Lectures 4-5 OVERVIEW: 1. Child language development: stages 2. FLA Theories: Skinner, Piaget vs. Chomsky. 3. Roger Brown & Morpheme Order 4. Child-Directed Speech (motherese); CHILDES 5. Gordon Wells & The Bristol Project ============================================================== Summary of Theories of First Language Acquisition Three broad theories of L1 acquisition: 1. behaviourist (e. g. , Stimulus-response conditioning- Skinner) 2. innatist (e. g. , Universal Grammar- Chomsky) 3. interactionist (e. g. , Constructional learning- Tomasello) 1. Behaviourism
Behaviourism doesn’t explain learning with reference to mental activities, but with reference to physical activities. An example is the way Pavlov trained dogs to respond to oral commands. Dogs don’t understand language, but they understand the consequences of not behaving in the desired way to commands ‘sit’-this understanding is ‘conditioned’ by behaviour modification; ‘spanking’ or ‘rewarding’. In this view, learning is habit formation, learned set of responses to stimuli which are reinforced if they are correct (‘Operant Conditioning’–Skinner): Stimulus—>response—>positive reinforcement=learning
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The main mechanisms for L1 learning are imitation and practice. What is heard (stimulus)—>imitation (response)—> communication/approval (reinforcement=learning) * Limitations of behaviourism 2. Innatism Innatists believe we are born with a mental faculty for learning languages. All children have the same faculty, and the same set of initial hypotheses about language. These are confirmed or disconfirmed by the input, which ‘triggers’ their knowledge of the shape of their language-its grammar. Biological endowment (the LAD)—> input from the environment=learning.
Evidence for these is the ease, rate, and similarity of ultimate L1 attainment- we all end up being perfect speakers of our L1s by the end of early childhood. * Evidence for innatism * All children successfully learn their L1. * They do this despite environmental variation (L1s, types of parent etc). * Not all the input children hear contains examples of language they eventually produce. * Animals can’t learn human language. * Children don’t get consistent grammatical feedback or correction- so they must learn grammar some other way. * The critical period * Limitations of Innatism 3.
Interactionism and construction learning Interactionists believe innate knowledge (not language specific), and the environment interact to result in L1 acquisition. Tomasello’s construction grammar approach is an example of interactionism. Unlike innatists they believe input, in the form of interaction between parent and caretaker (parent) is crucial to learning. Interaction is the process whereby the child and a caregiver can ‘share attention’ to a scene, and the child can learn how it is described in language. * Caretaker talk and modified interaction: (Two types of modification) * Linguistic modifications lower rate higher pitch varied intonation shorter simpler sentence structures * Interactional modifications frequent repetition paraphrase also much of talk to children is initially in the here and now context dependent much later it is in the there and then, and context independent (We will see that all these positions have influenced theories of L2 acquisition). * Limitations of Interactionism Recapitulation and Feedback: 1. Behaviorism 2. Innatism 3. Interactionism ; Construction Learning 4. Connectionism/Emergentism (Not Yet) Reading Assignments for Next Week: Chapter 2 of Textbook