Language Theory: B.F. Skinner and Behavioral Theory

How did Skinner view language?
-learned verbal behavior
-acquired through operant conditioning
-influenced by environment
operant conditioning + example
-behavioral training as a result of reinforcement and punishment
-ex: provide stimulus/modeling (word), baby repeats; parent reinforces with "good jobs"
what does modeling do for child?
establish child's repertoire of sounds
operant + example
-any BEHAVIOR whose frequency can be affected by the responses that follow it
-Ex: boyfriend bringing rose is operant; affected by girlfriend's pleased reaction)
-behavior that displays goodness/badness of behavior that DETERMINES FREQUENCY OF BEHAVIOR
-Ex: girl pleased by rose
punishment + example
-behavior that leads to decrease in frequency
-Ex: girl didn't want rose
Speech sounds that are ignored or negatively reinforced are produced less frequently and eventually disappear
example of operant conditioning in child language acquisition
1) Mom provides operant: stimulus "say cat" (stimulus usually reinforced with object)
2) baby imitates; those resembling "cat" receive selective reinforcement
3) incorrect utterances won't be enforced, leading to extinction
discriminative stimulus + example
-a reinforcing stimulus in the presence of the word (referent)
-Ex: keys (stimulus) + sound of keys jingle; alliteration of d and m in mama, dada)
What does Skinner's Theory suggest?
Repetition is necessary
There are how many Verbal Behaviors that fulfill language functions?
echoic + example
-imitation of a word in the presence of a nonverbal stimulus to which the word refers
-Ex: say dog when you see dog)
mand + example
-used to request, command, or make a demand, and it identifies its own reinforcer
-Ex: me want drink (drink is the reinforcer)
intraverbal + example
-small talk; no direct connection to the utterance that precipitated it
Ex: Mom: you want cookie? kid: shoe!
tact + example
-response to nonverbal stimulus
-name or label something
Ex: mom: what's that? kid: ball
autoclitic + example
-responses that are influenced by, or influence, the behavior of the speaker
-Mom: you want water?
Child: water! (and takes it)
How are more complex responses are learned?
successive approximation of model of standard behaviors
how are longer sentences learned?
through imitation and chaining
how does grammar develop?
through the learning of chains of structured phrases and sentence frames
how do kids fill syntactic and semantic slots in phrases and sentences?
by substituting words or phrases that fulfill the same requirements
Limitations of Behavior Theory
-S + R=oversimplification of language learning
-doesn't take into account biological aspects
-imitation is not frequent with some children
-only small amount of speech reinforced by parents
-adult to adult speech is not adequate model
-generative aspect not explained
-made us look at important of environment, parents, imitation
-great contribution for intervention strategies
-influenced sociolinguistic theories