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first Language Acquisition

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  1. 1st Language Acquisition How do humans acquire speech?

  2. Language acquisition • We are not born speaking! • Language must be acquired. • If we think of all that is entailed in knowing a language, it seems quite a challenge. What Does a Baby Hear?

  3. Language instinct? • Language is innate – only surface details need be learned? • Human brain pre-programmed for language? • Language a result of general cognitive abilities of the brain? • Neither tells us what specific language to learn or particular structures to memorize.

  4. Language Universals • What evidence is there for innate knowledge of certain basic language features present in all human languages? • LINGUISTIC UNIVERSALS > UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR • All languages have: • A grammar • Basic word order (in terms of SOV, etc.) • Nouns and verbs • Subjects and objects • Consonants and vowels • Absolute and implicational tendencies • E.g., If a language has VO order, then modifiers tend to follow the head)

  5. “Universal Grammar” • Humans then learn to specialize this “universal grammar” (UG) for the particulars of their language. • Word order, syntactic rule preferences • Phonetic and phonological constraints • Lexicon • Semantic interpretations • Pragmatic ways to converse

  6. Innateness of language? • Evidence for innateness of language? • The biologist Eric Lenneberg defined a list of characteristics that are typical of innate (pre-programmed) behaviors in animals.

  7. Innate behaviors . . . • Maturationally controlled, emerging before they are critically needed • Do not appear as the result of a conscious decision. • Do not appear due to a trigger from external events. • Are relatively unaffected by direct teaching and intensive practice. • Follow a regular sequence of “milestones” in their development. • Generally observe a critical period for their acquisition

  8. 1. Emerge before necessary, cannot be forced before scheduled • When is language necessary? • When do children usually begin speaking/using language coherently? • Is this criterion met?

  9. 2. Are not conscious • Does a child decide to consciously pursue certain skills? (e.g., walking) • Do babies make a conscious decision to start learning a language? • Is this criterion met?

  10. 3. Are not triggered • What would prompt a child to take up soccer? • What would prompt a child to begin speaking? • Is this criterion met?

  11. 4. Cannot be taught • We CAN teach prescriptive rules of language. But we’re not talking about that here. • We correct children’s errors sometimes. Does it help? • ‘Nobody don’t like me’ • In fact, “coaching” seems to hurt rather than help language ability in children. • Is this criterion met?

  12. 5. Follow milestones • In spite of different backgrounds, different locations, and different upbringings, most children follow the very same milestones in acquiring language. • Is this criterion met?

  13. 6. Observe a critical period What is a critical period? • For first language acquisition, there seems to be a critical period of the first five years, during which children must be exposed to rich input. There is also a period, from about 10-16 years, when acquisition is possible, but not native-like. • For SLA, the issue is more complicated… More on that later. • Is this criterion met?

  14. The Critical Period Hypothesis • CPH: Proposed by Lenneberg • This hypothesis states that there is only a small window of time for a first language to be natively acquired. • If a child is denied language input, she will not acquire language • Genie: a girl discovered at age 13 who had not acquired her L1 (-- Isabelle and Victor) • Normal hearing child born to deaf parents, heard language only on TV, did not acquire English L1

  15. More evidence for the Critical PeriodHypothesis • Second Language Acquisition: • Younger learners native fluency. • Older learners (>17) never quite make it. • ASL Acquisition: • Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) have an advantage over later-learners of ASL in signing • Aphasia: • Less chance of recovery of linguistic function after age 5. • Lateralization

  16. So how DO we learn our first language?

  17. L1 acquisition • Sound production/babbling • Phonological acquisition • Morphological/Syntactical acquisition • Semantic development

  18. Caretaker Speech • A register characterized by: • Simplified lexicon • Phonological reduction • Higher pitch • Stressed intonation • Simple sentences • High number of interrogatives (Mom) & imperatives (Dad) Caretaker Speech

  19. ASL Caretaker Speech • Some of the major features: • signing on the baby's body (when the location should be on the signer) • using the baby's hands to sign on the adult's or child's body • placing the child on the lap and facing away from the mother • signing on the object • signing using the object • signing bigger than normal • signing repeated more often then normal • sign lasts longer than normal • signing special “baby” signs rather than adult signs • BSL Caretaker Speech

  20. Acquisition of phonetics • Few weeks: cooing and gurgling, playing with sounds. Their abilities are constrained by physiological limitations. • 4 months: distinguish between [a] and [i], so their perception skills are good. • 4-6 months: children babble, putting together vowels and consonants. This is not a conscious process! Experiment with articulation • 7-10 months: starts repeated babbling. • 10-12 months, children produce a variety of speech sounds. (even ‘foreign’ sounds)

  21. Acquisition of phonology • Early stage: Unanalyzed syllables • 15-21 months: words as a sequence of phonemes. • Mastery of sounds differing in distinctive features (e.g., voicing) • Duplicated syllables: mama, dada - CV is main syllable structure. They reduce = banana [] 2 syllable words • Early mastery of intonation contours (even in non-tone languages) • Perception comes before production (‘fis’ or ‘fish’?) Phonological Processes

  22. Lexicon • Begin with simple lexical items for people/food/toys/animals/body functions • Lexical Achievement: • 1-2 years old 200-300 words (avg) • 3 years old 900 words • 4 years old 1500 words • 5 years old 2100 words • 6-7 years old 2500 words • High school grad 40,000 – 60,000 words! • “5,000 per year, 13 words a day” --Miller & Gildea

  23. But Don’t Animals Know Words, Too? • Yes, but…what about…? • Just (very) brilliant vs. just (only)a little dirty vs. a just (right)person • Blunt (dull)instrument vs. blunt (sharp)comment • I was literally (meaning figuratively) climbing the walls. • Clip (on) a pin vs clip (off)hair • Cleave (together) vs cleave (apart) • Dust (remove) or dust (sprinkle) • And what does inflammable mean?

  24. The acquisition of morphosyntax • At about 12 months, children begin producing words consistently. • One-word stage (holophrastic stage): • Name people, objects, etc. • An entire sentence is one word • Two-word stage: • Approximately 18-24 months • Use consistent set of word orders: N-V, A-N, V-N… • With structure determined by semantic relationships • agent+action (baby sleep) • possessor+possession (Mommy book) • Telegraphic stage (only content words)

  25. Word Inflections • Function word sequences:

  26. Copulas before Progressives We see another consistent pattern: • Copula:am, is, are, as in I am a doctor developed before progressive:am, is, are, as in I am singing. • Shortened copula: as in He’s a bear came before the shortened progressive:He’s walking.

  27. Negative Formations • Negatives • 1st stage - attach no/not to beginning of sentence (sometimes at end) • 2nd stage – negatives appear between subject and verb (don’t stayed at beginning in imperatives, but not can’t) • 3rd stage – appearance of nobody/nothing & anybody/anything & inconsistent use of “to be” verb is and auxiliary “dummy” do verb.

  28. Question Formations • 1st stage – wh- word placed in front of rest of sentence: Where daddy go? • 2nd stage – addition of an auxiliary verb: Where you will go? • 3rd stage – subject noun changes places with the auxiliary: Where will you go?

  29. Acquisition of Semantics • Concrete before abstract: • ‘in/on’ before ‘behind/in front’ • Overextensions: • Using ‘moon’ for anything round • Using ‘dog’ for any four-legged animals • Underextensions: • The word ‘bird’ may not include ‘pigeon’, etc

  30. Reviewing Linguistic Stages • 6-12 weeks: Cooing (googoo, gurgling, coocoo) • 6 months: Babbling (baba, mama, dada) • 8-9 months: Intonation patterns • 1-1.5 years: Holphrastic stage (one word) • 2 years: Two-word stage • 2.5 years: Telegraphic stage • 3,4 – 11 years: Fluent speech w/errors • 12 years+: Fluent speech

  31. What about Second Language Acquisition?L2

  32. Second Language Acquisition Differences from L1 acquisition Teaching Methods

  33. Terms/Associations • Native Language = L1 =1st Language, mother tongue, heart language • Second Language = L2 = Target Language or Learner Language • Second Language Acquisition (SLA) • Research investigates how people attain proficiency in a language which is not their mother tongue

  34. Differences between L1 and L2 • Interlanguage contrasts/similarities • Equal transfer • Same word order, words, vowels • 2 to 1, 1 to 2 (splits) • English his/her to Spanish su • 1 to 0, 0 to 1 (new items) • English must learn to add new determiners: El hombre es mortal, English learners of Spanish must learn to “forget” the English “do” as a tense carrier • Old 1 to New 1 (changes) • English must learn new distribution for French nasalized vowels.

  35. Mastering the L2 • Is there a critical period for L2? • For authentic accent perhaps (Scovel 1999) • Cognitive considerations? • Does formal/abstract thought help or hinder? • Conscious vs. automatic learning • Affective considerations? • Self-esteem, inhibition, risk-taking, anxiety, empathy, extroversion • Interference between L1 and L2? • Adult may be more vulnerable to interference from L1, but L1 can also be useful to adults • Second Culture Influence? • Culture shock, social distance, policy and politics

  36. Stages of L2 Aquisition • Stage 1 – Random errors/wild guesses • The different city is another one in the another two. Or John cans sing. • Stage 2 – Emergent • Learner cannot correct errors even when pointed out. • L: I go New York • NS: You will go to New York? When? • L: 1972. • NS: Oh, you went to New York in 1972. • L: Yes, I go 1972.

  37. Stages of L2 Acquisition • Stage 3 – Systematic • Learners can correct errors if pointed out: • L: Many fish are in the lake. These fish are serving in the restaurants near the lake. • NS: [laughing] The fish are serving? • L: [laughing] Oh, no, the fish are served in the restaurants! • Stage 4 – Stabilization • Learners can self-correct. • However, often they may not correct errors that aren’t brought to their attention and may manifest fossilization of their L2.

  38. L2 Teaching Methods • Grammar-translation • Mother tongue, vocabulary lists, grammar, classical texts, reading important • Direct (Berlitz) method • Active oral interaction, spontaneous use, no translation between L1 and L2, little grammar, good for smaller classes • Audio-lingual method • Dialogue form, mimicry, set phrases, drills, memorization, tapes, language labs, pronunciation important, little use of mother tongue, popular in military training, short-term effectiveness • Today’s approach? • Multiple approaches, customized, interactive

  39. Communicative Competence • What is it, and how do we know when we have it? • Pragmatic Competence: • Functions of language: • Discourse, sociolinguistic, cultural, contexts of use • Organizational Competence: • Grammatical: • Vocabulary, morphology, syntax, phonology, graphology • Textual: • Cohesion, rhetorical organization • What does it mean to befluent?