First language acquisition


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First language acquisition

  1. 1. First Language Acquisition INTRODUCTION
  2. 2. What’s Lg. Acquisition? <ul><li>The process of attaining a specific variant of human language. </li></ul><ul><li>The process of learning a native or a second language. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Considerations <ul><li>How do we learn our native language? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the stages this process follows? </li></ul><ul><li>How do failures in this process occur? </li></ul><ul><li>Language is innate – only surface details need be learned? </li></ul><ul><li>Human brain pre-programmed for language? </li></ul><ul><li>Language a result of general cognitive abilities of the brain? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Considerations <ul><li>What input do children need to learn a language ? </li></ul><ul><li>Do parents teach children how to speak? </li></ul><ul><li>Do children learn to talk by imitating what they hear? </li></ul><ul><li>How do people talk to babies and young children? </li></ul><ul><li>What does a baby hear? </li></ul><ul><li>An infant’s earliest sounds similar in different languages? ... ETC </li></ul>
  5. 5. Observations <ul><li>“ we all recognize the first word as a major milestone in the child's development — a clear token of the child's entrance into a fuller membership in human society. </li></ul><ul><li>the ability to acquire language is present in almost every human child (Lenneberg 1967). </li></ul><ul><li>Children who are born blind have few problems learning to speak, although they may occasionally be confused about words for colors or geographic locations. </li></ul><ul><li>Children who are born deaf readily acquire a rich system of signs, as long as they are exposed to native sign language speakers.” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Observations <ul><li>“ Children with neurological disorders, such as brain lesions or hydrocephalus, often acquire complete control over spoken language, despite a few months of early delay. </li></ul><ul><li>Children with the most extreme forms of mental retardation are still able to acquire the basic units of human communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Given the pervasiveness and inevitability of first language acquisition, we often tend to take the process of language learning for granted. </li></ul><ul><li>But language is the most complex skill that a human being can master.” </li></ul>Aronoff, Mark And Janie Rees-Miller (Eds). The Handbook of Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing, 2002. Blackwell Reference Online. 30 November 2007 <>
  7. 7. Perspectives: <ul><li>To understand this remarkable achievement (L.A.) , we could adopt a variety of perspectives. </li></ul><ul><li>The study of child language development has been conducted chiefly from the perspectives of professional psychologists and linguists, </li></ul>
  8. 8. Perspectives: <ul><li>Linguists tend to think of language as having a universal core from which individual languages select out a particular configuration of features, parameters, and settings. </li></ul><ul><li>From this perspective, child language is an interesting slice of the universal pie. The shape of this slice is presumably limited </li></ul>
  9. 9. Perspectives: <ul><li>Psychologists view language learning from a very different perspective. To the psychologist, language acquisition is a window on the operation of the human mind. </li></ul><ul><li>This window allows us to view the structure and functioning of neural circuits in the brain. It also allows us to understand how these circuits support processes such as reinforcement, generalization, imagination, and thinking. </li></ul><ul><li>Other perspectives a neuroscience, cognitive science, phonetics, phisics, among others. </li></ul>
  10. 10. First Stages: <ul><li>Sound production/babbling </li></ul><ul><li>Phonological acquisition </li></ul><ul><li>Morphological/Syntactical acquisition </li></ul><ul><li>Semantic development </li></ul>
  11. 11. Sound production: <ul><li>In the 1970s, researchers discovered that human infants were specifically adapted at birth to perceive contrasts such as that between /p/ and /b/, as in “pit” and “bit.” </li></ul><ul><li>However, subsequent research showed that even chinchillas are capable of making this distinction (Werker 1995). </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, it appears that much of the basic structure of the auditory world can be attributed to fundamental processes in the mammalian ear. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Sound production: <ul><li>Beyond this basic level of auditory processing, it appears that infants have a remarkable capacity to record and store sequences of auditory events. </li></ul><ul><li>if the six-month-old hears a sound pattern such as /badigudibaga-digudigagidu/ repeated many times, the parts that are repeated will stand out and affect later listening. In this example, the repeated string is /digudi/. </li></ul><ul><li>If the infant is trained on these strings, she will grow tired of this sound and will come to prefer to listen to new sound strings to those that have the old /digudi/ string (Saffran et al. 1996). (op.cit.) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Homework Investigate the periods and issues related to First Language Acquisition. Useful resources are: The Handbook of Linguistics, Chapter on First Language Acquisition The Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Idem.