- the processes by w/c human beings
acquire a language, how they attain the
ability to comprehend and produce
utterances in it.
MAJOR FEATURES OF CHILD LANGUAGE
General characteristics of language acquisition
- normal children in all societies acquire, w/in the
space of a few years, fluent control of a language. By the time
they are 5 years old they know several thousand words, have
acquired the major phonological & grammatical systems of
their language(s), as well as the fundamentals of the semantic&
pragmatic systems, & how the language is used in its social
Deaf children, are unable to perceive the acoustic input of
languages spoken around them. If exposed to a sign language, they
acquire it spontaneously.
Basic Schedule of Acquisition
• pre-language stages of cooing, beginning at about 2 or
3 months; & babbling beginning at around six months;
• One-word stage, beginning at about a year or so
• Two-word stage, beginning at 18-20 months;
• Telegraphic speech, beginning at 2-3 years of age;
• Basic mastery, at around 4-5 years
• Elaboration & expansion especially of lexicon-also to
some extent grammar-continuing throughout life.
- the earliest stages of child language acquisition,
w/c last from about 2 months to a year of age. The child
typically begins to produce vocalization called cooing.
- by about 6 months the child is generally sitting
up, & producing a wider rage of sounds, including stops,
nasals & fricatives. Babbling, the child produces word-
like utterances, typically CV syllables, though they are
not recognizable as words of the language.
- around 12-18 months children produce their
first recognizable words. These words occur alone, in
single-unit utterances, & thus the term one-word stage
or holophrastic stage.
- the first two word utterances tend to express the
same kinds of meaning as in the one-word stag, but do
so more explicitly: negation of refusal, no bed;
recurrence as in more milk; attention hi daddy.
- multiple word utterance usually make their first
appearance sometimes during the 3rd year of life.
- 4-5 years of age most children have acquired a
basic mastery of their language. Their vocabulary will
stand at well over 1,000 items, & the basic of phonology,
morphology & syntax will be in place.
- language acquisition continues throughout life.
This is especially true or lexical items, w/c continue to
be acquired in adulthood.
- many languages have special speech registers for
talking to young children. These registers, variously
called baby-talk, motherese, child-directed speech &
caretaker speech – have characteristics that assist the
child’s acquisition of language.
Acquisition of phonetics and phonology
the perception of speech sounds begins very early, some
phonetic differences being perceived from a very young
age. Even 1month old babies are able to perceive the
difference between [pa]&[ba],regardless of their
language environment. Very young babies show
preferences for the for the voice of their mother over the
voices of other women.
A characteristic of language acquisition is that perception precedes
production: children are often able to perceive contrasts that
they are unable to produce.
spoke to a child his inflated plastic fish a fis. In imitation of the
child’s pronunciation, the observer said: ‘This is your fis?’ ‘No,’
said the child, ‘ my fis.’ He continued to reject the adult’s
imitation until he was told, ‘That is your fish?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘my
Acquisition of lexicon
- by about 18 months of age, when a child has an active
vocabulary of around 50 words, some studies have revealed that
they can understand up to five times as many words.
Acquisition of semantics
- child also has to acquire the meaning associated
w/ the form. This is not a straightforward process; the
meaninglessly they assign some content to the lexemes
3 MAIN TYPES OF ERRORS IN MEANING ASSIGNMENT:
- refers to the child’s generalization of the meaning
of the word beyond the sense in the adult language. The
word might be extended to all things sharing a general
feature of color, shape, size or whatever.
- where the child assigns a narrower meaning to
the word than in the adult language.
- children assign a completely mistaken meaning
to a word.
ACQUISITION OF MORPHOLOGY
-Verb suffix –ing
-preposition in, on
-noun plural suffix –s - -z
-irregular past tense of frequent
-noun possessive clitic ‘s
-Verb be in questions
-Definite & indefinite articles,
the, a – an
--regular past tense suffix –ed, -
-Regular 3rd person singular
present tense suffix –s –z
-Irregular present tense of
Is kitty here?
A dog, the dog
Acquisition of syntax
acquisition of3 syntactic constructions in English
o negative constructions
• 1st stage – 18-26 months, negative markers no & not
are put at the beginning or end of the utterance. 2nd
stage – child’s 3rd year, the negative word starts to be
used between the subject & verb. 3rd stage – sees the
appearance of other auxiliary forms w/ attached
negative markers (isn’t,won’t), & their morphological
- 1st stage employs just intonation: high rising tone on an
utterance signifies that it is a question. 2nd stage occurs during the
child’s 2nd year, when he/she begins to use interrogative words.
These words are put at the beginning of the clause. In 3rd stage
acquire the auxiliary verbs be, have & do. Learned first for yes-no
interrogatives, & later for information interrogatives.
o Complex sentence constructions
- most of these are coordinate constructions using the
- an order of mention strategy is employed whereby the
event of the first clause is presumed to occur before the event of
- a theory of learning associated with the psychological
theory of behaviorism, w/c was applied by language acquisition
by Skinner (1957).
1. Classical conditioning
2. Operant conditioning – learning techniques that utilizes
reinforcement & punishment to either increase/decrease a
Imitation – a common means by w/c children learn many
things, including aspects of language.
Hypothesis testing – making guesses about how the language
STRATEGIES FOR LEARNING MEANING OF WORDS
• Reference: assume that words refer to things, events &
• Extendibility: assume that words apply to more than
just the specific thing, event or quality referred to in
the 1st –observed.
• Object scope: assume that words denoting objects
denote whole object.
• Categorical scope: assume that words can be extended
to objects in the same basic level category.
• Novel name-new category
• Conventionality: assume that speakers prefer specific
over general lexemes.