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Encyclopedia > Language acquisition

Language acquisition is the process by which the language capability develops in a human. First language acquisition concerns the development of language in children, while second language acquisition focuses on language development in adults as well. Historically, theorists are often divided between emphasising either nature or nurture (see Nature versus nurture) as the most important explanatory factor for acquisition. Image File history File links Question_book-3. ... “Native Language” redirects here. ... Second language acquisition is the process by which people learn languages in addition to their native language(s). ... Nature is innate behavior (behavior not learned or influenced by the environment), character or essence, especially of a human. ... Nurture is usually defined as the process of caring for and teaching a child as they grow. ... The nature versus nurture debates concern the relative importance of an individuals innate qualities (nature) versus personal experiences (nurture) in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits. ...


One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes capacities specific to language acquisition, often referred to as universal grammar. For fifty years, linguists Noam Chomsky and the late Eric Lenneberg argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning[1]. Universal grammar is a theory of linguistics postulating principles of grammar shared by all languages, thought to be innate to humans. ... Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author, and lecturer. ... Eric Heinz Lenneberg (1921 - 1975) was a linguist who pioneered ideas on language acquisition and cognitive psychology more generally about innateness. ...


Other researchers, including Elizabeth Bates, Catherine Snow, and Michael Tomasello, have hypothesized that language learning results only from general cognitive abilities and the interaction between learners and their surrounding communities. Recent work by William O'Grady proposes that complex syntactic phenomena result from an efficiency-driven, linear computational system. O'Grady describes his work as "nativism without Universal Grammar." One of the most important advances in the study of language acquisition was the creation of the CHILDES database by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow. Elizabeth Bates (1947 -- December 13, 2003) was professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego. ... Michael Tomasello (born 18 January 1950 in Bartow, Florida) is a cognitive psychologist and the co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. ... The Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) was established in 1984 to serve as a central repository for first language acquisition data. ... // Brian MacWhinney Brian James MacWhinney (born August 22, 1945) is Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. ...

Linguistics
Theoretical linguistics
Phonetics
Phonology
Morphology
Syntax
Lexis
Semantics
Lexical semantics
Statistical semantics
Structural semantics
Prototype semantics
Pragmatics
Applied linguistics
Language acquisition
Psycholinguistics
Sociolinguistics
Linguistic anthropology
Generative linguistics
Cognitive linguistics
Computational linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Historical linguistics
Comparative linguistics
Etymology
Stylistics
Prescription
Corpus linguistics
History of linguistics
List of linguists
Unsolved problems

Contents

For the journal, see Linguistics (journal). ... For the journal, see Theoretical Linguistics (journal). ... Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone meaning sound or voice) is the study of the sounds of human speech. ... Phonology (Greek phonē = voice/sound and logos = word/speech), is a subfield of linguistics which studies the sound system of a specific language (or languages). ... For other uses, see Morphology. ... For other uses, see Syntax (disambiguation). ... In linguistics, the lexis of a language is the entire store of its lexical items. ... Semantics (Ancient σημαντικός semantikos significant, from semainein to signify, mean, from sema sign, token), is the study of meaning in communication. ... Lexical semantics is a field in computer science and linguistics which deals mainly with word meaning. ... Statistical Semantics is the study of how the statistical patterns of human word usage can be used to figure out what people mean, at least to a level sufficient for information access (Furnas, 2006). ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... Prototype Theory is a model of graded categorization in Cognitive Science, where some members of a category are more central than others. ... Pragmatics is the study of the ability of natural language speakers to communicate more than that which is explicitly stated. ... Applied linguistics is the branch of linguistics concerned with using linguistic theory to address real-world problems. ... Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, and understand language. ... Sociolinguistics is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context on the way language is used. ... Linguistic anthropology is that branch of anthropology that brings linguistic methods to bear on anthropological problems, linking the analysis of semiotic and particularly linguistic forms and processes (on both small and large scales) to the interpretation of sociocultural processes (again on small and large scales). ... Generative linguistics is a school of thought within linguistics that makes use of the concept of a generative grammar. ... In linguistics and cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL) refers to the currently dominant school of linguistics that views the important essence of language as innately based in evolutionarily-developed and speciated faculties, and seeks explanations that advance or fit well into the current understandings of the human mind. ... Computational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the statistical and logical modeling of natural language from a computational perspective. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Historical linguistics (also diachronic linguistics or comparative linguistics) is primarily the study of the ways in which languages change over time. ... Comparative linguistics (originally comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages in order to establish their historical relatedness. ... Etymologies redirects here. ... Stylistics is the study of style used in literary, and verbal language and the effect the writer/speaker wishes to communicate to the reader/hearer. ... In linguistics, prescription can refer both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing how a language is to be used. ... Corpus linguistics is the study of language as expressed in samples (corpora) or real world text. ... Efforts to describe and explain the human language faculty have been undertaken throughout recorded history. ... A linguist in the academic sense is a person who studies linguistics. ... Unsolved problems in : Note: Use the unsolved tag: {{unsolved|F|X}}, where F is any field in the sciences: and X is a concise explanation with or without links. ...

Nativist theories

Nativist theories hold that children are born with an innate propensity for language acquisition, and that this ability makes the task of learning a first language easier than it would otherwise be. These "hidden assumptions" [2] allow children to quickly figure out what is and isn't possible in the grammar of their native language, and allow them to master that grammar by the age of three. [3] Nativists view language as a fundamental part of the human genome, as the trait that makes humans human, and its acquisition as a natural part of maturation, no different from dolphins learning to swim or songbirds learning to sing.


Chomsky originally theorized that children were born with a hard-wired language acquisition device (LAD) in their brains [1]. He later expanded this idea into that of Universal Grammar, a set of innate principles and adjustable parameters that are common to all human languages. According to Chomsky, the presence of Universal Grammar in the brains of children allow them to deduce the structure of their native languages from "mere exposure". The Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is a postulated organ of the brain that is supposed to function as a congenital device for learning symbolic language (ie. ... Universal grammar is a theory of linguistics postulating principles of grammar shared by all languages, thought to be innate to humans. ...


Much of the nativist position is based on the early age at which children show competency in their native grammars, as well as the ways in which they do (and do not) make errors. Infants are born able to distinguish between phonemes in minimal pairs, distinguishing between bah and pah, for example.[4] Young children (under the age of three) do not speak in fully formed sentences, instead saying things like 'want cookie' or 'my coat.' They do not, however, say things like 'want my' or 'I cookie,' statements that would break the syntactic structure of the Phrase, a component of universal grammar.[5] Children also seem remarkably immune from error correction by adults, which Nativists say would not be the case if children were learning from their parents.[6] A male Caucasian toddler child A child (plural: children) is a young human. ... Look up phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


The possible existence of a Critical Period for language acquisition is another Nativist argument. Critical periods are time frames during which environmental exposure is needed to stimulate an innate trait. Young chaffinches, for example, must hear the song of an adult chaffinch before reaching maturity, or else would never be able to sing. Nativists argue that if a Critical Period for language acquisition exists (see below), then language acquisition must be spurred on by the unfolding of the genome during maturation.[7] Linguist Eric Lenneberg stated in 1964 that the crucial period of language acquisition ends around the age of 12 years. He claimed that if no language is learned before then, it could never be learned in a normal and fully functional sense. This was called the "Critical period hypothesis." Detractors[attribution needed] of the "Critical Period Hypothesis" say that in this example and others like it (see Feral children), the child is hardly growing up in a nurturing environment, and that the lack of language acquisition in later life may be due to the results of a generally abusive environment rather than being specifically due to a lack of exposure to language. The "Critical Period" theory of brain plasticity and learning capacity has been called into question. Other factors may account for differences in adult and child language learning. Children’s apparently effortless and rapid language acquisition may be explained by the fact that the environment is set up to engage them in frequent and optimal learning opportunities. By contrast, adults seem to have an initial advantage in their learning of vocabulary and syntax, but may never achieve native-like pronunciation.[8] A more up-to-date view of the Critical Period Hypothesis is represented by the University of Maryland, College Park instructor Robert DeKeyser. DeKeyser argues that although it is true that there is a critical period, this does not mean that adults cannot learn a second language perfectly, at least on the syntactic level. DeKeyser talks about the role of language aptitude as opposed to the critical period.[citation needed] Introduction In general, a critical period is a limited time in which an event can occur, usually to result in some kind of transformation. ... Eric Heinz Lenneberg (1921 - 1975) was a linguist who pioneered ideas on language acquisition and cognitive psychology more generally about innateness. ... Introduction In general, a critical period is a limited time in which an event can occur, usually to result in some kind of transformation. ... Look up Hypothesis in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A feral child is a child who has lived isolated from human contact starting from a very young age. ... The University of Maryland, College Park (also known as UM, UMD, or UMCP) is a public university located in the city of College Park, in Prince Georges County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., in the United States. ... Language learning aptitude does not refer to whether or not an individual can or cannot learn a foreign language. ...


More support for the innateness of language comes from the deaf population of Nicaragua. Until approximately 1986, Nicaragua had neither education nor a formalized sign language for the deaf. As Nicaraguans attempted to rectify the situation, they discovered that children past a certain age had difficulty learning any language. Additionally, the adults observed that the younger children were using gestures unknown to them to communicate with each other. They invited Judy Kegl, an American linguist from MIT, to help unravel this mystery. Kegl discovered that these children had developed their own, distinct, Nicaraguan Sign Language with its own rules of "sign-phonology" and syntax. She also discovered some 300 adults who, despite being raised in otherwise healthy environments, had never acquired language, and turned out to be incapable of learning language in any meaningful sense. While it was possible to teach vocabulary, these individuals were unable to learn syntax.[9] Derek Bickerton's (1981) landmark work with Hawaiian pidgin speakers studied immigrant populations where first-generation parents spoke highly-ungrammatical "pidgin English". Their children, Bickerton found, grew up speaking a grammatically rich language -- neither English nor the syntax-less pidgin of their parents. Furthermore, the language exhibited many of the underlying grammatical features of many other natural languages. The language became "creolized", and is known as Hawaii Creole English. This was taken as powerful evidence for children's innate grammar module. Judy Shepard-Kegl recieved her PH.D. in linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985, has worked and written extensively within her field and is best known for her work and multiple academic publishings on the Nicaraguan Sign Language (or ISN, Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua or... “MIT” redirects here. ... Nicaraguan Sign Language (or ISN, Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua or Idioma de Signos Nicaragüense) is a signed language spontaneously developed by deaf children in a number of schools in western Nicaragua in the 1970s and 1980s. ... Phonology (Greek phonē = voice/sound and logos = word/speech), is a subfield of linguistics which studies the sound system of a specific language (or languages). ... For other uses, see Syntax (disambiguation). ... Derek Bickerton (born March 25, 1926) is a linguist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. ... This article is about simplified languages. ... A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable language that originates seemingly as a new language, sometimes with features that are not inherited from any apparent source, without however qualifying in any appreciable way as a mixed language. ... Hawai‘i Pidgin English, Hawai‘i Creole English, HCE, or simply Pidgin, is a creole language based in part on English widely used by residents of Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Pidgin English is considered an inaccurate label). ...


Debate within the nativist position now revolves around how language evolved. Derek Bickerton suggests a single mutation, a "big bung", linked together previously evolved traits into full language.[10] Others like Steven Pinker argue for a slower evolution over longer periods of time.[11] Derek Bickerton (born March 25, 1926) is a linguist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. ... Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent Canadian-born American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ...


Criticism and Non-Nativist Theories

Non-nativist theories include Relational Frame Theory, the competition model, functionalist linguistics, usage-based language acquisition, social interactionism and others. Social-interactionists, like Snow, theorize that adults play an importont part in children's language acquisition. However, some researchers claim that the empirical data on which theories of social interactionism are based have often been over-representative of middle class American and European parent-child interactions. Various anthropological studies of other human cultures, as well as anecdotal evidence from western families, suggests rather that many, if not the majority, of the world's children are not spoken to in a manner akin to traditional language lessons, but nevertheless grow up to be fully fluent language users. Many researchers now take this into account in their analyses. Relational frame theory, or RFT, is a psychological theory of human language and cognition, developed and tested largely through the efforts of Steven C. Hayes and Dermot Barnes-Holmes. ... Social interaction is a dynamic, changing sequence of social actions between individuals (or groups) who modify their actions and reactions due to the actions by their interaction partner(s). ...


Nevertheless, Snow's criticisms might be powerful against Chomsky's argument, if the argument from the poverty of stimulus were indeed an argument about degenerate stimulus, but it is not. The argument from the poverty of stimulus is that there are principles of grammar that cannot be learned on the basis of positive input alone, however complete and grammatical that evidence is. This argument is not vulnerable to objection based on evidence from interaction studies such as Snow's, but it is vulnerable to the clear evidence of the availability of negative input given by Conversational analysis. A behaviour analysis of conversational topics in first language acquisition. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 12, 129-155</ref>[12] Meork (1994) conducted a meta-analysis of 40 studies and found substantial evidence that corrections do indeed play a role. From this work, corrections are not only abundant but contingent on the mistakes of the child.[13] (see behavior analysis of child development ).


Many criticisms of the basic assumptions of generative theory have been put foyth, with little response from its champions. The concept of LAD is unsupported by evolutionary anthropology which shows a gradual adaptation of the human body to the use of language, rather than a sudden appearance of a complete set of binary parameters (which are common to digital computers but not to neurological systems such as a human brain) delineating the whole spectrum of possible grammars ever to have existed and ever to exist.


The theory has several hypothetical constructs, such as movement, empty categories, complex underlying structures, and strict binary branching, that cannot possibly be acquired from any amount of input. Since the theory is, in essence, unlearnably complex, then it must be innate. A different theory of language, however, may yield different conclusions. Examples of alternative theories that do not utilize movement and empty categories are Head-driven phrase structure grammar, Lexical functional grammar, and several varieties of Construction Grammar. While all theories of language acquisition posit some degree of innateness, a less convoluted theory might involve less innate structure and more learning. Under such a theory of grammar, the input, combined with both general and language-specific learning capacities, might be sufficient for acquisition. Relational Frame Theory (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, Roche, 2001), provides a wholly selectionist/learning account of the origin and development of language competence and complexity. Bolstered by a significant and growing base of experimental and applied research, RFT posits a "functional contextualist" appooach to the understanding, prediction and control of language phenomenon. The Head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG) is a non-derivational generative grammar theory developed by Carl Pollard and Ivan Sag (1985). ... Lexical functional grammar (LFG) is a reaction to the direction research in the area of transformational grammar began to take in the 1970s. ... The term construction grammar (CxG) covers a family of theories, or models, of grammar that are based on the idea that the primary unit of grammar is the grammatical construction rather than the atomic syntactic unit and the rule that combines atomic units, and that the grammar of a language... Relational frame theory, or RFT, is a psychological theory of human language and cognition, developed and tested largely through the efforts of Steven C. Hayes and Dermot Barnes-Holmes. ...


See also

Babbling is a stage in child language acquisition, during which an infant appears to be experimenting with making the sounds of language, but not yet producing any recognizable words. ... Logo for the organization CODA International In Deaf culture, a child of Deaf adult (or simply CODA) is a hearing person who was raised by a Deaf parent or guardian. ... The fis phenomenon is a phenomenon of child language acquisition that demonstrates that perception of phonemes occurs earlier than the ability of the child to produce those phonemes. ... The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale is a set of descriptions of abilities to communicate in a language. ... Jean Berko Gleason is a Boston University psycholinguist best known for having created the Wug Test. ... Language attrition is the loss of a first or second language or a portion of that language by either a community or an individual. ... Locations of mirror neurons A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when an animal performs an action and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (especially conspecific) animal. ... The origin of language (glottogony) is a topic that has attracted considerable speculation throughout human history. ... Second language acquisition is the process by which people learn languages in addition to their native language(s). ... Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent Canadian-born American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ... The wug test is an experiment in linguistics, created by Jean Berko Gleason in 1958. ... In linguistics, animal language acquisition (ALA) refers to controversial claims and experiments which assert, or are otherwised based in a view that non-human animals hold abilities for generating and communicating the symbols of abstract language, though they have not manifest such abilities in nature. ... A group of mothers experimenting with Dunstan Baby Language on the Oprah Winfrey Show. ... It has been suggested that Rote memory be merged into this article or section. ...

References

  1. ^ a b Chomsky, N. (1975). Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon Books. 
  2. ^ Yang, Charles (2006). The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn All the Languages of the World. New York: Scribner. 
  3. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins. 
  4. ^ Yang, Charles (2006). The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn All the Languages of the World. New York: Scribner. 
  5. ^ Yang, Charles (2006). The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn All the Languages of the World. New York: Scribner. 
  6. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins. 
  7. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins. 
  8. ^ One Language or Two: Answers to Questions about Bilingualism in Language-Delayed Children
  9. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins. 
  10. ^ Bickerton, Derek (1990). Language and Species. United States: University of Chicago Press. 
  11. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins. 
  12. ^ Moerk, E.L.(1983). A behaviour analysis of controversial topics in first language acquisition: Reinforcement, corrections, modelling, input frequencies, and the three term contingency pattern. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 12, 129-155.
  13. ^ Moerk, E.L. (1994). Corrections in first language acquisition: Theorectial controversies and factual evidence. International Journal of Psycholinguistics, 10, 33-58

13. Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (Eds.). (2001). Relational Frame Theory: A Post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Plenum Press. ISBN 0-306-46600-7


Further reading

  • Anandan, K. N., Tuition to Intuition, Calicut Kerala: Transcend publications, 2006
  • Bhatia, Tej K. (2006). "Bilingualism and Second Language Learning". Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.. 16 – 22. 
  • Baker, M. (1996). The polysynthesis parameter. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • Bickerton, D. (1981). Roots of language. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma. 
  • Brent, Michael R. (ed.), Computational Approaches to Language Acquisition, Cognition Special Issue, MIT Press (1997), ISBN 978-0262522298.
  • Gass, S. M. and L. Selinker (2001). Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course, 2nd ed., Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-3528-8. 
  • MacFarquhar, L.. "The Devil's accountant: Noam Chomsky's isolation and influence.", The New Yorker, 2003-03-31, pp. 64 – 79. 
  • Robertson, P. (2002). "The critical age hypothesis. A critique of research methodology". The Asian EFL Journal 4 (1). 
  • Roeper, Tom (2007). The Prism of Grammar. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-18252-2. 
  • Zhao, A. & Morgan, C. (2004). "Consideration of Age in L2 Attainment — Children, Adolescents and Adults". The Asian EFL Journal 6 (4). 
  • Philip Lieberman (2002-05-31). Human Language and Our Reptilian Brain: The Subcortical Bases of Speech, Syntax, and Thought (Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience). Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00793-X. 

For other uses, see New Yorker. ... Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 90th day of the year (91st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... MIT Press Books The MIT Press is a university publisher affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ... Also see: 2002 (number). ... is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links

The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as dmoz (from , its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors. ... The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as dmoz (from , its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors. ...

  Results from FactBites:
 
Language Acquisition (18914 words)
Human language is made possible by special adaptations of the human mind and body that occurred in the course of human evolution, and which are put to use by children in acquiring their mother tongue.
Many models of language acquisition assume that the input to the child consists of a sentence and a representation of the meaning of that sentence, inferred from context and from the child's knowledge of the meanings of the words (e.g.
Georgetown Monographs on Language and Linguistics, 22, 1-31.
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