Theories of first language learning


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  • Here the habit has been learned. The rat knows that to obtain food, it has to press the lever. If you have ever trained a dog or any other pet to do a trick, you have probably used habit formation.
  • 2 – It would not lead to sequences
  • LAD is not a real device and it is not one place in the brain. It is an idea to help describe the theory. Analogy – computer   = LAD and software = UG
  • Distinguish sounds Tell what is possible Able to discover grammatical relationships Construct simplest grammar rules
  • Show Cognitive Development video clip of Piaget Stage 2
  • the present progressive tense, be doing , is used to describe an action that is taking place at the moment of speaking ( I'm writing now ), to describe a present situation that is temporary ( I'm living in Paris, but I usually live in London ) and to describe future plans ( I'm playing tennis tomorrow ).
  • Show video clip of child talking
  • Theories of first language learning

    1. 1. Theories of First Language Learning 1
    2. 2. Questions• Why do children learn their first language in a short time?• Why do children learn their first language in sequences and stages?• How do children learn the rules of their first language when what is heard is variable?• Why do children produce language that they have never heard? 2
    3. 3. Behaviorism in general• Learning is habit formation 3
    4. 4. Behaviorism in language learning• Language learning is also habit formation• Successful performance of a behavior • Good pronunciation • Grammatically correct sentences • New words• Leads to reward from parents• Finally, behavior becomes automatic 4
    5. 5. Evaluation of behaviorism 1• Habit formation takes a long time • The same process must be repeated over and over again for each grammar feature and word• Habit formation would result in variation • What each child hears is unique so what she learns should be unique. • However, we observe sequences and stages 5
    6. 6. Evaluation of behaviorism 2• Habit formation requires uniform language to be successful • Language is not uniform; it is variable• Children only imitate what they hear • Children, however, produce unique words and sentences 6
    7. 7. Evaluation of behaviorism 3• Behaviorism doesn’t answer our four questions• Thus, behaviorism doesn’t seem to be a good explanation of how children learn languages 7
    8. 8. Universal Grammar• Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is an internal innate ability to process languages• LAD is like a computer• There is no LAD in the brain; it’s an idea to explain the theory 8
    9. 9. Universal Grammar• UG is a set of principles that are common to all languages • Not a set of grammar rules • For example, UG tells us that all languages use word order and hearing the language tells children which word order to use• UG is like software for a computer 9
    10. 10. Evaluation of Universal Grammar 1• UG makes it simple for children to discover rules • Thus, language learning doesn’t take a lot of time• UG is an innate set of principles • Because UG is the same for everyone, sequences and stages are likely 10
    11. 11. Evaluation of Universal Grammar 2• UG operates like a computer program and tells children what is possible and not possible • Children can still construct rules even though language is variable• UG helps children create rules • Rules allow children to be creative and make words they’ve never heard before 11
    12. 12. Evaluation of Universal Grammar 3• UG is a powerful explanation of how children learn grammar• UG doesn’t explain how children learn words or how to use language socially 12
    13. 13. Cognitive Development• The way the we see and understand the world develops in stages. 13
    14. 14. Cognitive Development &Language learning• Children learn language by making connections between what they hear and objects, events and situations• Children put the connections that they make in categories and make generalizations 14
    15. 15. Cognitive Theory• Language learning is part of a child’s cognitive development• Language ability and cognitive development are not separate• How much language children can understand depends on their cognitive development. 15
    16. 16. Evaluation of the Cognitive Theory 1• Cognitive abilities develop quickly, and so do language abilities• Cognitive abilities develop in stages, and so do language abilities• Making categories and generalizations lets children overcome variability• Making generalizations leads to new language 16
    17. 17. Evaluation of the Cognitive Theory 2• The cognitive theory is a good explanation of how children learn vocabulary• The cognitive theory is less satisfactory in explaining how children learn grammar • Grammatical features with several meanings • I’m writing now. • I’m living in Paris, but I usually live in London. • I’m playing tennis tomorrow. 17
    18. 18. Functional Theory 1• Learning occurs by listening to people and speaking with people 18
    19. 19. Functional Theory 2• Listening is a chance to understand what is heard• Speaking is a chance to • Send a message • Check one’s understanding • Learn how to express messages grammatically 19
    20. 20. Evaluation of the Functional Theory 1• Not all parents talk a lot; some more than others • All children learn to speak in about the same time• Conversations with children are all unique • Because they are unique, it is difficult to explain sequences and stages 20
    21. 21. Evaluation of the Functional Theory 2• Language is variable • Checks for comprehension by both parents and children help make rules clear• The functional theory provides no explanation for why children produce words they’ve never heard 21
    22. 22. Conclusion 1• Language is complicated• Difficult for one theory to explain how we learn all aspects of language• Each of the theories explains some aspects of language 22
    23. 23. Conclusion 2• Behaviorism – sociolinguistic knowledge • Many aspects of being polite are learned habits. • When to say please and thank you.• Universal Grammar – grammatical knowledge • An innate computer program perhaps best explains how we master grammar 23
    24. 24. Conclusion 3• Cognitive – Vocabulary • When we look at the world, we tend to categorize and generalize about what we see and this is the same thing that we do with new words.• Functional – How to talk • Babies talking with their parents learn conversation rules. • They learn to talk by talking 24