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NATURE OR NURTURE? First language acquisition theories
Behaviourism • Watson, Pavlov and Skinner • Tabula rasa • Focus on • observable behaviour • role of the environment • Imitation and practice
Pavlov and classical conditioning • Developing unconditioned responses through stimulus–response-reinforcement
Skinner: operant conditioning • We are goverened by the consequences of our actions
Objections • 1. "What children say" Jean Berko (1958): wug-wugs, gling-glinged-glang wented, taked, mices, mouses, sheeps ett, kenyért, lót, tégem > Analogous thinking • 2. "What children don't say" McNeill (1966): CHILD: Nobody don't like me. MUM: No, say "nobody likes me". CHILD: Nobody don't like me. (eight repetitions of this dialogue) MUM: No, now listen carefully, say "nobody likes me". CHILD: Oh! Nobody don't likes me. > Inability to imitate
Chomsky: genetic pre-programming Based on 1. the Argument from the Poverty of the Stimulus 2. evidence of rule governed language generation
LAD, language universals Example: SVO components in sentences - 75% of the world's languages: SVO (English, French, Vietnamese) or SOV (Japanese, Tibetan, Korean) - 10 - 15% VSO ( Welsh) or VOS (Malagasy) - 10-15% free word order (Latin, Hungarian), but SOV common: Márta tortát evett. „Setting the parameters” – matching UG to particular language
Criticism of Chomsky 1. Competence – performance - Performance igored - Competence judged on the basis of intuitions? 2. Core grammar – peripheral grammar - focus on core grammar(?) only ?We was there. I ain’t no fool. 3. Syntax vs. semantics • Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. • My mother, he no like bananas. 4. Ignoring meaning, function, context - situation for child FLA
Functionalism • Focus on imput: Interaction vs. exposure • Bruner’s Language Acquisition Support System (LASS) - parents communicate in ritualistic scenarios - easily comprehensible and predictable language - emotionally charged situations - repetition of acts and language
Motherese, parentese (interaction, initiation, response) 1. Simplified in grammar and meaning 2. Shorter sentences - about 4-8 words/ sentence, when speaking to 2-year olds 3. More restricted range of sentence patterns 4. Expansion and repetition of sentences
5. Slower speech 6. Use of special words and sounds 7. High pitch 8. High, rising intonation - looking for feedback. 9. Embedded in the here and now.
Findings from motherese Not so partial and ungrammatical as suggested by Chomsky a large number of WH forms However • No close correlation between motherese and child speech • Not all social groups adapt speech to young children
Children do not simply repeat the language they hear from their caretakers. • They also produce utterances that they have never heard. Eszel tégem? Mummy sock.
Motherese: focus on meaning, not on grammar Child : Mamma isn't boy, he a girl. Mother : That's right. Child : And Walt Disney comes on Tuesday. Mother : No he does not. • Children’s mistakes not random errors - own grammar. INTERLANGUAGE
Negation sequence of English-speaking children 1. No and Not appear as single word sentences. 2. Two-word (pivot) sentences: No car, Not gone 3. Negative words used within constructions: You no do that, Mummy 4. Negative auxiliaries appear: Won't, can't 5. Not replaces no. Double negatives 6. Any, hardly, scarcely during early years of school.
Focus on neuro-programming: neurons, synapses, wiring, circuits • Where does language reside in the brain? Is there a LAD? • Answer from neurology - Lateralisation - Left hemisphere: language and logical functions
Aphasia studies • Paul Broca 1861: „Tan” • Broca’s aphasia: inability to form correct sentences, patient is aware of difficulty • Broca’s area: responsible for grammatical structuring
Carl Wernicke, 1874: Wernicke’s area • Wernicke’s aphasia: grammatical correctness, semantically meaningless utterances, unaware of problem
Phases of development • Before birth: neurons, wiring for life functions • 0/1: "biological exhuberance„ neurons connect in response to environmental impulses Language: - vocal map of L1 is formed
1/10: flexible synapses, easily formed Language: - sensorimotor connections flexible (no accent!) - vocab.learnt through repeated exposure and interaction • After 10: "pruning" Language: fixed synapses
GENETICALLY PROVIDED BRAIN POTENTIAL RICH ENVIRONMENT RICH BRAIN "Experts now agree that a baby does not come into the world as a genetically preprogrammed automaton or a blank slate at the mercy of the environment ... Learning happens by the interaction of the genes and the environment.„ (S. Begley)
Critical period in FLA: - no hope after CP Critical period in SLL/SLA: - weak version: difficult - strong version: impossible
Alternative considerations and counterevidence • Left/Right cooperation in SLL • strategies of acquisition • guessing meaning • formulaic utterances • Hill (1970), Sorenson (1967): multilingual tribes, no accent
Areas of change • Neurological • Pruning • Lateralisation • Psychomotor • Accent • Cognitive • Concrete Formal thinking • Affective • Inhibition • Motivation
Personality factors • Talent: neurological flexibility • New wiring for L2 • Talent cluster • Motivation, + attitude, involvement • Strategies • Active
Conclusion • Language learning, a unique human capacity: neurological basis • Genetic programme + environment • Learning capacity limited by time (CPH) • Loss of unconnected neurons and unused synapses • Also influenced by personality factors