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First language acquisition


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Overview of how a first language is acquired.

Published in: Education, Technology
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First language acquisition

  1. 1. Acquisition <ul><li>We have an innate capacity to learn languages. </li></ul><ul><li>This enables children to construct the grammar of the language in spite of the poverty of the stimulus. </li></ul>
  2. 2. How does acquisition proceed? <ul><li>Children learn not the language per se, but the grammar of language - the rules. </li></ul><ul><li>Past tense: add –ed </li></ul><ul><li>walk, walked </li></ul><ul><li>break, *breaked </li></ul><ul><li>Acquire rule, but memorise exceptions. </li></ul>
  3. 3. How do we know how children learn? <ul><li>naturalistic/observational methods: </li></ul><ul><li>diary studies </li></ul><ul><li>watch children play, interact, and record language on audio and videotape. </li></ul><ul><li>experimental studies: </li></ul><ul><li>comprehension: interpret sentences </li></ul><ul><li>John asked Tom to shut the door - who should? </li></ul><ul><li>production: describe pictures (e.g., the wug test) </li></ul><ul><li>imitation: children can only imitate if they have rule: Mummy is going -> Mummy going </li></ul>
  4. 4. What are the stages of language development? <ul><li>1 month </li></ul><ul><li>3 months </li></ul><ul><li>1 year </li></ul><ul><li>18 months </li></ul>Discrimination can tell ba from pa prefer own language prefer motherese Babbling larynx descends bilabials m, b, p deaf children babble Words 2-word strings
  5. 5. Emergence of words <ul><li>Objects milk, dog, baby </li></ul><ul><li>Actions go, run </li></ul><ul><li>Social functions hello </li></ul><ul><li>Perception precedes production </li></ul><ul><li>R It’s your [  ] </li></ul><ul><li>C No, my [  ] </li></ul><ul><li>R Oh, your [  . </li></ul><ul><li>C Yes, [  ] </li></ul>
  6. 6. 2 word strings <ul><li>18 months </li></ul><ul><li>minimum required for syntax. </li></ul><ul><li>children acquire one word every two hours until adolescence </li></ul><ul><li>more milk </li></ul><ul><li>Mummy come </li></ul><ul><li>no pee </li></ul><ul><li>eat grape </li></ul>
  7. 7. How do children acquire syntax? production bottleneck
  8. 8. Developmental sequences <ul><li>1. ING </li></ul><ul><li>2. in, on </li></ul><ul><li>3. plural 's' </li></ul><ul><li>4. possessive 's' </li></ul><ul><li>5. the, a </li></ul><ul><li>6. ed </li></ul><ul><li>7. 3rd P sing 's' </li></ul>
  9. 9. Operating principles <ul><li>1. pay attention to the ends of words (suffixes are acquired before prefixes) </li></ul><ul><li>5. straightforward relationship between form and meaning helps (3 English 's' is hard) </li></ul><ul><li>6. lack of exceptions helps (irregular verbs are hard) </li></ul><ul><li>7. lack of allomorphic variation helps (English past is hard (walked, hummed, limited)) </li></ul><ul><li>8. absence of homophones helps (English 's' is hard) </li></ul><ul><li>9. clear semantic function helps (3rd person sing present is hard) </li></ul>
  10. 10. How do children learn exceptions to rules? <ul><li>RULE </li></ul><ul><li>Add –ed </li></ul><ul><li>finded </li></ul><ul><li>MEMORY </li></ul><ul><li>Find form </li></ul><ul><li>found </li></ul>find <ul><li>Rule + memory </li></ul><ul><li>founded </li></ul>
  11. 11. When memory fails . . . <ul><li>Rule applies find -> finded </li></ul><ul><li>When collective memory fails . . </li></ul><ul><li>strive, strove becomes strive, strived </li></ul><ul><li>cleave, clove becomes cleave, clove </li></ul>LANGUAGE CHANGE
  12. 12. Why does it take three years before children can talk properly? <ul><li>The brain is a complicated machine which takes time to run in. </li></ul><ul><li>Humans have extremely large heads, which presents problems at birth, given the size of the female pelvis. </li></ul><ul><li>If human children spent the same proportion of their lifespan in utero as other primates, they would be born at 18 months. </li></ul><ul><li>Eighteen months is the age at which </li></ul><ul><li>language begins to emerge </li></ul><ul><li>children begin to walk and need to understand language </li></ul>