NATURE OR NURTURE? First language acquisition theories Behaviourism Watson, Pavlov and Skinner Tabula rasa Focus on observable
behaviour role of the environment Imitation and practice Pavlov and classical conditioning Developing unconditioned responses through stimulusresponse-reinforcement
Skinner: operant conditioning We are goverened by the consequences of our actions Behaviouristic pedagogy Objections
1. "What children say" Jean Berko (1958): wug-wugs, gling-glinged-glang wented, taked, mices, mouses, sheeps ett, kenyrt, lt, tgem > Analogous thinking 2. "What children don't say"
McNeill (1966): CHILD: Nobody don't like me. MUM: No, say "nobody likes me". CHILD: Nobody don't like me. (eight repetitions of this dialogue) MUM: No, now listen carefully, say "nobody likes me". CHILD: Oh! Nobody don't likes me. > Inability to imitate Nativism/Innatism
Chomsky: genetic pre-programming Based on 1. the Argument from the Poverty of the Stimulus 2. evidence of rule governed language generation LAD, language universals Example: SVO components in sentences - 75% of the world's languages:
SVO (English, French, Vietnamese) or SOV (Japanese, Tibetan, Korean) - 10 - 15% VSO ( Welsh) or VOS (Malagasy) - 10-15% free word order (Latin, Hungarian), but SOV common: Mrta tortt evett. Setting the parameters matching UG to particular language Criticism of Chomsky 1. Competence performance - Performance igored
- Competence judged on the basis of intuitions? 2. Core grammar peripheral grammar - focus on core grammar(?) only ?We was there. I aint no fool. 3. Syntax vs. semantics - Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. - My mother, he no like bananas. 4. Ignoring meaning, function, context - situation for child FLA Functionalism
Focus on imput: Interaction vs. exposure Bruners Language Acquisition Support System (LASS) - parents communicate in ritualistic scenarios - easily comprehensible and predictable language - emotionally charged
situations - repetition of acts and language Motherese, parentese (interaction, initiation, response) 1. Simplified in grammar and meaning 2. Shorter sentences - about 4-8 words/ sentence, when speaking to 2-year olds 3. More restricted range of sentence patterns 4. Expansion and repetition of sentences
5. Slower speech 6. Use of special words and sounds 7. High pitch 8. High, rising intonation - looking for feedback. 9. Embedded in the here and now. Findings from motherese Not so partial and ungrammatical as suggested by Chomsky a large number of WH forms
However No close correlation between motherese and child speech Not all social groups adapt speech to young children Children do not simply repeat the language they
hear from their caretakers. They also produce utterances that they have never heard. Eszel tgem? Mummy sock. Motherese:
focus on meaning, not on grammar Child : Mamma isn't boy, he a girl. Mother : That's right. Child : And Walt Disney comes on Tuesday. Mother : No he does not. Childrens grammar.
mistakes not random errors - own INTERLANGUAGE Negation sequence of Englishspeaking children 1. No and Not appear as single word sentences. 2. Two-word (pivot) sentences: No car, Not gone 3. Negative words used within constructions: You no do that, Mummy 4. Negative auxiliaries appear: Won't, can't 5. Not replaces no. Double negatives 6. Any, hardly, scarcely during early years of
school. Connectionism Focus on neuro-programming: neurons, synapses, wiring, circuits Where does language reside in the brain? Is there a LAD? Answer from neurology
- Lateralisation - Left hemisphere: language and logical functions Aphasia studies Paul Broca 1861: Tan Brocas aphasia: inability to form correct sentences, patient is aware of difficulty Brocas area: responsible for grammatical
structuring Carl Wernicke, 1874: Wernickes area Wernickes aphasia: grammatical correctness, semantically meaningless utterances, unaware of problem Relation between Brocas and Wernickes areas
Phases of development Before birth: neurons, wiring for life functions 0/1: "biological exhuberance neurons connect in response
to environmental impulses Language: - vocal map of L1 is formed 1/10: flexible synapses, easily formed Language: - sensorimotor connections flexible (no accent!) - vocab.learnt through repeated
exposure and interaction After 10: "pruning" Language: fixed synapses GENETICALLY PROVIDED BRAIN POTENTIAL RICH ENVIRONMENT RICH BRAIN "Experts now agree that a baby does not come into the world as a genetically preprogrammed automaton or a blank
slate at the mercy of the environment ... Learning happens by the interaction of the genes and the environment. (S. Begley) Critical period in FLA: - no hope after CP Critical period in SLL/SLA: - weak version: difficult - strong version: impossible
Alternative considerations and counterevidence Left/Right cooperation in SLL strategies of acquisition guessing meaning
formulaic utterances Hill (1970), Sorenson (1967): multilingual tribes, no accent Areas of change Neurological Pruning
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