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NATURE OR NURTURE?
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  1. NATURE OR NURTURE? First language acquisition theories

  2. Behaviourism • Watson, Pavlov and Skinner • Tabula rasa • Focus on • observable behaviour • role of the environment • Imitation and practice

  3. Pavlov and classical conditioning • Developing unconditioned responses through stimulus–response-reinforcement

  4. Skinner: operant conditioning • We are goverened by the consequences of our actions

  5. Behaviouristic pedagogy

  6. 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

  7. Nativism/Innatism

  8. Chomsky: genetic pre-programming Based on 1. the Argument from the Poverty of the Stimulus 2. evidence of rule governed language generation

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. Connectionism

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. Carl Wernicke, 1874: Wernicke’s area • Wernicke’s aphasia: grammatical correctness, semantically meaningless utterances, unaware of problem

  22. Relation between Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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)

  26. Critical period in FLA: - no hope after CP Critical period in SLL/SLA: - weak version: difficult - strong version: impossible

  27. Alternative considerations and counterevidence • Left/Right cooperation in SLL • strategies of acquisition • guessing meaning • formulaic utterances • Hill (1970), Sorenson (1967): multilingual tribes, no accent

  28. Areas of change • Neurological • Pruning • Lateralisation • Psychomotor • Accent • Cognitive • Concrete Formal thinking • Affective • Inhibition • Motivation

  29. Personality factors • Talent: neurological flexibility • New wiring for L2 • Talent cluster • Motivation, + attitude, involvement • Strategies • Active

  30. 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