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Lecture Outline Components of Language Development Theoretical Perspectives on Language Development Nativist Evidence and Criticisms Interactionist Evidence and Criticisms. Components of Language Development Phonological Development

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Lecture Outline

  • Components of Language Development

  • Theoretical Perspectives on Language Development

    • Nativist

      • Evidence and Criticisms

    • Interactionist

      • Evidence and Criticisms


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Components of Language Development

  • Phonological Development

    • Acquisition of knowledge about the sound system of a language

      • Phonemes: The smallest sound units that distinguish meaning

        • Ex: rake and lake differ by one phoneme (/r/ versus /l/)


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  • Syntactic Development

    • The learning of the syntax (grammar) of a language

      • Syntax: Rules in a language that specify how words from different categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) can be combined


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  • Semantic Development

    • Learning the system for expressing meaning in a language, including word learning


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Nativist Perspectives on Language Development

  • Universal Grammar: A set of highly abstract, unconscious rules that are common to all languages (Noam Chomsky)

    • Unique to humans


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Evidence Consistent with Nativist Perspectives:

  • Children master language with little explicit training

    • Non-human primates require extensive training to master the most basic language skills

    • Although some non-human primates may combine symbols, they do not show evidence of using syntax

  • Indicates that only humans can acquire language and also suggests that innate factors are involved in language development


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Evidence (con’t):

  • Certain areas of the brain appear to be specialized for language

    • Left hemisphere of cerebral cortex

      • Hemispheric specialization is present in infancy—suggests that innate factors are involved in language development


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Evidence (con’t):

  • Appears to be a “critical” period for language acquisition:

    • Critical period: Time during which language develops readily and after which language acquisition is much more difficult and less successful

      • Suggests that innate factors are involved in language development


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Evidence Consistent with Nativist Perspectives individuals begin learning a second language,

(con’t):

  • Congenitally deaf children whose parents are not proficient in sign language:

    • Develop larger vocabularies (gestures) than their parents

    • Spontaneously impose syntax (grammatical structure) when signing

  • Suggests that innate factors are involved in language development


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Criticisms of Nativist Perspectives: individuals begin learning a second language,

  • Universal grammar common to all languages has not been identified

  • Focus on syntactic development and neglect other aspects of language development

  • Ignore role of social environment in language development


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Interactionist Perspectives on Language Development individuals begin learning a second language,

  • Language development is strongly influenced by children’s motivation to communicate with others

  • Because of this motivation, they pay attention to “clues” in language and the social context in which language is used

    • Allows them to master language


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Evidence Consistent with Interactionist Perspectives: individuals begin learning a second language,

  • Children show sensitivity to a variety of “clues” in language and the social context in which language is used


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  • Fast Mapping: individuals begin learning a second language,

    • Process of rapidly learning a new word when a familiar and unfamiliar word are contrasted

      • Ex: “chromium” and “red”


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  • Linguistic Context individuals begin learning a second language,

    • Grammatical form of a novel word influences children’s interpretation of it

      • Ex: “sibbing” vs. “a sib” vs. “some sib”


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  • Syntactic Bootstrapping individuals begin learning a second language,

    • Inferring the meaning of a word based on the grammatical structure of the sentence in which it is used

      • Ex: “The duck is kradding the rabbit”

        OR

        “The duck and rabbit are kradding”


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  • Pragmatic Cues individuals begin learning a second language,

    • Aspects of the social context that are used to infer the meaning of words

      • Children use direction of gaze or other gestures to learn word meanings

        • Will assign a new word to the object that an adult is looking at when saying the word (even if the child cannot see the target object)

      • Intentionality/Emotional Reactions of the speaker

        • Ex: “Let’s find the gazzer!”


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Criticisms of Interactionist Theories individuals begin learning a second language,

  • Language is too complex to be learned only by paying attention to “clues” available in language and the social context in which it is used

    • The evidence of children’s sensitivity to “clues” involves mainly semantic development, not syntactic development