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-The presence of mirror neurons in humans may explain why we enjoy watching others slide across the ice, run the football down the field, or or water or snow ski or even why we spend several hours each week watching other people
-the human brain also has a dynamic ability to change constantly as individuals learn, an ability also known as plasticity. This ability is called the self organizing neural network.
-an additional research finding regarding the brain's neural response to language input is known as the age of acquisition. words that are learned early show faster retrieval during naming and reading tasks than words learned later.
-as new learning occurs, the neural network needs its plasticity
-the self organizing neural network has been used in discussion about language learning as an interconnected system where learning in one language domain, such as the sound system , cannot help but affect other language domains
A review: the major theories of language acquisition
-based on both observation and measurement , they then draw conclusions about the relationships between the environment and the regularities in children's language.
-they contend that language is learned according to the same principles used in training animals and that , like trained animal behaviors , language behaviors are learned by imitation , reinforcement and successive approximations toward adult language behaviors
-one of the more controversial aspects of the behaviorist view is that children are passive during the process of learning language.
-they are active in the sense that they imitate language forms, but they do not initiate these behaviors on their own and the shape of their emerging language is determined not by self discovery or creative experimentation but by the selective reinforcements received from their speech and language models.
-the most current view of language learning is a combined approach in which biology and participation in the native linguitic environment work in tandem for language growth.
-this gradual growth in language occurs through meaningful interactions between the developing child and those who communicate with her in everyday interactions
-Cross linguistic studies comparing one or more aspects of language provide us with very rich information on the which language learning is influenced by the particular input received from those in communication with the learner.
-studies show that early on, english children use primarily content words words to produce telegraphic speech in which words are initially uninflected and they learn this inflection by 5 or 6 years
-three routes to the acquisition of grammatical morphology that occur in relation to the native language (1) productive use of inflection from the beginning (2) rigidly ordered telegrams without grammatical morphology and (3) uninflected word combinations that occur in a range of different orders. they further explain that the the variations in the acquisition of morphology are directly releated to the salience.
-For children learning english, as grammatical complexity increased so did vocabulary. after they learned the first 400 words, grammatical accelerated. for children learning italian, vocabulary and grammatical learning occured consistently
Speech and language as operant behaviors
if a target behavior's frequency of occurrence decreases as a consequence of the response that follows it, punishment.
-during the learning period, a parent may, consciously or not give the child a certain look as he is receiving a gift . we call this discriminating stimulus.
-there are other preceding events. the delta stimulus is a signal indicating that reinforcement will not follow a particular response and an aversive stimulus warns that there will be an unpleasant consequence for a particular behavior
-Sometimes the behavior we want must be shaped in small steps that gradually approximate the target behavior.
-many behaviors including speech behaviors occur in sequences. these sequences are learned through a procedure known as chaining.
Review and Reflection on the behaviorists perspective
- the child is viewed as an empty to be filled by the experiences provided by the important people in his life.
-The children produce sentences they have never heard before. this may mean that they produce sentences that are more creative and elaborate than their models but it also means that they produce utterances that are simply not produced by adults because such utterances are infantile .
-it's also noted that because parents are more likely to comes children for the content of their utterances than for the grammatical accuracy of their sentences, syntactic development cannot be explained solely on the basis of selective parental reinforcement
Tracing the evolution of language acquisition theories
Behaviorist- language is learned by selective reinforcement
nativist- language is processed by universal and innate rules governing deep and surface structure
interactionist/case grammar-a level beneath deep structure includes universal semantic concepts that determine relationships between noun and verbs
-interactionist/cognitive-language and thought develop as parallel processes
interactionist/information processing- function, not abstract grammar generates language strucutre
interactionist/social- language develops through social interaction and construction
interactionist/speech act- language develops through its use in interactions
Nativist Intepretaton: The role of biology the extreme view of natures contribution to language development
-expresses one of the basic assumptions of nativism in this declaration
-these theorist point that unless there are severe physical or mental limitations, human beings will acquire language and that the innate drive to acquire language is so powerful that many humans talk in spite of what may seem to be insurmountable limitations
-another basic assumption of the nativist perspective is that because language is acquired so quickly and so early in the child's life, learning alone cannot adequately account for acquisition .
-if language is learned , the nativist argues we would expect the teacher to provide models that allow children to develop progressively more sophisticated hypothesis about the rules and forms they are learning and we would certainly expect the teacher to indicate clearly when a child's productions are right or wrong
-one of the most compelling arguments for the nativist perspective is the language is essentially the same experience for all human beings no matter what language they speak , where they live or how they interact with their language models.
-some languages such as english stress word order in conveying meaning through grammaticaly sentences. italian on the other hand allows more freedom in word order because the inflections on verbs carry much of the information for meaning.
-all languages have rules to indicate changes in tense and plurality and draw sets of speech sounds from a common pool of sound and list goes. these commonalities or linguistic universals are evidence, say the nativists that language is an ability human possess not by virtue of specific learning or teaching but by the virtue of their humanness
-all of these assumptions led to the creation of a concept that underlines the nativists undeestanding of language development: the language acquisition device or LAD. the LAD is an innate language reservoir filled iwth information about rules of language structure
-once the speaker knows that these rules are she can create an inlimite number of grammatical sentences, including the possibility of sentences that have never been produced by any other human, language acquisition therefore is a matter of discovering and applying the rules of regularities of ones native language
Transformational generative grammar
chomsky devised transformational generative grammar to account for the production of an unlimited number of grammatically acceptable sentences
-phrase structure rules describe the underlying relationships of words and phrases
-the transformation used to change the first sentence into the second is called the passive transformation/
Semantic Cognitive View
- those who take the semantic view argue that for a language to be truly generative it must generate meaning as well as structure and that meaning in language is expressed not only in words but also through the syntactic relationships among words
Case grammar theory
fillmore's case grammar is designed to explain the importance and influence of semantics on the form of language.
-chomsky and fillmore share an important viewpoint relative to language production. each believes that language production is a generate process and that any theory of language acquisition must account for how language is generated.
-fillmore devised a theory to account for the generation of semantic relationships which underlie and provide a foundation for structure
-she discovered that syntactic analysis provided valuable information about the early utterances of children but she also concluded that it did not provide adequate information about the meaning system underlying language produciton
Piaget's cognitive theory
- this stage of cognitive development extends from birth through 2 years the period of time that not coincidentally is critical for early speech and language development.
-it should be noted that all theorists accept that a relationship exists between cognitive development and language development. what separates cognitive theorists from other is their belief that language does not hold an absolutely unique position in overall development
-languages emerges in the cognitive view, not becuase children are specifically genetically predispose to produce language and not because language is shaped by learning principles. languages emergens as a product of cognitive organization and development.
-they emerge; when there is an unbalance between the child's exisiting cognitive structures and new information he is receiving from his environment .
-but not matter where a person is cognitive development , he adds new information to existing cognitive categories or if the new information does not fit he extends , combines or creates new categories
-there are certainly seems to be a relationship for exampler, between the child's understanding that words represent people, places, things and ideas and the cognitive behavior known as symbolic play.
-imitation is an important behavior in overall cognitive development and imitation is clearly an important behavior in speech and language acquisition
Social Interactionist View
-this is what usually happens in nature versus nurture arguments so the emergence of a compromise view was probably inevitable although it has emerged later than some might have expected. this middle ground view is known as social interactionism.
-other place more emphasis on the contributions of the environment but all agree that the interaction of biological abilities with envrionmental influences accounts for languages acquistion and they note the importance of children's intteraction with their parents or other caregiver.
-for example, these theories assume that language acquisition is a product of children's early social interactions with the important people in their life .
-proponents of this viewpoint believe that children communicate and interact socially whit other people before they are able to produce language forms . they believe that language develop before they are able to produce language forms. they believe that language develops as a natural consequence of these interactions. that is children's attempts to communicate and socialize prompt their parents and other caregivers to provide the language appropriate for these exhanges.
-she suggests that a 9 month old child requests a cookie by reaching for it and vocalizing with an utterance suc has "uh uh uh" while making eye contact with her mother.
-the child is able to make a request from the beggining before she has any language and she certainly is able to interact with other people before she can speak. as she acquires language however her communicative and interactive abilities improve and she is able to make her request known in more socially appropriate more adult like ways.
-james example illustrates another emphasis in the interactionist perspective. unlike the nativists , who stress structure independent of communicative function or intent, interactionists focus on language use known as pragmatics .
-the recognition of the child's intent and associated communicative attempt prompts the caregiver not only to meet the intent but to provide an appropriate language model to support the intent.
-over time even though a given intent remains constant, the child acquires more sophisticated language forms by which he can make the intent more immediately and clearly known to his caregivers .
-behaviorists however ,view children as passive recipients of language shaped by selective reinforcement.
-in comparison to the nativists. the interactionists concede the children come to the langue acquisition process with in thecognitive and linguistic abilities.
-children's interactions socially and communicatively with the important people in their environments are the most important factors in the acquisition of language.
-in fact, like the nativists they try to discover common forms of structure in a variety of languages and cultures. they believe however that these forms are fairly simple imitations of models to which children are exposed in social interactions .
-this style of speech has been given several names but perhaps the most popular and descriptive is motherese.
-this style of speech has been given several names, but perhaps the most popular and descriptive is motherese.
-the sue of short, simple sentences seems to provide the child with models he can reasonably expect to imitate.
-one facet of motherese that seems to be related to language acquisition is the use of technique known as expansion. expansion occurs when the adult repeats what a child has said but adds additional words and/or structure.
-remember that the interactionists view emphasizes the importance of the interaction between the child and her caregivers.
-in this way, the verbal and nonverbal interactions allows the adult to simplify and reformulate language forms in ways that certainly facilitate improved communication and may facilitate language development
Information processing theory/competition model
-to appreciate the information processing theory, one must first understand how it relates to other theoretical perspective and how these other perspective relate to one another
-the cognitivist view stresses logical structure. into this context, we bring the information processing theory. this theory shares with the behaviorist perspective a greater emphasis on how language is learned than on the abstract rule system that presumably underlines language.
-the basic assertion of this theoretical view is that function not abstract grammar ,generates language structure. this view suggests that a human being processes information in much the same way a computer does. human being has an information processing system hat gathers information from the environment and puts that information into a symbolic codes
-language acquisition occurs when a child experiences and gathers language evidence in the productions of her speech and language models and uses that evidence to make fundamental changes within their personal information processing system
-according to this view , children are not born with a internally wired systems for language. rather they are born with a potential for all kinds of connections between symbols and the things and ideas symbols can represent .
-children internalize language and the connections between langauge symbols and the things and ideas they represent because there is a constant inpouring of language evidence .
-the information processing theory suggests that the processing patterns responsible for the acquisition of language are parallel rather than serial.
-if for example a child's earlist language evidence is filled with examples of structures that make requests ,language structures that fill the requesting will emerge early .
-they suggests as already mentioned that the child processing known as parallel distributed processing (PDP)
-a basic premise of this model is that children are not born with an innate understanding of language but with a powerfull PDP device that has the capacity to process many different forms of information . inclining language information .
-this situation changes. however as children's experiences with language increase and become more differentiated.words, phonological patterns and laguage forms that are experienced repeatedly activate and strengthen connections in the PDP device.
-as the name of the model(PDP) suggests , the patterns or conenctions that are most consistente with the language evidence the child is gathering win the competition. they are trained within the child's communication system.
-patterns that do not match the evidence lose the competition and are discarded .
-bates, bretherton and synder suggests that children are innately predisposed to acquire language as they are innately predisposed to acquire to acquire other behavior . in this sense they believe that there is a biological or inante basis for language acquisition
Speech act theory: a focus on pragmatics
-pragmatics the study of the functions served by communication
-the locutionary act is the most obvious part of the utterance because it is the part hat strikes our ears. it is the expressions of the word. if you say to a friend "you lost some weight" , the locutionary act is limited to the utterance itself. it is the sentence the speaker speaks and the hearer hears.
-the illocutionary act is concerned with the motive or purpose underlying an utterance.
-the perlocutionary acts the listener into account. it is concerned wit the effect the locutionary act might have on the listener , an effect that may or may not be consistent with the speaker's communicative intention.
Wernicke's Area: Posterior Temporal & Parietal
regions,, Left side (some exceptions)
W. Aphasia aka: "Receptive Aphasia" or "Fluent
• Language Comprehension
• Responsible for understanding spoken
• Assigns meaning
• Most likely other areas involved with
Broca's Area: Frontal Lobe, Left side (some exceptions)
B. Aphasia "expressive aphasia"
Responsible formulating Expressive Speech
Connected by Arcuate Fasciculus
May be a 'reflection' area
*Aphasia: Impairment of language, generally speaking
Recent research includes: frontal, parietal, temporal lobes; basal
ganglia, thalamus and cerebellum.
Nativist: Elements of the theory
Humans are born with Specific capacity for language
•Learn language with little help from environment
•Learning through teaching cannot fully explain language acquisition:
therefore must be innate element
•Language unique to humans
•Language is learned despite specific teachings and corrections by
•Language development occurs similarly across dialects &
Nativist: Elements, cont'd
Transformative Generative Grammar
Theory defined by similarities in children learning language
• Phrase/Language structure, 'deep'
• Where language is formulated in the brain
• Thoughts into words
• True meaning of the idea or thought
• How this thought is evidenced through expressive language
• Formulation of the phrase or sentence (RULES of grammar)
• Ability to move words around and maintain the meaning
• Surface Structure
• Actual expression of the thought
Language is Innate 'built-in'
Born with 'Language Acquisition
Language structure different from how
Language acquisition: Using these innate
'rules' for their particular language
Children learn language so quickly and
early in life.
Children still need to be exposed to
Brain plasticity: brain automatically
recognizes and categorizes patterns
'Universals':similar pattern of
development across languages
Genetic influences: transmission of
Learning through teaching cannot
fully explain language acquisition:
children learn language so quickly and
early in life.
Behaviorist: Elements of the theory
•Theory defined by differences in children learning language
•Language shaped by positive and negative/aversive reinforcement: Operant
• Reinforced behavior will continue (ie: reinforced)
• Non-reinforced behavior will fade out (ie: punished)
•Chaining: learning language behaviors built on the preceding event/ preceding
•Language is action -based, not cognitively innate
•Conditioning: similar to ide of positive reinforcement as child learns response to
Language NOT unique to humans
Language is an action , not a possession
Language learned through imitation ,
reinforcement, and progressive
approximations toward the adult model
Learned through environment, and
responding to input
Language can be shaped, change over
• Pattern for language development, but
wide variability in when and how
children learn language
• Cross-linguistic studies: order in which
language aspects are learned depends
on specific language, rather than
• Linguistic variation in different cultures
• Therapeutic evidence in ST
• Language learned via innate ability
• Language learning is multi-factorial
• Children able to learn what
elements are most important or
• Simultaneous Development of
other cognitive skills
• Language learned across time via
• Variety of language impairments
• Language acquisition varies across
Interactionist: Elements of the theory
•Theory defined by variety of learning factors
•Language is a cause & effect event across dialects and languages
•Children learn the language they are exposed to, both verbal and non
• Nuances (inflection, tone) learned at different rates across various
languages, while language fundamentals are similar (parts of speech, causeeffect)
• Learn what is most central or relevant to their language (form, intonation,
• Meaning vs. Structure of language
• Context of the language event
• Children speak in 'meaning' as opposed to 'order of the words' (semantics vs.
Interactionist: Elements of the theory
•Cognitive aspects of language innate
•Language is a part of overall development
•Language is learned due to development of cognitive processes
•Experiences (context, language models, environment) shape how language
•The true Middle between N vs N
•Language emerges and takes shape as an effect of environment & interactions
•Focus on pragmatics /use of language, and the function of language
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