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Introduction to General Linguistics (SLA theories) 3



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  • 1. *** LANGUAGE ACQUISITION THEORIES By: Mazhar Iqbal Ranjha
  • 2. THEORIES OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Theory Central idea linguist Behaviourist Children imitate adults Skinner Cognitive Lang. is just one aspect of a child‟s overall intellectual development Piaget Innateness Lang. is an innate capacity Chomsky Interaction Emphasis the interaction b/w child and their care giver Bruner
  • 3. BEHAVIOURISM John Broadus Watson (January 9, 1878 – September 25, 1958) an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov September 26, 1849 – February 27, 1936) was a famous Russian physiologist
  • 4. L. BLOOMFIELD- STRUCTURALISM  Leonard Bloomfield (April 1, 1887 – April 18, 1949  Language 1933
  • 5. BF SKINNER- BEHAVIOURISM  (March 20,1904-August 18,1990)
  • 6. BEHAVIOURISM  B.F Skinner (March 20,1904-August 18,1990) was an American Psychologist.  B.F Skinner proposed this theory as an explanation for Language acquisition in human.  B. F SKINNER‟S entire system is based on operant conditioning (learning's a function of change in overt behaviour)  Language is a „conditioned behavior‟: the stimulus response process  Stimulus Response Feedback Reinforcement
  • 7. Thus, Children learn language step by step Imitation Repetition Memorization controlled drilling Reinforcement Reinforcement can either be positive or negative
  • 8. BEHAVIOURISTS’ VIEWS:  Behaviorists view the process of language acquisition as a building process that results from interaction with the environment. In outlining his assertion that humans acquire spoken language as a result of behavioral conditioning.
  • 9. ***  B.F. Skinner writes that  “A child acquires verbal behavior when relatively unpatterned vocalizations, selectively reinforced, gradually assume forms which produce appropriate consequences in a given verbal community” (Skinner)
  • 10. ***  Skinner views the child as the "passive subject of operant conditioning in whom randomly occurring behavior is selectively reinforced" (Vocate).
  • 11. PRINCIPLES 1. Behaviour that is positively reinforced will reoccur 2. Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced 3. Reinforcement will generalize similar stimuli (stimulus generalization)
  • 12. Objections  In formulating the process of language acquisition we do not feed to mention stimuli occurring prior to the behavior to be reinforced. It is difficult, if not impossible, to discover stimuli which evoke specific vocal responses in the young child.  For example: What a lovely scene!
  • 13. ***  There is no stimulus which makes a child say b or a or e, as one may make him salivate by placing a lemon drop in his mouth or make his pupils contract by shining a light into his eyes. The raw responses from which verbal behavior is constructed are not "elicited." In order to reinforce a given response we simply wait until it occurs.
  • 14. Two Kinds Of Evidence Used To Criticize Behaviorist Theory  First Evidence: Based on the kind of language children produce  first piece of evidence taken from the way children handle irregular grammatical patterns  While encountering irregular items, there is a stage when they replace forms based on the regular patterns of language  Gradually they switch over to the process of „analogy‟ – a reasoning process as they start working out for themselves
  • 15. Two Kinds Of Evidence Used To Criticize Behaviorist Theory Second Evidence: Based on what children do not produce  The other evidence is based on the way children seem unable to imitate adult grammatical constructions exactly  Best known demonstration of this principle is provided by American Psycholinguist David McNeill (1933)  Child: Nobody don‟t like me  Mother: No, say „no body likes me‟  Child: Nobody don‟t like me (eight repetitions of this dialogue)  Mother: No, now listen carefully: say „no body likes me‟  Child: Oh! No body don‟t likes me  Thus, language acquisition is more a matter of maturation than of imitation
  • 16. Limitations in Behaviorism  Language is based on a set of structures or rules, which could not be worked out simply by imitating individual utterances  Children are often unable to repeat what an adults say
  • 18. COGNITIVE THEORY Cognitive Theory •The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget placed acquisition of language within the context of a child‟s mental or cognitive development. •Language is just one aspect of a child‟s overall intellectual development. .
  • 19. ***  A child has to understand a concept before he/she can acquire the particular language from which expresses that concept.
  • 21. STAGES • The four developmental stages are described in Piaget‟s theory as: 1. Sensorimotor Stage • From birth to age 2(children are extremely egocentric, meaning they can‟t perceive the world from others viewpoints.
  • 22. Sub Stages 1. Simple Reflexes(1 month infants reflexes such as rooting and sucking) 2. First habits and primary circular reaction(1 to 4 infants learn to coordinate sensation ) 3. Secondary circular recation(4 to 8 infants become aware of things, they are more object oriented)
  • 23. 4. Cordition of secondary circular recation(8 to 12 infants do things intentionally) 5. Tertiary circular reaction(12 to 18 infants explore new possibilities of objects) 6. Internalization of schemes(18 to 24 they shift to symbolic thinking)
  • 24. • 2. Preoperational Stage • From 2 to 7 (magical thinking predominates). Egocentrism begins strongly and then weakens. Children can‟t conserve or use logical thinking.
  • 25. 3. Concrete Operational Stage  From 7 to 12(Children begin to think logically but are very concrete in their thinking). They are no longer egocentrics.
  • 26. 4. Formal Operational Stage • Start from 11 and continues into adulthood. Individual move beyond concert experiences and begin to think abstractly)
  • 27. 3. Noam Chomsky  Noam Chomsky is perhaps the best known and the most influential linguist of the second half of the Twentieth Century. He has made a number of strong claims about language : in particular, he suggests that LANGUAGE IS AN INNATE ABILITY - that is to say that we are born with set of rules about language in our brains called the „UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR‟ or Generative Grammar.
  • 28. 3. INNATENESS THEORY  Nativitism  Innatism  Mentalists
  • 29. Behaviourist position (Skinner, 1950s)  Main behaviourist claim: all learning, including language learning, is the product of habit formation.  We learn through imitation and repetition.  Emphasis on the importance of the observable in any theory claiming to be scientific (empirical view).  Since only behaviour is observable, we must study learning by observing behaviour patterns.
  • 30. Behaviourist position  We learn through:  Imitation + reinforcement (praise or success in communication) = habit formation.  According to this view Stimulus-Response- Reinforcement IS the learning mechanism.  Language is considered „verbal behaviour‟.  Children practise and repeat what they hear, and in this way learn their L1.
  • 31. INNATENESS HYPOTHESES:  Universal Hypothesis  Critical Period Hypothesis  Mental muscle Model  L1=L2 Hypothesis
  • 32. INNATENESS HYPOTHESIS:  An innatist theory  “Nature” over “Nurture”  According to Chomsky, crucial parts of the human language ability are built into the brain – part of our biology, programmed into our genes
  • 33. Chomsky V Skinner  Remember Skinner?  Late 1950s: environment-only theories of language acquisition in the ascendant  Chomsky (1959) reviewed Skinner‟s book Verbal Behaviour  Chomsky found flaws in Skinner‟s mechanism  Chomsky argued that environment-only mechanisms couldn‟t possibly account for language acquisition
  • 34. Evidence for Chomskyan innatism (and against environment-only mechanisms) How so?
  • 35. The brain: missing evidence?  Neuroscience could be convincing…  …but our knowledge of the brain is not that advanced.  We cannot see the proposed language structures  Even if we could, we could not establish that these structures were innate
  • 36. Creativity  Language is CREATIVE – We can produce and understand an infinite range of novel grammatical sentences – Children do not imitate a fixed repertoire of sentences  Chomsky: creativity is not explicable if language is learnt just from the environment
  • 37. Creating a Grammar 5 rules: S  NP VP NP  Det N NP  N VP  V NP VP  V 9 words: Det: the, four, some N: dogs, cats, slugs V: understood, ate, approached How many sentences?
  • 38. Degeneracy of the data  The child‟s language data is degenerate  Ungrammatical utterances are frequent and are not marked out as “wrong”  Therefore it is impossible to deduce the grammar of a language, if your only input data is utterances from the environment
  • 39. Poverty of the stimulus  Chomskyan syntax: more complex than people had previously thought syntax to be!  The grammar of a sentence can‟t be deduced from its surface form – The schoolchildren were difficult to teach – The schoolchildren were eager to teach  So environmental language data is insufficient: grammar can‟t be learned from it
  • 40. Misleading feedback  Adults correct children for truth, not grammaticality  … so the feedback data children receive does not actually tell them how well they are doing  Misleading feedback makes it even harder for children to learn grammar
  • 41. Evidence from Creoles  Pidgin: simple language that arise in contact situations  Creole: a fully complex language descended from a pidgin  The grammar of a Creole is created by children as they learn it  This is evidence that this grammar comes from some innate source
  • 42. Universal features of language  Languages vary greatly, but have some common features  Example: nouns and verbs  Example: structure dependency – Grammatical rules rely on the structure of the sentence, not the surface order of the words
  • 43. Structure dependency  Mr Smith was a good man  Was Mr Smith a good man?  Mr Smith was a good man  Man good a was Smith Mr?  Joe was a good man  A Joe was good man?
  • 44. Syntax  Well-formed sentence without meaning: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.  Syntax as well as meaning deprived of inner logic: Ideas furiously green colorless sleep.
  • 45. Syntax
  • 46. Universals explained  Universals unexpected if language is learnt from the environment alone  Universals due to innate language  Or due to something else? – Universal functions of language – Universal forms of cognition
  • 47. The theory: innate language knowledge  If children don‟t/can‟t learn the rules of grammar from the language around them in their environment…  … then these rules must have been in-born  This explains all the difficulties we found with environment-only acquisition theories
  • 48. Key points of Chomskyan Theory The Essentials
  • 49. Innatism  What is innate?  Chomsky: the essential core of grammar is innate  A generative grammar that can produce an infinite range of novel sentences  The innate system for language learning – Language Acquisition Device (LAD) – Universal Grammar (UG) – “bioprogram” – “language organ” – “language instinct” Steven Pinker (1994)
  • 50. Inside the Chomskyan brain Autonomy
  • 51. Is language autonomous?  Chomsky thinks that language is autonomous in the mind  This means that language (i.e. UG) is a separate system in the brain‟s architecture  It is connected to, but does not interact extensively with, other sorts of thought
  • 52. (The diagram)
  • 53. Maturation  Chomsky‟s theory is a maturationist theory  Language acquisition runs to an innate biological timetable  UG matures in the brain and is slowly released in predetermined stages as the child grows  This linguistic maturation is analogous to the sexual maturation we go through at puberty…  … and is just as involuntary! – Only the younger ones were at the right stage of maturation
  • 54. Language is species-specific  UG and the language system only occur in the human brain  Therefore, no other animals can acquire a human language  But is this solely due to their lesser intelligence?  Can chimps learn language? We‟ll look at this next term!
  • 55. Evolution??  How did UG get there in the first place?  There is much disagreement on this – Chomsky: not by natural selection! – Chomsky, Bickerton: a single lucky language mutation (a “Hopeful Monster”) – Pinker: by normal natural selection
  • 56. Universal Grammar  But what exactly is Universal Grammar?  What knowledge does it contain?  How does it function in the process of language acquisition?
  • 57. UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR (U.G.):  “Children are equipped with an innate template or blueprint for language and this blueprint aids the child in the task of constructing a grammar for their language.”  This is known as “Innateness Hypothesis.”
  • 58. Children Construct Grammars:  “Language learning is not really something that the child does; it is something that happens to the child placed in an appropriate environment much as the child‟s body grows and matures in a predetermined way when provided with appropriate nutrition and environmental stimulation.” --Noam Chomsky
  • 59. What does U.G. (Universal Grammar) have? Chomsky says:  The UG does not have the actual rules of each language but it has PRINCIPLES & PARAMETERS.  The rules of language are derived from the PRINCIPLES & PARAMETERS.
  • 60. The “black box”  What is in the UG black box?  Chomsky says that the contents of UG explains: – a) the nature of syntax – b) language acquisition  The description of the grammar and the explanation of how it is learnt are unified in this theory
  • 61. The role of the input  What is the input? – Primary linguistic data – This means all the language the child hears – From the child‟s environment  The input is critical – Without input at the right stage of maturation, the child‟s UG cannot develop into a grammar – Evidence: “feral” children e.g. Genie – Critical Period Hypothesis (Lenneberg)
  • 62. What is the output?  Chomsky sees language competence in terms of a formal language – A lexicon  Contains words, idioms, etc.  Lexical items have meanings – A set of abstract, algebraic rules  Including the rules of syntax, phonology, etc.  The rules have no meaning  The lexicon is learned normally (from experience, trial and error, imitation)  … but the rules are innate
  • 63. Therefore…  This answers our question!  Q: What does UG contain?  A: UG contains the core, formal rules of the grammar  This is Chomsky‟s explanation for how the generative creativity of language is acquired
  • 64. CHOMSKYAN GENERATIVE GRAMMAR:  The Chomskyan approach towards Syntax, often termed Generative Grammar studies grammar as a body of knowledge possessed by language users. Since the 1960s, Chomsky has maintained that much of this knowledge is innate, implying that children need only learn certain parochial features of their native languages. The innate body of linguistic knowledge that is often termed Universal Grammar is already there.
  • 65. Chomsky’s Syntactic Theory:  The first task of Chomsky's syntax is to account for the speaker's understanding of the internal structure of sentences. Chomsky and other grammarians can represent much, though not all, of the speaker's knowledge of the internal structure of sentences with rules called "phrase structure" rules.
  • 66. Chomskyan rules  How do these Chomskyan rules work?  Instructions for generating sentence structures, e.g.: – S  NP VP – NP  Det Adj N  Structural slots filled by elements from the lexicon, e.g. – Det Adj N  The tall building
  • 67. Chomskyan trees
  • 68. Principles and parameters  The rules that produce these “tree” structures are innate…  … but these rules differ from language to language!  Chomsky: the UG does not contain the actual rules of each language.  Instead, it contains PRINCIPLES and PARAMETERS – The rules of each language are derived from the principles and parameters
  • 69. Universals revisited  “Principles” == linguistic universals  Features found in all languages  So what exactly are these universals?  Are there really that many firm universals? Probably not  Many linguists take other approaches to universals
  • 70. The Pro-drop Parameter  Controls whether subject pronouns can be dropped in the language – I understand Chomsky‟s theory – * understand Chomsky‟s theory  WRONG – je comprends la théorie de Chomsky – * comprends la théorie de Chomsky  WRONG – comprendo la teoría de Chomsky  OK  Spanish: [+ Pro-drop]  English and French: [- Pro-drop]
  • 71. Heads and complements  The Head of a phrase is the “compulsory word” of the phrase – A verb is the head of a verb phrase – A noun is the head of a noun phrase  The Complement of a phrase is an “optional” other element in the phrase – A verb‟s complement is its object  ride a horse, explain the problem – A preposition‟s complement is its noun phrase  in the house, behind my back, after the party
  • 72. Some examples -  Languages like English: – Verb before Object – Preposition before NP – Question-words at start of sentence  Languages like Japanese: – Verb after Object – Preposition after NP (= postposition) – Question-words at end of sentence
  • 73. The Head Parameter  In English, the head consistently comes before the complement…  In Japanese, the head consistently comes after the complement…  … in many different kinds of syntactic phrases!  This same pattern is found in other languages
  • 74. The Head Parameter  The orders of verb & object, pre/postposition & NP, and question word & sentence are all controlled by the Head Parameter  This has two settings: – Head-First (e.g. English) – Head-Last (e.g. Japanese)
  • 75. Setting Parameters  The child must set the parameter for their language, based on evidence in the input  Remember, the input is vital!  When the Head Parameter matures, the child sets it to: – Head First if their input contains things like verb-object – Head Last if their input contains things like object-verb
  • 76. The power of parameters  A single parameter can affect many areas of the grammar  One example of verb-object or object-verb is enough to set the Head Parameter… – Eat your spinach! (Head First) – Your spinach eat! (Head Last)  … which is all the child needs to correctly order verbs, pre/postpositions and question words (and other constructions too)
  • 77. ***  INTERACTIONIST By Jerome Seymour Bruner (born October 1, 1915--- till present) American Psychologist.
  • 78. 4.Jerome Bruner— Interactionist. (1915--Present)  “The language behaviour of adults when talking to children (known by several names by most easily referred to as child-directed speech or CDS) is specially adapted to support the acquisition process. This support is often described to as scaffolding for the child's language learning. Bruner also coined the term Language Acquisition Support System or LASS in response to Chomsky's LAD.”
  • 79. Jerome Bruner (SOCIAL INTERACTIONIST THEORY):  The psychologist Jerome is of the view that while Chomsky suggests a LAD, there must also be a Language Acquisition Support System or LASS. He is referring to the family and the social environment of the child in which he interacts and acquires language.
  • 81. THEORY OF BRUNER (Social Interaction)  Bruner is one of the founding fathers of Constructivist Theory. “Learners construct new ideas and concepts based upon their existing knowledge.” - Learning goes on and is an active process.
  • 82. Research on Children’s Development: (in 1966) Bruner gave three modes of representation in children‟s development:  Enactive representation (action-based),  Iconic representation (image-based),  Symbolic representation (language-based).
  • 83. Intellectual Development:  Bruner postulated three stages of intellectual development: The first stage he termed "Enactive", when a person learns about the world through actions on physical objects and the outcomes of these actions. (used in first 18 months)
  • 84. ***  The second stage was called "Iconic" where learning can be obtained through using models and pictures. (develops from 18 months)
  • 85. ***  The final stage was "Symbolic" in which the learner develops the capacity to think in abstract terms. (6 to 7 years onwards)
  • 86. CATEGORIZATION:  Bruner's theories emphasize the significance of categorization in learning. “To perceive is to categorize, to conceptualize is to categorize, to learn is to form categories, to make decisions is to categorize."
  • 87. Bruner’s Theory:  Like Piaget, Bruner believed that children have an innate capacity that helps them make sense of the work and that cognitive abilities develop through active interaction.  Unlike Piaget however, Bruner argued that social factors, particularly language, were important for cognitive growth. These underpin the concept of „scaffolding‟.
  • 88. ***  Bruner was also concerned with how knowledge is represented and organised through different modes of representation
  • 89. Scaffolding (1976)  Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) – adults particularly parents, support children's cognitive development through everyday play interactions.  Scaffolding is a temporary support structure around that child‟s attempts to understand new ideas and complete new tasks.
  • 90.  The purpose of the support is to allow the child to achieve higher levels of development by:  1. simplifying the task or idea  2. motivating and encouraging the child  Highlighting important task elements or errors  Giving models that can be imitated.
  • 91. BRUNER’S VIEW:  “The child learns how to use language within the social context of language use in which the child interacts. He grows up and needs to interact in the social scenario of the caretaker (s) around him and he gradually adopts their movements & language.”
  • 92. ***Example of A Childhood Game***  Bruner gives example of a well-known childhood game to explain language acquisition:  First Language Acquisition takes place like a game in which the mother or care-taker first appear and then disappear with simple comments as „hello…how are you?” etc. and then lengthier comments or words and the child learns about the play as well as the contexts being provided t him.
  • 93. The Narrative Construction of Reality: (in 1991)  In 1991, Bruner published an article “Critical Inquiry” entitled "The Narrative Construction of Reality." In this article, he argued: “the mind structures its sense of reality using mediation through "cultural products, like language and other symbolic systems“. He focuses on the idea of narrative as one of these cultural products.