THEORIES OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION



WHAT IS A THEORY

According to the definition of Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary a...
LINGUISTICS AND PSYCHOLOGY

Until non for most linguists the main aim of their discipline was providing structural
analysi...
BEHAVIORISM
IS BEHAVIOUR WHAT

According to the definition of Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary behavior is

1-One,s atti...
quot;Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural
science. Its theoretical ...
psychological process developing at Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Missouri, Ohio State,
Minnesota, North Carolina, and even ...
5-At Minnesota, Karl Spencer Lashley (1890-1958) was arguing a physiological
behaviorism in which the physiological analys...
consists of responses on the part of the organism that tend to restore balance in its
relationship to the environment.



...
Distinctions between instinctive, habitual, and emotional reaction systems were delineated
by Watson in 1919. quot;Human a...
HABIT FORMATION

. An emphasis on habit formation defined in terms of mechanisms of trial-and-error
elaboration of respons...
was the orientation that began, following World War I, to capture the imagination of young
psychologists and to spread wit...
4) In this way the child’s verbal behavior is conditioned (or ‘shaped’) until the habits
coincide with the adult models.
T...
learner as merely ‘a language producing machine’. There was little room for any active
 processing by the learner. Its lea...
CONCLUSION

 The above two theories can not give satisfactory answers to SLA, because each goes to a
polar extreme. The de...
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Theories Of Language Acquisition Saira

  1. 1. THEORIES OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION WHAT IS A THEORY According to the definition of Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary a theory is 1-A set of properly argued ideas inten to explain facts and events. ded 2-Ideas, beliefs or claims about something which may or may not be found true in practice. According to the definition of Longman’s Dictionary Of Contemporary English, a theory is 1-An idea or a set of ideas that is intended to explain something about life or the world especially that has not yet been proved to be true. 2-An idea that someone thinks is true but for which they have no prove. WHAT IS LANGUAGE ACQUISITION 1-Acquisition is a process whereby children becomespeakers of their native language. 2-Acquisition is a process by which language capabilities of a person increases. APPROACHES TO LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Various theories and approaches have been emerged over the years to study and analyze the process of language acquisition. According to the arguments presented by Allan Paivio Len Begg }Psychology of Language, p-222}, there exists three main school of ideas regarding language acquis ition 1-Behavioural approaches to language acquisition 2-Linguistic approaches to language acquisition 3-Cognitive approaches to language acquisition
  2. 2. LINGUISTICS AND PSYCHOLOGY Until non for most linguists the main aim of their discipline was providing structural analysis of a body of language data. And to be truly scientific in their approach they dealt with the substance of language in isolation from any sociological or psychological factors that might effect its use .Although they had been interested in the processes involved in using language but they believed it to be the function of the psychologists and not the linguists to investigate. They tended to adopt fairly uncritically whatever the psychologists proposed But in recent years many linguists have retained this point of view that the true task of a linguist should be not the description of individual languages but 1- the explanation of language use. 2- This in turn demands research into human capacity for language 3- And this involves the incorporation of psychology into linguistics. So today’s linguists say 1-Linguistics is a branch of psychology or 2-Psychology is a branch of linguistics since language is central to all human activities. The main areas of psycholinguistics is language acquisition 1-How do children acquire their mother tongue 2-The way people learn foreign language 3-The relationship between words and thoughts PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION According to Wilkins}Linguistics in Language Teaching] there exists two highly contrasting general accounts of language acquisition 1-Behaviourism 2-Mentalism
  3. 3. BEHAVIORISM IS BEHAVIOUR WHAT According to the definition of Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary behavior is 1-One,s attitude or manner 2-Some act or function in a particular situation WHAT IS BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE According to Oxford AdvanceLearners Dictionary Behavioral Science is The study of human behavior Since linguistics is also included in behavioral sciences, it purpose as well is the study of language with respect to human behavior WHAT IS BEHAVIORISM According to the definition of Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary, Behaviorism is 1-the theory that all human behavior is learnt to fit in with external conditions and is not influenced by people’s thoughts and feelings. According to the definition of Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Behaviorism is 2-The belief the scientific study of the mind should be based only on people’s behavior, not on what they say about their th oughts and feelings. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO BEHAVIORISM In 1913, in one of the most famous lectures in the history of psychology, John Broadus Watson (1878-1958), a 35-year-old quot;animal behavior manquot; from Johns Hopkins University, called for a radical revision of the scope and method of psychological research.:
  4. 4. quot;Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute. The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity, forms only a part of the behaviorist's total scheme of investigation.quot; Introspection was to be abandoned in favor of the study of behavior. Behavior was to be evaluated in its own right, independent of its relationship to any consciousness that might exist. The concept of quot;consciousnessquot; was to be rejected as an interpretive standard and eschewed as an explanatory device. As an objective, natural science, psychology was to make no sharp distinction between human and animal behavior; and its goal was to develop principles by which behavior could be predicted andcontrolled. Published in the Psychological Review shortly after its delivery and incorporated within the first chapter of Watson's 1914 Behavior: A Textbook of Comparative Psychology, this lecture eventually came to be known as the quot;behaviorist manifesto.quot; Generations of psychologists, reared in a post-Watsonian discipline that defined itself as the quot;science of behavior,quot; were taught that Watson was the father of behaviorism and that February 24, 1913 was the day on which modern behaviorism was born. Yet behaviorism did eventually spread throughout American psychology. During the 1920s, across the work of a growing number of psychologists, there emerged a reasonably coherent set of intellectual commitments to which the name quot;behaviorismquot; gradually became attached. Based on the rejection of mentalism in psychological theory, a dedication to the use of objective methodology in research, and a strong concern with practical application of psychological knowledge to the prediction and control of behavior, quot;behaviorismquot; in the 1920s owed an obvious debt to Watson. A RICHER VERSION OF BEHAVIORISM At the same time, however, behaviorism grew during this period in part by diverging from and transcending Watson. Influenced by broader conceptions of objectivism and of
  5. 5. psychological process developing at Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Missouri, Ohio State, Minnesota, North Carolina, and even Hopkins, behaviorism had become, by the end of the 1920s, a more thoroughly elaborated, theoretically more varied and sophisticated approach than anything to be found in Watson's own writings. It was this richer version of behaviorism, rather than Watsonianism , that succeeded in transforming American psychology; and it did so not by converting the old guard but by capturing the enthusiasm of the young. As succeeding generations of psychologists entered the discipline, objectivism gradually became the norm; and by the mid-1930s, American psychology had become the science of behavior, and behaviorism, methodological and/or theoretical, had become its dominant orientation. DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO BEHAVIORISM Even among those who identified themselves as quot;behaviorists,quot; agreement on the program was by no means unanimous. Early behaviorism took a variety of forms]. There was--- 1- the radical behaviorism of Watson, a view notable for its extreme anti-mentalism, its radical reduction of thinking to implicit response, and, especially after 1916, its heavy and somewhat simplistic theoretical reliance on conditioned reactions. 2- There was the relational behaviorism of the Harvard group, developed by Edwin Bissell Holt (1873-1946). Conceiving of behavior as quot;a course of action which the living body executes or is prepared to execute with regard to some object or fact of its environment,quot; Holt's behaviorism was molar, purposive and focused on the relationship between high-level behavioral mechanisms in the organism and the concrete realities of the social and physical environment. 3- Closely related to this view was a kind of philosophical behaviorism, espoused primarily by philosophers and tied to pragmatism, in which quot;consciousnessquot; was defined as a form of behavior guided by future results.] 4- Albert Paul Weiss (1879-1931) was developing a bio-social behaviorism based on a radical distinction between the level of theoretical discourse appropriate to behavior analyzed as social cause (i.e., quot;biosociallyquot;) and that appropriate to behavior analyzed as sensorimotor effect (i.e., quot;biophysicallyquot;).
  6. 6. 5-At Minnesota, Karl Spencer Lashley (1890-1958) was arguing a physiological behaviorism in which the physiological analysis of behavior could be considered quot;a complete and adequate account of all the phenomena of consciousness.quot; 6- At the University of Chicago, George Herbert Mead (1863-1931), who had been on the faculty since Watson was a graduate student, was elaborating a social behaviorism of mind, meaning, self, language, and thinking that emphasized the social character of behavior and the behavioral character of mind. 7- Finally, in a number of institutions, a sort of eclectic behaviorism was emerging-a behaviorism that assimilated whatever seemed strongest and most reliable in the views of others. PSYCHOLOGY FOR BEHAVIORISTS As a natural science, psychology takes the study of behavior as its fundamental task. Whatever else psychology might be, for early behaviorism it was fundamentally the science of behavior, where behavior was defined in terms of the organism's organized response to stimulation. Depending on the theorist and the reaction system in question, response might be overt or covert, implicit or explicit, clear and well-defined or vague and obscure, molecular or molar, simple or complex. Response might consist of an actual act or simply of the adoption of an attitude, tendency, or set; it might be controlled by the proximal stimulus or directed toward objects in the environment. But however otherwise conceived, for the behaviorist, response involved the operation of effector systems-muscles and glands. Behavior had to do with quot;how, when, and why a man does this or that, acts thus and so, desires, seeks, accepts, rejects-in a word, moves.quot; ADJUSTMEMT AND MALADJUSTMENT . In the 1920s, behaviorists were united in the assumption that behavior results when the organism's relationship to the environment must be changed if it is to survive and prosper. Behaviorism referred to such states as quot;maladjustmentsquot;. Maladjustment is a natural byproduct of change in the organism (e.g., an increase in drive level) or in the environment (e.g., a rise in ambient air temperature); and behavior, which is a process of adjustment,
  7. 7. consists of responses on the part of the organism that tend to restore balance in its relationship to the environment. POLYGENETIC CONTINUITY . For early behaviorism, animal and human behavior exist in an quot;unbroken continuity,quot; Animals and humans share both mechanisms and fundamental forms of overt adjustment to the environment. This view, which originated with Watson's desire to place the study of animal behavior high on the psychological research agenda, was reinforced by psychology's early success in extending trial-and-error and conditioning analyses from animals to humans. As Dashiell summarized the continuity commitment: quot;The genus and species Homo sapiens is moved by the same forces without and within as are the lower animal forms, and expresses them in the same general types of actions and action- tendencies. The differences are differences in degree...quot; THE DETERMINATION OF BEHAVIOR/ STIMULUS RESPONSE PSYCHOLOGY. Behavior, from a behaviorist point of view, is a joint function of stimulating conditions in the environment and characteristics (drive states, hereditary reflexes, acquired systems of habit, emotions, mechanisms of implicit stimulation) within the organism. In its earliest formulations, this commitment, from which behaviorism later became known as quot;stimulus- responsequot; or quot;S-Rquot; psychology, was somewhat too simply phrased. Thus, for example, in 1919, Watson said only that: quot;In each adjustment there is always both a response or-act and a stimulus or situation which call] out that response....the stimulus is always provided by the environment, external to the body, or by the movements of man's own muscles and the secretions of his glands...[and] responses always follow relatively immediately upon the presentation or incidence of the stimulus.quot; THE CLASSIFICATION OF BEHAVIOR . Although many behaviorists pointed to the indissociability of response types in actual behavior, early behaviorism remained wedded to the classification of response in terms of three major categories: a) somatic/hereditary (pre-potent reflexes, instinctive reaction tendencies); b) somatic/acquired (systems of habits); or c) visceral/hereditary and acquired (emotions). Responses in all three categories were then further classified as explicit, implicit, or preparatory (attitudinal).
  8. 8. Distinctions between instinctive, habitual, and emotional reaction systems were delineated by Watson in 1919. quot;Human action as a whole,quot; he wrote. quot;can be divided into hereditary...(emotional and instinctive), and acquired modes of response (habit).quot;For Watson, all three response modes were quot;pattern reactions,quot; complex systems of reflexes that function in an organized fashion when the organism is confronted with an appropriate stimulus. BEHAVIORAL REDEFINITION OF THE TRADITIONAL CATEGORIES OF MENTALISM . At the heart of early behaviorism lay a commitment to the notion that mentalistic categories and concepts (e.g., perception, attention, meaning, symbol, memory, purpose, abstraction, generalization, thought) must either be redefined in terms of behavioral mechanisms or discarded altogether. In 1913, Watson excluded mind in its entirety from behaviorism. Not only was consciousness rejected as both fact and concept, but associated mental terms were to be discarded as well. This was the most extreme version of this commitment; and other early behaviorists did not, as a rule, follow Watson down this path. By far the most common approach was to redefine the standard concepts of mental analysis in strictly behavioral terms. A few examples will suffice. quot;Perceiving,quot; for Dashiell, was an quot;anticipatory set (largely implicit) that orients...[the organism] for a certain line of conduct with reference to...[the] situation.quot; quot;Meaningquot; was quot;the pattern of reaction-tendencies awakened by...[the thing perceived.]quot; For Allport, a quot;symbolquot; was quot;a brief and labile response usually undetected in outward behavior, but capable of being substituted for overt responses.quot; quot;Consciousness,quot; in Weiss's terms, was quot;only the functioning of obscure contractile elements, which in turn stimulate adjacent receptors that release the verbal overt response...quot; And quot;thinking,quot; in that famous analysis of Watson, simply meant quot;subvocal talking, general body language habits, bodily sets or attitudes which are not easily observable without instrumentation or experimental aid.quot; ANIMAL MODELS . Behaviorism emphasized the identification of fundamental mechanisms in animal behavior (e.g., trial and error learning, conditioning) and use of such mechanisms, without significant theoretical revision, in the explanation of human behavior. This approach, which followed directly from the commitment to phylogenetic continuity, was largely unquestioned among early behaviorists. Indeed, as behavioral research began to develop in the late 1920's and 1930's, many of the most important studies focused on animals and many core theoretical concepts came to be defined almost entirely in terms of the procedures of animal behavior research.
  9. 9. HABIT FORMATION . An emphasis on habit formation defined in terms of mechanisms of trial-and-error elaboration of response and conditioned stimulus substitution was probably the characteristic with which early behaviorism was most closely associated. Behaviorism in the 1920's was first, last, and always a psychology of habit formation. Acquired behavior, no matter how complex-thinking, talking, even scientific activity itself-could, in the final analysis, be reduced to habit. TRIAL AND ERROR MECHANISM The trial-and-error mechanism (increase in random movement upon confrontation with a problem situation, accidental success when chance response alters the organism or the environment in the direction of greater adjustment, and gradual, mechanical selection and reinforcement of successful movement) was usually employed to explain efferent modification, the elaboration of the response itself. The conditioned reaction was typically evoked to explain afferent modification-change in the effectiveness of stimuli, including those that are purely social and symbolic, in eliciting a given response. LANGUAGE . For behaviorists in the 1920's, self-stimulation and response was intimately linked to language. For both the self in thinking and the social listener in communication, language responses were conceived as substitute, symbolic stimuli, independent of the sensory attributes of the original stimulus. In this role, they subserved the related functions of abstraction and generalization. As Weiss , who pioneered this analysis, asserted: quot;...many different receptor patterns representative of many different sensory situations and relations, are connected to the same language response and through this common path the individual may react in a specific manner to all the objects, situations, and relations thus concerned, even though there is very little sensory similarity between them.quot; CONCLUSION Psychology defined as the natural science of behavior, wedded to objectivism in method and theory and to a goal of behavioral prediction and control; behavior, animal or human, conceived as a pattern of adjustment (innate and acquired, skeletal and visceral, explicit and implicit) functionally dependent upon stimulus conditions in the environment and factors of habit and drive in the organism; emphasis in research and theory on animal behavior, ontogenesis, drive reduction, habit formation, social behavior, and language-this
  10. 10. was the orientation that began, following World War I, to capture the imagination of young psychologists and to spread within American psychology throughout the 1920's. This was behaviorism in its early form. SOME COMMON APPROACHES TO BEHAVIORISM Conditioned reflexes---------------------------Ivan Pavlov Experimental method------------------------John B. .Watson Operant conditioning-----------------------B.F.Skinner CONDITIONED REFLEXES/CLASSICAL CONDITIONING Pavlov a Russian Scientist made the discovery that led to the real beginning of behaviorism. Pavlov and most of his contemporaries saw classical conditioning as learning that comes from exposing an organism to association of environment events. THE PAVLOVIAN EXPERIMENT While studying digestive reflexes in dogs, Pavlov found out that it could reliably be predicted that the dogs would salivate when food was placed in the mouth through a reflex called the salivary reflex in digestion. Yet he soon realized that after some time salivary reflex occurs even before the food was offered. Because of the sound of the door and the sight of the attendant carrying the food. The dogs had transferred the reflex to these repeated actions. Thus the dogs learnt a new behavior. It was maintained by the behaviorists that language as well is a sort of behavior that can be acquired in ideal social conditions. According to them language is essentially the product of the society. OPERANT CONDITIONING Behaviorist theory takes language acquis ition as a process of habit-formation through stimuli-response model, as represented in Skinner’s Verbal Behavior (1957): 1) The child imitates the sounds and patterns which he hears from around him. 2) People recognize the child’s attempts as being similar to the adult models and reinforce (reward) the sounds, by approval or some other desirable reaction. 3) In order to obtain more of these rewards, the child repeats the sounds and patterns, so that these become habits.
  11. 11. 4) In this way the child’s verbal behavior is conditioned (or ‘shaped’) until the habits coincide with the adult models. Thus children learn language in the following steps IMITATION REPETITION MEMORIZATION CONTROLLED DRILLING REINFORCEMENT 1-IMITATION AND REINFORCEMENT Children just imitate what they hear. Parents teach them by telling them when they make mistakes.Children start ou as clean slates and through the process of imitation they get t linguistic habits printed on these slates. So we can say that language acquisition is a process of experience. 2-CONDITIONED RESPONSE/STIMULUS RESPONSE PROCESS The operant conditioning proposed by skinner is based upon four elements Stimulus------Response---------Reinforcement----------Repetition The hunger or loneliness ----------------------------------------------Stimulus The baby cries-----------------------------------------------------------Response The mother comforts him----------------------------------------------Reinforcement The same process happens again------ --------------------------------Repetition The baby cries whenever hungry---------------------------------------New behavior CHOMSKYS EXPERIMENTATION Chomsky performed some experiments on rats THE VALIDITY OF BEHAVIORISM CRITIQUE 1-Behaviourist accounts of L2 acquisition emphasize only what can be directly observed (input) and ignore what goes on in the ‘black box’ of the learner’s mind, viewing the
  12. 12. learner as merely ‘a language producing machine’. There was little room for any active processing by the learner. Its learning model is demonstrated as: A {input} Reinforcement A{Output} But this model fails to reflect the true picture of children’s L2 acquisition in which the output is different from the input: A (input) Reinforcement A+ (output) A+ is the multiplication resulted from the process of ‘A’ in the black box. If the child’s linguistic output does not match the input, the explanation must lie in the internal processing that has taken place, something that induced the Mantalists to go to another extreme of innatist . 2-Irregular Grammatical patterns Behaviorism does not explain how children learn to handle irregular grammatical patterns 3-Languaoge a matter of maturation rather than imitation Children seem unable to imitate exactly the adults grammatical structure at the beginning. They learn these structures with the passage of time no matter how much parents try to teach them. Thus language is a matter of maturation rather than imitation. 4-The most dramatic evidence against behaviorism is the fact that the children who can not speak at all but who can hear normally acquire normal competence in language comprehension. 5-Several kinds of evident suggest that imitation , in the sense of a child’s attempt to reproduce the adults actual utterances he hear does not play an important role in the acquisition of syntax. 5-One of the relatively empirical problem is that relatively few experiments have been done with infants and that these have typically dealt with general effects on vocalization. 6-According to Chomsky argumentsman is superior to animals with respect to language acquisition so we can never apply the rules and principles to language learning which are derived from the experiments on animal. 7-For Chomsky the acquisition of incredibly complex language by chil ren can not simply d be explained by imitation. It definitely has something to do with innate capabilities
  13. 13. CONCLUSION The above two theories can not give satisfactory answers to SLA, because each goes to a polar extreme. The debate between behaviourism and mentalism arises the theory of cognitivism, which agrees with the mentalists that children must make use of innate knowledge, but disagrees about its nature. Cognitivism, on one hand admits the active processing by the learner, and on the other hand attaches much importance to the input and the interaction between internal and external factors.

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