Stages of Language Acquisition - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Stages of Language Acquisition

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  1. Stages of Language Acquisition There is—so to speak—in every child a painstaking teacher, so skillful that [s]he obtains identical results in all children in all parts of the world. The only language [wo]men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything! Not only this, but if at a later age the child has to learn another language, no expert will enable him [or her] to speak it with the same perfection as he does his first. ~Maria Montessori (1967)

  2. Prelinguistic: cries, whimpers, cooing = not language -- instead, child’s involuntary responses to stimuli/environment. • Human language is creative. That is, it is free from external or internal stimuli (this differs from communication systems of other species).

  3. Prelinguistic: cries, whimpers, cooing = not language -- instead, child’s involuntary responses to stimuli/environment. • Human language is creative. That is, it is free from external or internal stimuli (this differs from communication systems of other species). • During this early period same noises are made by infants in all societies around the world. Children born deaf makes same sounds • Thus, children have ability to produce and comprehend “speech”, even in the period of life before language acquisition occurs.

  4. Babbling stage (prelinguistic) • Sounds produced are not those of language of the household. • Deaf infants tend to babble too (no auditory stimuli required). • During this period (around 6 months) children learn to distinguish between language sounds that are “their language” and those that are not part of the language, learning to maintain the “right” sounds and suppress the “wrong” ones.

  5. First words (linguistic stage) • Children learn that sounds have meanings. • Most go through the “one word = one sentence” stage. (Holophrastic sentences – from holo meaning complete + phrase). • Generally monosyllabic • Might initially use a word to mean one thing (e.g. “up” means get me up) but eventually widens meaning (to “up” = “Get up!”) • Meaning that even in early holophrastic stages, children use words to convey a variety of ideas, feelings, and social awareness. • Linked to child’s own action • Her/his desire for action • Or as a naming function

  6. The two-word state • Around 2nd birthday • Initially strings of two of child’s earlier holophrastic phrases (hi Mommy; it ball) • During two word utterance stage no indication for number, person, tense. Pronouns are rare (with exception of “me”) • Noun + noun sentences take on a variety of grammatical relations that will later be learned and expressed syntactically (Mommy sock = mommy’s sock or mommy is putting the sock on me).

  7. Telegraphic speech • After two word stage, there is no three word stage; instead language acquisition is studied in terms of mean length of utterance (MLU). That is, children producing utterances that average 2.3 – 3.5 morphemes in length are said to be at same stage of grammatical acquisition. • Generally the “small” function words – to, the, can, is, etc. – are missing at this stage of speech; only the words that carry the main message/”content” occur, which is why this is known as telegraphic speech (“What that?” “Andrew want that.” “ No sit there.”). • Despite lacking insignificant morphemes, these utterances have constituent structures found in adult sentences (noun phrase + verb phrase). • -ing has been found to be one of the first inflectional morphemes (creates a change in the function of the word) acquired (as in “Me going”)

  8. Theories of child language acquisition • Imitation? To some extent, but not primary mode. Children are unable to produce sentences that cannot be generated by the grammar they’ve acquired. And they produce utterances they would not have heard from adults (“Cat stand up table”).

  9. Theories of child language acquisition • Imitation? To some extent, but not primary mode. Children are unable to produce sentences that cannot be generated by the grammar they’ve acquired. And they produce utterances they would not have heard from adults (“Cat stand up table”). • Reinforcement? Syntactic correction doesn’t occur often nor consistently enough.

  10. Theories of child language acquisition • Imitation? To some extent, but not primary mode. Children are unable to produce sentences that cannot be generated by the grammar they’ve acquired. And they produce utterances they would not have heard from adults (“Cat stand up table”). • Reinforcement? Syntactic correction doesn’t occur often nor consistently enough. Often children don’t know what they’re doing wrong when corrected. • Children Form Rules and Construct a Grammar: children make nonrandom mistakes and learn language before having any formal instruction. Also there is regularity of the acquisition process across diverse languages and cultures.

  11. Theories of child language acquisition • Imitation? To some extent, but not primary mode. Children are unable to produce sentences that cannot be generated by the grammar they’ve acquired. And they produce utterances they would not have heard from adults (“Cat stand up table”). • Reinforcement? Syntactic correction doesn’t occur often nor consistently enough. Often children don’t know what they’re doing wrong when corrected. • Children Form Rules and Construct a Grammar: children make nonrandom mistakes and learn language before having any formal instruction. Also there is regularity of the acquisition process across diverse languages and cultures. • Between ages 5 and 7 most children reach same state of grammar acquisition regardless of background.

  12. Theories of child language acquisition • Imitation? To some extent, but not primary mode. Children are unable to produce sentences that cannot be generated by the grammar they’ve acquired. And they produce utterances they would not have heard from adults (“Cat stand up table”). • Reinforcement? Syntactic correction doesn’t occur often nor consistently enough. Often children don’t know what they’re doing wrong when corrected. • Children Form Rules and Construct a Grammar: children make nonrandom mistakes and learn language before having any formal instruction. Also there is regularity of the acquisition process across diverse languages and cultures. • Between ages 5 and 7 most children reach same state of grammar acquisition regardless of background. • We are equipped from birth with neural prerequisites for language and language use and so can acquire any human language to which we are exposed.

  13. Inflectional “errors” • Children use irregular verbs and nouns as regular: bringed, goed, singed, foots, mouses, etc. (rules out imitation) • Children look for general patterns and will “overgeneralize” once they’ve constructed a rule. For example, when they learn past tense is formed with –ed they tend to overgeneralize and form ALL past tense words in that manner. (Won’t say brought will say bringed) • At a later time, they will learn there are exceptions to the rule.

  14. Semantic overgeneralizations • A word gets extended to all similar objects/people. • For example, “daddy” or “papa” might be extended to all men. A child’s own word for “fly” might be extended to all small insects, specks of dust, crumbs, etc. • As more words are added to the child’s vocabulary, the meanings of these words become narrowed.

  15. Phonological and morphological rule acquisition • Phonological: in early stages of language acquisition, children might not distinguish between consonant sounds like “p” and “b”, but once they learn the contrast, they begin to apply it to other similar consonant sounds as well: “t” and “d” and “s” and “z.” • Morphological: in a 1958 study, children were shown pictures of nonsense animals,which were assigned nonsense names—like a “wug” or a “bik.” Children were then shown pictures of multiple of the same animal and asked: “There are two___________.” • Children applied the regular plural-formation rule to words never heard before showing that language acquisition is grammar construction.

  16. Syntax or semantics • “Children eventually acquire all of the phonological, syntactic, and semantic rules of the grammar. This task is most difficult, and, in fact, seems to be an impossible one; yet not only is the child more successful than the most brilliant linguist, but the grammars of children at each stage of their acquisition, are highly similar, and deviate from the adult grammar in highly specific constrained ways.” ~ Victoria Fromkin • Semantic: view holds that child’s early language does not make reference to syntactic categories and relations, rather is semantic only (related to content—themes, agents). • Syntactic: In Italian there is subject-verb agreement illustrated in young speakers: • Tuleggiillibro you read the book • Io vadofuori I go outside • Girailapllone Turns the balloon • Dormemiao Sleeps the cat