Saturday, May 25, 2013

More on "Nature of Language"


THEORIES OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Theorists
·         Cognitive - Jean Piaget - can only understand language when you understand concept (e.g. can talk in past tense when you know about time)
·         Behaviourist - Skinner –Language is learned through imitation - doesn't explain where new sentences come from.      The Behaviorists believe that language learning is a much more sophisticated process. The child is born with an empty state of mind and language items are written on that mental state as the child grows and experiences the world to which it is exposed.
·         Nativist - Chomsky - Language Acquisition Device (LAD) - works out what is/isn't acceptable language use using innate programmed patterns (which are general). Exact rules learnt through trial and error. His theory supports the fact that children around the world seem to develop at a similar pace, irrespective of race/culture/mother tongue. (This also 'defies' Skinner's model) Also, the fact that there is a universal grammar amongst all languages of the world. & the fact that children consistently create new forms of language that they would not have heard before.
The Rationalists believe that Language learning is a sophisticated process. The child is born with all the facilities to learn the language. The linguistic ability is inherent in the mind of the child. All the child does is discover and test.
·         Conversely, John Macnamara - said that rather than having an in-built language device, children have an innate capacity to read meaning into social situations. It is this capacity that makes them capable of understanding and learning language, not the LAD.
·         Interactive - caretaker, motherese etc - slower pace than adult convo, simplified, repetition, short sentences, often caretaker asking 'where is___?', 'that's a___', tag questions to involve child ('isn't it?')
·         Example for importance of social interaction: Bard and Sachs. Studied a boy called 'Jim', who was son of two deaf parents. Although he was exposed to TV and radio, his speech development was severely retarded until he attended sessions with a speech therapist --> hence implying that human interaction is necessary, as Jim was obviously ready to talk, but without the social interaction with his therapist, he was unable to do so.
·         Katherine Nelson - found that 60% of children's early word phrases contained nouns, then verbs, pre-mods and phatic and she also said that the nouns were more commonly things that surrounded the children i.e ball, mum, cat. Nelson also said that in Re-casts (e.g. Ben - "me ball" mum - "pass me the ball") children whose sentences were re-cast performed better at imitating sentences
·         Halliday is just the functions of child language, I remember them like RRIIIPH, like rest in peace:
·         Representational - "I've got something to show you" - language showing how they feel, declarative
·         Regulatory - "Do as I tell you" - requesting/asking for things
·         Instrumental - "I want"- expressing needs/wants
·         Interactional - "Me and you" - speaking to other, establishing personal contact
·         Imaginative - "Let's pretend" - imaginative language, used with play, to create imaginary world. Crystal talks of 'phonological' function as playing with sound.
·         Personal - "Here I come"- child expresses their feelings/expressing personal preferences
·         Heuristic - "Tell me why"- uses language to explore environment/ seeking information
·         Most commonly used in children's language is instrumental and regulatory, which are learnt, along with interactional and personal, at a young age. Representational is used by 6-8+ year olds.
·         Divine Theory: Some theorists are of the opinion that language learning is a divine process. According to them language learning is a gift from God and is a divine faculty.

Features of child language acquisition:
·         Holophrases - one word (12-18mths), then two-word stage (after 18mths), then telegraphic speech (after 2yrs) - sometimes grammatically correct but omit determiners like 'a' and 'the'
·         Underextension - 'car' only for family car, but not other cars
·         Overextension - 'car' for tractor, van, etc
·         Fis phenomenon - Berko and Brown - child pronounces fish as fis but when a parent asks if it is a fis, the child says no - when asked if it's a fish, child says yes. can understand a word without being able to pronounce it - comprehension before speech
·         Simplification - deletion, substitution
·         Intonation - Cruttenden - found children find it harder to recognise intonation
·         Questions - inflection often used at first to show it's a question, then question words learnt during 2nd yr, firstly what and where, then why, how and who. results in 'where daddy gone?' as they've not learnt auxiliary verb, 'has'. auxiliary verbs learnt 3rd yr, and how to form qus is learnt too (reverse subject and verb order). 'joe is here' --> 'is joe here?' but wh- words not always inverted correctly - 'why joe isn't here?' (hehe plagiarised my revision book for the examples, sorry!)
·         Critical period for learning - Cases about twins who were kept locked up by their family, but they were rescued young so developed normally. Feral children like Genie, who was forced not to talk, and hence only made limited lang progress as she is thought to have missed the critical period for learning lang. Two girls were found wolves in a wolves' den and had trouble learning to speak etc [1] "After three years, Kamala had mastered a small vocabulary of about a dozen words. After several more years, her vocabulary had increased to about 40.To compare, a normal two-year-old child, at the peak of its language learning, would find it easy to pick up 40 new words in a single week. Also, Kamala's words were only partly-formed and her grammar stilted"
·         Stages of negatives:
·         Aged 0-15months - Gestures are used to indicate a negative
·         15-18months - single words "no" "not" are used
·         2-2 1/2 yrs - "no" and "not" are used either at the beginning or end of a sentence e.g. "no eat" "going not"
·         3yrs - negatives are used with the correct syntax i.e. intergrated into the sentence
·         4/5/6yrs - more subtle negatives i.e hardly, are used, more "n't"'s as well, "can't" "won't" etc. Implied negatives are understood, i.e. "we'll go later"
·         Look at how much is said by each person, who controls what is being said, who takes the lead, pragmatics, social context, as well as the actual things that are being said
Stages of Language Acquisition:
         Prenatal
        Responsivity to human voices
         First 6 months
        Cooing – cooing of infants around the world, including deaf infants, is indistinguishable across babies and across languages
         After 6 months
        Babbling – comprises the distinct phonemes that characterize the primary language of the infant; deaf children can not babble
         1 to 3 years of age
        One-word utterances, telegraphic speech
        Telegraphic speech – describes two- or three-word utterances
        Overextension errors  (e.g. general term for man is “Dada”)
         3 to 4 years
        Expansion of vocabulary
        Overregularization (using regular inflection for irregular verbs e.g. goed)
         4 years
        Basic adult sentence structure
        Vocabulary continues to increase