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Learning Language. " That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind". . learning language a universal process. Learning a Language Involves. Learning the language’s sounds and sound patterns, its specific words, and the ways in which the language allows words to be combined

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Learning Language

"That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind".

learning language a universal process


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Learning a Language Involves...

  • Learning the language’s sounds and sound patterns, its specific words, and the ways in which the language allows words to be combined

  • Using the finite set of words in our vocabulary, we can put together an infinite number of sentences and express an infinite number of ideas— generativity

  • To learn language, children must also be exposed to other people using language—spoken or signed


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Required Competencies for Learning Language

  • Phonological development: The acquisition of knowledge about phonemes, the elementary units of sound that distinguish meaning

  • Semantic development: Learning the system for expressing meaning in a language, beginning with morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning in a language

  • Syntactic development: Learning the syntax or rules for combining words

  • Pragmatic development: Acquiring knowledge of how language is used, which includes understanding a variety of conversational conventions


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Children develop and mature simultaneously in four inter-related areas

Physically

Cognitively

Linguistically

Socially


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Tabula Rasa inter-related areas

How does a child develop physically, cognitively, linguistically and socially during the first two years of life


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The growing child inter-related areas

  • Gains an awareness of its environment

  • becomes aware of distinctions between self and others

  • Begins to interact with the things and people in his or her environment.

  • Grasps the idea that the behaviours and noises that people make have meaning

  • Deciphers the code used by his or her parents

  • Realizes that language is meaningful and can be used to get what he or she wants, i.e. has purpose

  • Learns to become a social person


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Children basically begin with a blank slate, and in a non-conscious way, have to decipher the rules of how the sounds of an unknown language are put together to create meaning.

How do they do it?

Short answer:

“children develop knowledge of their language through unfolding and maturing cognitive and linguistic abilities internal to themselves while helped by their parents”

And how do their parents help?


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Cognitive Abilities non-conscious way, have to decipher the rules of how the sounds of an unknown language are put together to create meaning.

  • The acquisition of linguistic ability is linked to the maturation of cognitive processes

  • What does the ability to use language imply about cognitive abilities?

  • growth of capacity for symbolic representation - grasping that sounds are arbitrary and represent things and activities (have names or labels) (i.e. are symbolic)

  • Increasing ability to remember things and experiences and to associate them with past and future events

  • an understanding of causality – that people can affect other people and objects

  • That relationships exist between objects, people and activities

  • that language can be used to express personal attitudes, emotions, and goals


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Behaviourism non-conscious way, have to decipher the rules of how the sounds of an unknown language are put together to create meaning.

STIMULUS   >  RESPONSE   >  REINFORCEMENT

  • B. F Skinner 1957

  • argued that children learn to speak by copying the utterances heard around them and by having their responses strengthened by the repetitions, corrections and other reactions that adults provide.

  • through positive reinforcement

    • Teacher:  What time is it?

    • Student:  Half past ten.

    • Teacher:  Very good


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Noam Chomsky – Universal Grammar non-conscious way, have to decipher the rules of how the sounds of an unknown language are put together to create meaning.

  • Fundamental question is how to account for a speaker’s ability to produce and instantly understand new sentences that are not similar to those previously heard

  • Chomsky suggests that language is an innate faculty - i.e. we are born with a set of rules about language in our heads - a 'Universal Grammar'


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Universal Grammar non-conscious way, have to decipher the rules of how the sounds of an unknown language are put together to create meaning.

  • Requires no direct intervention from parents or teachers.

  • The universal grammar is the basis upon which all human languages build.

  • All languages are simply local variants of one universal language

How can this be?

What evidence is there to suggest this is the case?


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  • children acquire their mother tongue with ease, even though parents’ language contains “performance errors” (grammatical mistakes, false starts, slips of the tongue, etc.) children manage to learn their language all the same.

  • Also hear different dialects, different grammars

  • Children do not simply copy the language that they hear around them, but deduce rules from it, which they can then use to produce sentences that they have never heard before.

  • In other words they do not memorize a repertoire of phrases and sayings but learn a grammar that generates an infinity of new sentences.

  • What other abilities are innate?

Walking, running, eating


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  • According to Chomsky then, children are born with the Universal Grammar wired into their brains.

  • A child knows intuitively that there are some words that behave like verbs, and others like nouns, and that there is a limited set of possibilities as to their ordering within the phrase.

  • For example, the word order of a typical sentence.

    • 75% of the world's languages use either a SVO structure (English, French, Vietnamese) or SOV (Japanese, Tibetan, Korean) –

    • 10 - 15% prefer VSO (-Welsh) or VOS (Malagasy)

    • Some languages, such as Latin, appear to have free word order, but even here, SOV is very common.

    • OSV is very rare – one example

Yoda Speaks


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  • when they begin to listen to their parents, they will unconsciously recognise which kind of a language it is and will set their grammar to the correct one - this is known as 'setting the parameters'.

  • he or she then matches with what is happening around him – an innate ability

  • This set of language learning tools, provided at birth, is referred to by Chomsky as the Language Acquisition Device.

But if language is innate

1. Why do we take so long to learn it?

2. What are the universal rules that allow us to learn so many different languages


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Jean Piaget unconsciously recognise which kind of a language it is and will set their grammar to the correct one - this is known as '

  • Piaget's focus was on cognitive development, rather than language acquisition per se.

  • Language development is related to cognitive development, that is, the development of the child’s thinking determines when the child can learn to speak and what the child can say.

  • For example, before a child can say, “This car is bigger than that one”, s/he must have developed the ability to judge differences in size.

  • In Piaget’s view, children learn to talk ‘naturally’ when they are ‘ready’ without any deliberate teaching by adults.

Jean Piaget

1896 -1980

Swiss Developmental Psychologist


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Jean Piaget: Theory of Cognitive Development unconsciously recognise which kind of a language it is and will set their grammar to the correct one - this is known as '

  • theory concerns the emergence and construction of schema — schemes of how one perceives the world — in "developmental stages", times when children are acquiring new ways of mentally representing information.

  • it asserts that we construct our cognitive abilities through self-motivated action in the world.

  • In Piaget’s view language has a fundamentally goal-directed, instrumental function

  • The child is egocentric and uses language to get what s/he wants by speaking with their caregivers


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  • As children mature cognitively they begin to use more complex grammatical forms that encode politeness and forms that recognize the rights of others. i.e. They become moral and use morally encoded language

  • Piaget divided schemes that children use to understand the world through four main periods, roughly correlated with and becoming increasingly sophisticated with age:

sensorimotor stage

preoperational stage

concrete operations

formal operations


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  • sensorimotor stage complex grammatical forms that encode politeness and forms that recognize the rights of others. i.e. They become moral and use morally encoded language

  • birth to about age 2

  • marks the development of essential spatial abilities and understanding of the world

  • children’s contact with the world around them depends entirely on the movements that they make and the sensations that they experience.

  • Whenever they encounter a new object, they shake it, throw it, or put it in their mouth, so that they gradually come to understand its characteristics through trial and error.

  • Around the middle of this stage (about age 1), children first understand the concept of object permanence—that an object continues to exist even when it moves beyond their field of vision.


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  • preoperational stage complex grammatical forms that encode politeness and forms that recognize the rights of others. i.e. They become moral and use morally encoded language

  • age 2 to around age 6 or 7.

  • marked by the acquisition of language

  • children become able to think in symbolic terms, to form ideas from words and symbols.

  • Children also begin to understand spatial and numerical concepts and the distinction between past and future.

  • But they remain highly focused on the present and on concrete physical situations and have difficulty in dealing with abstract concepts.

  • Children’s thinking is also very egocentric at this stage; a child this age often assumes that other people see situations from his or her viewpoint.


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  • concrete operations complex grammatical forms that encode politeness and forms that recognize the rights of others. i.e. They become moral and use morally encoded language

  • age 6 or 7 to age 11 or 12.

  • With more experience of the world, children now become able to imagine events that occur outside their own lives.

  • also begin to conceptualize and to create sequences of logical reasoning,

  • Children also acquire a certain capacity for abstraction. Hence they can begin to study disciplines such as mathematics, in which they can solve problems with numbers and reverse previously performed operations, but only ones that involve observable phenomena.

  • formal operations

  • begins at age 11 or 12.

  • abilities to reason hypothetically and deductively and to establish abstract relationships

  • can use formal, abstract logic.

  • They can also begin to think about moral issues such as justice


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Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory complex grammatical forms that encode politeness and forms that recognize the rights of others. i.e. They become moral and use morally encoded language

  • investigated how child development was guided by the role of culture and interpersonal communication.

  • Through interaction with parents and others a child comes to learn the habits of mind of her/his culture, including speech patterns, written language, and other symbolic knowledge.

Russian developmental psychologist

1896-1934


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  • Vygotsky suggests that social interaction leads to continuous step-by-step changes in children's thought and behaviour that can vary greatly from culture to culture

  • development depends on interaction with people and the tools that the culture provides to help form their own view of the world.

  • There are three ways a cultural tool can be passed from one individual to another.

    • imitative learning, where one person tries to imitate or copy another.

    • instructed learning which involves remembering the instructions of the teacher and then using these instructions to self-regulate.

collaborative learning, which involves a group of peers who strive to understand each other and work together to learn a specific skill


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  • The driving force motivating language acquisition are social needs of children as they expand their interactions with others.

  • initially, linguistic and cognitive development is oriented toward obtaining objects and attaining other goals.

  • An infant learns the meaning of signs through interaction with its main care-givers, e.g., pointing, cries, and gurgles can express what is wanted.

  • How verbal sounds can be used to conduct social interaction is learned through this activity, and the child begins to utilize/build/develop this faculty: using names for objects, etc.


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  • Language starts as a tool external to the child used for social interaction.

  • The child guides personal behaviour by using this tool in a kind of self-talk or "thinking out loud."

  • As a child’s thoughts about their experiences become expressible primarily through these signs, the signs themselves affect the way in which a child thinks about him or herself and the world.

  • That is, as signs (symbols) are internalized in the process of language acquisition, they come to mediate thought itself.

  • “thinking out loud” becomes “inner speech” and is used more as a tool for self-directed and self-regulating behavior.


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  • Speaking has thus developed along two lines, the line of social communication and the line of inner speech

  • External speech is the process of turning thought into words and is used as a means of interaction with others

  • Inner speech is the conversion of speech into inward thought and is a way of representing the world to oneself

  • language and thought are therefore inextricably interdependent


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Learning Speech Sounds social communication and the line of inner speech

learning language a universal process

  • Step one:

  • learn how to differentiate and produce sounds in one`s language

    • learn that the stream of sounds is made up of discrete units

    • that they are combined in a significant linear order

    • learn to control muscular movements of their throat and mouth to produced sounds with consistency

  • Babbling (0-4 months) consonant and vowel like sounds

  • Not language specific

  • After 1 year months focus on sounds in the language of their parents


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    • The cause for these common forms is believed to be the ease of pronunciation of the sounds involved.

    • children learning to speak master the open vowel sound [a] and the voiceless labial consonants ([p], [m] and [b] ).

    • Almost no languages lack labial consonants, and no language lacks an open vowel like [a].

    Mother

    Romanian: mama

    Hindi: mātā

    Tulu (India) : amma

    Mandarin: ma

    Kootenai (BC) ma

    Thai me3e

    proto-Old Japanese papa

    • These words are the first word-like sounds made by babbling babies

    • and parents tend to associate the first sound babies make with themselves.

    • there is no common ancestry.


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    • explains why first words often like mama and papa acquiring sound systems are universal

    • may account for common worldwide occurrence of consonant m and p in words for mother and father

    • especially so in forms of address since parents are the earliest significant people in a baby`s life

    • Therefore linguistically and cognitively appropriate to name them with sounds that a baby can most easily produce


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    • During first 4 months show a rapid increase in number of sounds that they produce

    • After 4 months a drop in rate of new sounds added

    • After one year, focus on sounds significant in the language of their parents

    • controlling their production, make appropriate phonemic contrasts and follow allophonic patterning

    • 5 months

      • Learn tones specific to their language, e.g raising tone for questions

      • Also begin to learn patterns of pitch and rhythm typical of their language


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    Pre-Linguistic Behaviour sounds that they produce

    • Fetuses may not be able to hear individual words, but can hear intonation, durations, rhythm, stress

  • Children can understand language before they can speak

  • Passive language – can respond to commands – even in complex structures

  • Similar to learning a second language

  • By end of first year children can produce first words

    • Many experiments confirmed that at 4 days infants can discriminate their native language from a foreign language!


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    First words sounds that they produce

    • Important people

    • Objects that move

    • Objects that can be acted upon

    • Familiar actions

    • Nouns before verbs


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    One-Word Utterances sounds that they produce

    • Each word expresses broad semantic and contextual meanings (holophrastic)

      • Holophrase - A single word that seems to represent an entire sentence “drink”

  • Can only be understood in context of child`s experience

  • Goals expressed through children`s speech emanate from the interaction with objects and persons in his environment


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    • Children sounds that they produce

      • have desires for others to attend to their needs and wants (imperative function) “apple” = “give me the apple”

      • relate emotional states (expressive function) ) “apple” = “I’m hungry”

      • name objects or people with whom they interact (referential function) “apple” = “there’s an apple”

    • One word can thus have several simultaneous functions

    • The child has learned that speaking is a human strategy for achieving personal and social goals

    • s/he can express desires that caregivers can fulfill e.g.


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    Two Word Grammars sounds that they produce

    • Two word constructions appear about 18 months (see dogie)

    • Marks the beginning of true grammatical constructions (syntax)

    • Depends on cognitive growth.

    • Emergence of two-word grammars and their continual expansion and refinement indicate a change in the character of a child`s thinking

    • Learning to differentiate words within classes

    • recognizing that sequential ordering of words has meaning

    • children at this age are learning to think syntactically

    • Children grasp the critical meaning of word order and also understand meanings contained in words themselves

    • They use this awareness in forming new words and constructions and in comprehending the speech of others.


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    classes of two word combinations sounds that they produce

    • Pivot class

      • a few words used with high frequency in combination with items from the open class

      • ritualized greetings or comments (bye-bye, all-gone)

      • demonstratives (this that) “this doggie”, “that doggie”

      • locatives (here there), “here doggie” “there cat”

      • possessives (my) and adjectives “my car”, “red car”

    • Open class

      • nouns and verbs with which a child communicates his or her referential, imperative, or expressive intentions


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    • Two-word constructions consist of combining either two items from the open class or a pivot plus and open word

    • Two pivot words do not occur together as a complete utterance

    • This fact gives evidence of a child’s developing grammar, involving notions of syntactic restrictions

    • Functions of Two-word utterances

      • Locate name: there book, see dogie

      • Demand desire: more milk, give candy

      • Negate: no wet, not hungry

      • Describe event/action: bambi go, mail come, hit ball

      • Indicate possession: my shoe, mama dress

      • Modify qualify: pretty dress, big boat

      • Question: where ball


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    • Although perhaps containing only one or two words children can express complex propositions and intentions

    • giving and receiving involves several underlying meaning components and their interrelations:

      • an action

      • an agent performing the act

      • an object being transformed

      • a recipient

    • Action: give (giving something to her mother)

    • Object: water (asking her mother for some water)

    • Recipient: To me (asking for something)

    • Recipient plus object: to me candies (asking for candies)

    • Action plus object: give ball (asking for a ball)

    • Action plus actor: Give mommy (asking for something from mother)

    • Recipient plus action: Mommy give (giving something to mother)


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    Complex Grammars can express complex propositions and intentions

    • As children develop cognitively they expand their linguistic abilities

    • Child begins to express additional grammatical relations through expansion in the number of words in a sentence and through employment of morphological processes affecting the structure of individual words

    • two word sentences grow to three word sentences and beyond because child observes the relative positions of words

    • By learning that if a word is first in a phrase and that a phrase is first in a sentence, a child learns that the sentence is hierarchically organized – sentence has a structure

    • Word order is important

    • There are rules according to which words may be placed in what order


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    Morphological development can express complex propositions and intentions

    • Morphological processes are employed to express grammatical concepts such as person, gender number, case , tense, etc.

    • Usually expressed using affixes

    • In 1 and 2 word constructions affixes denoting these concepts are absent

    • Using these affixes allows the child to speak about things in the past or future, or things out of sight

    • In other words they allow the child to expression relations free of the immediate context

    • This also allows the child to discuss his or her experiences thus expanding social possibilities

    • Reflects both a maturing cognitive and social development


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    • An important process in children’s acquisition of morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • They add affixes to newly encountered words by recognizing sounds and applying appropriate morphological rules

    Present progressive - ing

    Plural of nouns –s

    Past of verbs – ed

    Possessive of nouns – s

    Third person on verbs –s


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    The Wug Test morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • Classic experiment by Jean Berko Gleason in 1958 as a way to investigate the acquisition of the plural and other inflectional morphemes in English-speaking children.

    • Very young children are unable to answer correctly, sometimes responding with "Two wug."

    • Preschoolers aged 4 to 5 answer “wugs”

    • since they've never seen a wug before, and never had anyone model or reinforce the plural of wug they must be using a rule

    • It was the first experimental proof that young children have extracted generalizable rules from the language around them.


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    • Past tense. morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

      • This is man who knows how to spow.

      • He is _______.

      • He did the same thing yesterday.

      • What did he do yesterday? He _____

    • children were able to correctly apply known affixes to new linguistic material although this ability varied with age

    • another reflection of children’s drive to generalize rules is their tendency to over generalize affixes to nouns and verbs with irregular allomorphs

    • “Daddy comed home.”

    • “I holded the baby rabbit”


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    Growth in Vocabulary morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • Results from

    • growing cognitive abilities for comprehension, memory and discrimination

    • widening social environment that presents children with new objects and activities

    • broadening or narrowing the sense of individual words

      • e.g. At first the word apple may apply to all fruit but with experience to a particular kind of fruit

    • Generating new words from pre-existing words to fill in gaps in their lexicon

      • e.g. denominal verbs – verbs derived from nouns

      • cracker - crackering my soup

    • creating new words based on the rules of their language


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    • Comprehended words morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

      • 12 months first words

      • age 2 years 200 words

      • age 6 years 15,000 words


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    Syntactic Development morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • Grammatical development involves the ability to understand and express concepts about people an objects and relations to states and activities

    • Children’s grammars expand by introducing new propositions (statements about the world)

    • Sentence length increases with additional words specifying aspects of an event – e.g. adding modifiers or predicates and expressing more complex relations such as negation

    • When negation is acquired in English first done by simply adding words such as no or not usually at beginning of a sentence

      • No wipe finger

      • Not a teddy bear

    • Later negation within the internal structure of the sentence

      • I no want envelope

      • There no squirrels

    • Later still more complex incorporation negation

      • I not see you anymore

      • You didn’t caught me


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    wh-questions morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • what, who, where, why and when

    • distinctions between declarative statements and questions indicated by rising intonation and

    • who that, where mama boot

    • requires cognitive maturation

    • other advances

    • e.g. deletion of redundancies

      • Here is a brown brush and here is a comb

      • Here’s a brown brush and a comb


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    A Creative process morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • Children do not mimic adults in acquiring language but develop their own grammars

    • Discard some rules and altering applications of others until they finally arrive at appropriate constructions

    • Language learning is a creative process of observation and production, consistent with maturing cognitive capacities

    • In addition to acquiring the sounds words and grammatical rules of their language children also need to learn appropriate discourse patterns

    • building relations among participants, goals of speakers, and cultural models or schema of communicative interactions


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    Comparative Evidence morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • Although children learn through growth of universal cognitive processes, each language presents its own specific structure to be deciphered and reproduced

    • e.g. Differences between agglutinating and polysynthetic languages

    • Studies of different languages confirm hypotheses about universal tendencies but also reveal significant differences in rates of acquisition of various surface phenomena

    • Universal sequences

      • Negation

      • Wh-questions

      • Locative concepts (location) - in/on/under/beside/between/back/

      • front


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    Instructional Strategies morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    Adults use various means to help children learn language

    • Frame the situations that are culturally appropriate for learning language

    • Direct child`s attention to learning language as a focus of interaction

    • Teach the children the appropriate forms of communicative behaviour (e.g. Taking turns)

    • Can be implicit or explicit (say thank you)


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    Baby Talk, morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalizationMotherese, Infant-Directed Speech or Child-directed speech

    • Simplified words

    • Simplified grammatical structure

    • Repetition of words

    • Speak slowly

    • Speak loudly

    • Higher pitch

    • Exaggerated intonation


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    Instructional Strategies morphological features is their extension of rules learned in one context to others through analogy and generalization

    • Expansion – repeat children`s utterances with an expansion of the sentence

      • Child – baby high chair Mother – baby is in the high chair

    • Modelling – commenting on the semantic content of the child`s words

      • Child – his name is Tony, Mother – That`s right

    • Expansion and modelling are based on Western assumption that children are not competent speakers and need to be carefully instructed and socialized and that this is the job of the caregiver

    • also includes a cultural model of gender since it is usually the mother who is the primary caregiver

    • Other societies have different assumptions and strategies


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