How children learn language

    -By the age of 4 we have the basic vocab., syntax & pronunciaion of our language. Language learning must be separated into 2 psychological processes : speech production & speech understanding. -Speech production : -Vocalization: at 1st babies cry, blow, gurgle, make undescribeable noises. This gets them practice articulation, control of breathing w/ the making of sounds. The next stage is “babbling” a type of vocalization where the child uses speech sounds (vowels & consonant-vowel syllables) eg. papa, mama, gigi… Also, the babies 1st acquire intonation patterns, even b4 producing any words. -The 1-word utterance : There’s no precise determination of when children start to say the 1st words (may start as early as 4 months, up to 18 months), because there’re great individual differences. However around 3 ys of age the differences disappear. Also its not easy to determine whether a word has been learned or not. There has to be a meaningful use of sounds. -The uses of a single word : eg. the same word “banana” can be used to name an object, or for request. Or to emphasize actions like “bye-bye” accompanied by a wave of the hand when leave taking. Single words can be used to express complex situations (peach, Daddy, spoon -> dad put a piece of peach onto the spoon). -2 & 3 word utterances : At around 18 months children start to produce them. Tend to express ideas of quantity, possession, negation, attribute. (eg. “More milk”). The purposes may be: request, warning, answer, question refusal, inform, or even bragging. At this stage the child understands much more than (s)he can produce. The utterances mainly consist of Ns, Vs, adjectives (the content classes), lacking function words such as articles, prepositions, auxiliaries & modals. Also, there’s a lack of inflections (plurals, verb endings, tense markings etc.). ->telegraphic stage -Function words & inflections : now the child has something on which to elaborate, acquisition of these “grammatical morphemes” -> a theory of order of acquisition by Roger Brown : present progressive; prepositions in, on; plural; past irregular; possessive; articles; past regular; 3rd person regular / irregular; aux. “be” (regular); aux. “be” (contracted). -> on the basis of this theory some important questions arise : -1. Why might the plural & possessive learnt b4 the 3rd person ? -> its because of the actual physical situations & objects readily observed in the environment. 3rd person simply serves less vital communicational needs. -2. Why might be present learnt b4 past? -> a great deal of analysis is required to learn the past. The child must 1st acquire the morpheme struct. 4 the present. (At first he needs to have something in the immediate environment to relate others’ speech to. -3. Why might be past irregular learnt b4 past regular? -> The irregular sound changes are more noticable. Irregular verbs tend to be especially important in everyday life. -4. Why might be the regular aux. “be” learnt b4 the contracted version? ->the uncontracted version constitutes a complete syllable while the contracted forms dont. A syllable is easier to hear. So we can conclude the factors that determine the order of acqusition of language : meaningfulness, ease of observability, noticeability of sound change difference. -Developing complex sentences: w/ longer utterances children start to make negatives, questions, rel. clauses … eg. the acquisistion of negation has 3 main periods : #1: “No the sun shining” the neg. marker is placed at the front of an affirmative utterance (in English). Japanese children place it after the utterance according to their structure of language. ; #2: “He no bite you”, “We cant talk” the neg. marker tends to appear internally & contractions begin to appear. The neg. imperative is sstill poory formed (“No play that”) ; #3: The child still makes errors but has a good idea when “do” is not inserted (“I am not a doctor”) : when there’s a modal or when “be” is the verb. -Speech understanding : Chlild will only discover the meaning of speech sounds if some relevant environmental experience or clue is provided at the same time so that (s)he can relate to it. Even abstract words are learnt in such way. The child must 1st learn to understand speec b4 (s)he is able to produce it meaningfully. So comprehension develops in advance of speech production (empirical evidences show that small children are able to respond to comands well beyond their speech level). Its also observed tthat some children completely skip over some stages of development (eg Einstein was slow to start to speak but when he started he spoke sentences.). -Learnng abstract words : the child must observe speech along w/ situations in which abstract words are involved. Eg. “hunger” -> Are you hungry? Do u want a banana? (offering the child a banana). (on the same analogy w/ “pain”). -Memory : memory is a cruicially important psychological factor in language acquisition. A child must remember a multitude of words, phrases … along w/ the contexts in which they occured. -Parentese & baby talk -Parentese (motherese) is the speech that children receive when they’re young. -> usually about whats happening in the immediate environment, w/ a simple vocab. & structure (though regular!). Also : more pauses inserted than normal, & the more words are given stress & emphasis. ->highlight child’s attention to important constituents. This all serves to make the acquisition of the learer easier. -Baby Talk: this involves overly simplified & reduced vocab. & syntax. Parents believe it serves to foster communication. It has modifications in vocab. : eg. pee-pee (urine). Also it can be a construction principle w/ these words that they represent the sounds which various things make (bow-wow - dog). Another characteristic is the adding of an “iy” sound to words’ endings (birdy, kitty). This provides a vowel 4 the competion of the consonant+vowel syllable. Besides it has a diminutive & affectionate tone. ; Syntax’s role is not prominent, parents occassionally use baby talk syntax (telegraphic) eg. “Mommy give Tony banana”. -Imitation & correction : -The role of imitation : children imitate intonation patterns & sounds of their language & tend to approximate the proper order of words in a sentence. However imitation cannot account for the acquisition of rules, grammatical morphemes. -> English children commonly make mistakes like : mouses, goed, comed … ->that cant be imitation but can only mean that children formulate rules in their minds & construct words on their basis. -> rules cannot be imitated , they’re abstract constructions of the mind. -The role of correction : its is NOT an important factor in the process of language acquisition. Anyway usually parents are more concerned in the truth valuse or the cleverness of what the child said. Children naturally their own mistakes over time w/out the intervention of others.