbringings, most children follow the very same milestones in acquiring language.
      • For example, around 12months
      • Around 24 months
      • By 30 months
  • Is this criterion met?
6 observe a critical period
6. Observe a critical period
  • What is a critical period?
  • For first language acquisition, there seems to be a critical period of the first five years, during which children must be exposed to rich input. There is also a period, from about 10-16 years, when acquisition is possible, but not native-like.
  • For SLA, the issue is more complicated… More later.
  • Is this criterion met?
the critical period hypothesis
The Critical Period Hypothesis
  • CPH: Proposed by Lenneberg
    • This hypothesis states that there is only a small window of time for a first language to be natively acquired.
    • If a child is denied language input, she will not acquire language
      • Genie: a girl discovered at age 13 who had not acquired her L1
more evidence for the critical period hypothesis
More evidence for the Critical Period Hypothesis
  • Second Language Acquisition:
    • Younger learners native fluency.
    • Older learners (>17) never quite make it.
  • ASL Acquisition:
    • Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) have an advantage over later-learners of ASL in signing
  • Aphasia:
    • Less chance of recovery of linguistic function after age 5.
l1 acquisition
L1 acquisition
  • Sound production/babbling
  • Phonological acquisition
  • Morphological/Syntactical acquisition
  • Semantic development
acquisition of phonetics
Acquisition of phonetics
  • Few weeks: cooing and gurgling, playing with sounds. Their abilities are constrained by physiological limitations.
  • 4 months: distinguish between [a] and [i], so their perception skills are good.
  • 4-6 months: children babble, putting together vowels and consonants. This is not a conscious process! Experiment with articulation
  • 7-10 months: starts repeated babbling.
  • 10-12 months, children produce a variety of speech sounds. (even ‘foreign’ sounds)
acquisition of phonology
Acquisition of phonology
  • 18 months: Sound substitution ‘dat’ ‘wawa’. Non-fixed perception of phonemes, entire words are single units, unaware of meaning distinctions due to single sounds
  • 15-21 months: words as a sequence of phonemes. Mastery of sounds differing maximally: mama, dada. CV is main syllable structure. They reduce = banana  [na.na] 2 syllable words, stressed/unstressed
the acquisition of morphosyntax
The acquisition of morphosyntax
  • At about 12 months, children begin producing words consistently.
  • One-word stage (holophrastic stage):
    • Name people, objects, etc.
    • An entire sentence is one word
  • Two-word stage:
    • Approximately 18-24 months
    • Use consistent set of word orders, with structure determined by semantic relationships
      • agent+action (baby sleep)
      • possessor+possession (Mommy book)
acquisition of semantics
Acquisition of Semantics
  • Overextensions:
    • Using ‘moon’ for anything round
    • Using ‘dog’ for any four-legged animals
  • Underextensions:
    • The word ‘mammal’ may not include whales, etc
second language acquisition

Second Language Acquisition

Differences from L1 acquisition

Teaching Methods

terms associations
  • Native Language = 1st lang = L1
  • Second Language = L2 = target lang
  • Second Lang Acquisition (SLA)
    • Research investigates how people attain proficiency in a lang which is not their mother tongue
differences b w l1 and l2
Differences b/w L1 and L2
  • Difference b/w child and adult grammars
  • Difference b/w beginning and advanced L2 learner’s grammars
  • Interlanguage grammar
  • Transfer
mastering the l2
Mastering the L2
  • Communicative competence
    • Grammatical accuracy
    • Sociolinguistic ability
second lang teaching methods
Second Lang Teaching Methods
  • Grammar-translation
  • Direct method
  • Audio-lingual method