Language Aquisition Notes

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  • Cognitive - Jean Piaget - can only understand lang when you understand concept (e.g. can talk in past tense when you know about time)
  • Behaviourist - Skinner learn through imitation - doesn't explain where new sentences come from
  • Nativist - Chomsky - Language Acquisition Device (LAD) - works out what is/isn't acceptable lang 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.
  • 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.

Possible way to get the theorists in

Maybe if you get a transcript of child speech, you could easily get in about caretaker speech. as for cognitive, you could get it in if a child is talkin about abstract ideas, cuz they'd only understand them if they understood the concept. behaviourists...maybe if a child was imitating in the convo, or saying something unusual that they've copied off someone? nativists... if a child is overextending the inflection -s to make feets - they've not finished learning thru trial and error yet? how does that sound...? perhaps if you can't link a theorist in cuz nothing matches them, you could point out how it DOESN'T support theorists too?

Features of child lang acq

  • 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  "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
  • Check this website for developmental milestones in child lang:  

Written Child Language

  • Need fine motor skills in order to hold the pen and write evenly
  • Knowledge of letter shapes/patterns
  • Rules: top-bottom/left-right/'finger space'
  • Capitalisation and punctuation
  • Format of specific genres eg. for a letter there should be an address, date etc
  • Tense
  • Phonic spelling/look and say method
  • Stages in actually writing:
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  1. Palmer grip - used to make marks on the page (just like up and down lines)
  • which leads to more conventional grip, where you can make more circular lines
  1. Motor control - more circular again, leave gaps as though imitation text
  2. Proto-letter formation - Begin to write name and letters, but the letter might be too big, or back-to-front
  • BM Kroll - He suggested that there are a number of stages that children go through:
  • Stage 1- Preparatory Stage - Up to the age of 6
  • Child masters physical skills ...

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***** 5 stars These are are well written, logically ordered and intelligently structured revision notes. The writer shows evidence of detailed research and a clear understanding of the topic. The writer breaks down the information into easily digestible chunks to aid understanding and revision. Generally gives examples to help understanding but in places more are needed. Includes areas for further exploration and also gives tips on what to avoid so helping students when assessing their own essays. Well presented and intelligently structured - this is an excellent revision aid.