Special form of communication in which
we learn complex rules to manipulate
symbols that can be used to generate an
endless number of meaningful sentences.
Set of Symbols
Endless Number of Meaningful Sentences
6. All languages contain….
The smallest units of
sound in a language.
English has about 44
The smallest unit of
Can be words like a or
suffixes…”ed” at the
end of a word means
How many phonemes in cats?
How many morphemes in cats?
7. Language Structure
Grammar: The rules of
Semantics - rules by
which we derive meaning
from morphemes, words,
Syntax: the order of
words in a language.
Is this the White
House or the House
8. First Steps to Speech
8 to 11
9. Language Acquisition
Stages that we learn language…
1. Babbling Stage
make speech sounds both in and out of native
First able to discriminate speech sounds
2. Holophrastic Stage/one word
Productive language begins (speaking
Receptive language (comprehension of
3. Telegraphic Stage/two word stage
Grammatically correct 2 word saying
Contains mostly nouns and verbs
Follows rules of syntax
Overgeneralization – extending the
application of a rule to items that are
excluded from it in the language norm
12. Language Development
Vocalization with intonation
Responds to human voices
without visual cues by
turning his head and eyes
Babies begin to
produce one or two
(esp. content word);
Has vocabulary of
approximately 5-20 words
13. Language Development
1) at least 50 different words
2) “telegraphic” sentences
(no function words and
e.g., “Mommy juice”, “baby fall
3) reflecting the order of the
e.g., “kiss baby”, “baby kiss”
4) creatively combining
e.g., “more outside”, “all gone
15. Language Development
Knows names of familiar animals
Names common objects in picture books or magazines
Knows one or more colors
Often indulges in make-believe
Can count to ten
Speech should be completely intelligible, in spite of
Speech on the whole should be grammatically correct
Speech should be completely intelligible and socially useful
16. Language Development
Should be able to tell time to
Should be able to do simple
reading and to write or print
All speech sounds, including
consonant blends should be
Should be reading with
considerable ease and now
writing simple compositions
Can carry on conversation at
rather adult level
17. Language in Middle Childhood
Vocabulary continues to increase;
receptive vocabulary is about 40,000
words by age 10
Phonemes mastered and aspects of
intonation better understood
Increases in mastery of grammar and
syntax, along with improvement in
Development of metalinguistic
Increasing sophistication in language play
18. LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT:
Language as a Learned Skill
Learning theory based on behaviorist
theories of learning - operant conditioning,
Language viewed as behavior learned like
Parents also provide models of advanced
language that child then imitates
19. LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT:
Language As A Learned Skill
Criticisms of theory:
- parents do not explicitly teach rule systems
- pace of language development difficult to explain
through learning principles
- ignores evidence that humans biologically
detect language stimuli
Behaviorism: Say what I say
Skinner: language behavior is the production of
correct responses to stimuli through reinforcement.
Language learning is the result of 1) imitation (word-for-
word repetition), 2) practice (repetitive manipulation of
form), 3) feedback on success (positive reinforcement),
and 4) habit formation.
The quality and quantity of the language that the child
hears, as well as the consistency of the reinforcement
offered by others in the environment, would shape the
child’s language behavior.
Behaviorism: Say what I say
Children’s imitations are not random:
Their imitation is selective and based on what they are currently
learning. They choose to imitate something they have already
begun to understand, rather than simply imitating what is available
in the environment.
Children’s practice of new language forms
The way they practice new forms is very similar to the way
foreign language students do substitution drills.
Their practice of language forms is also selective and reflects
what they would like to learn. They are often in charge of the
conversation with adults.
23. Nativist Theory
‘Born to Talk’
Noam Chomsky’s Viewpoints
Language is an innate human
capability- Children are
biologically programmed for
language and language develops
in the child in just the same way
that other biological functions
24. Nativist Theory
Chomsky’s Viewpoints Cont’d
The environment makes only a basic contribution, that is,
the availability of people who speak to the child.
Therefore, the child’s biological endowment (LAD) will do
Children are born with a specific innate ability to discover
for themselves the underlying rules of a language
system on the basis of the samples of a natural
language they are exposed to.
Nativism: It’s all in your mind
LAD (an imaginary “black box” existing
somewhere in the brain):
LAD contains the principles which are universal to all
human languages (i.e.. Universal Grammar – UG).
For the LAD to work, children need access only to
samples of a natural language, which serve as a
trigger to activate the device.
Once the LAD is activated, children are able to
discover the structure of the language to be learned
by matching the innate knowledge of basic
grammatical principles (UG) to the structures of the
particular language in the environment.
26. The Nativist Theory
‘Born to Talk’
Specific physical structures in humans
specialized for producing/processing
No single organ is LAD
Constellation of several brain areas that
are specialized to process linguistic input
and their connections (Wernicke’s area,
28. How Language Works
Left hemisphere – more
verbal side. We literally
speak with half a brain. The
dominant location of
language for more than 95%
of people, including a sizable
majority of left-handers
Right hemisphere –
responsible for the inflection
and overall musical quality
that lend important emphasis
to verbal communication
29. The Nativist Theory
Existence of critical periods for language
development supports nativist position
- children deprived of language have
poorer language skills
- older children and adults have greater
difficulty learning second language
- older children and adults show less
recovery from brain damage affecting
Critical Period: It’s all in your mind
The biological basis for the nativist position:
The Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) –
Lenneberg: There is a specific and limited time
period (i.e., “critical period”) for the LAD to work
The best evidence for the CPH is that virtually every
child learns language on a similar schedule in spite
of different environments.
31. Critical Periods
Critical Period –
sensitive period for
aspects of language
Children not exposed
to language by age 7
gradually lose ability
to master any
Learning a language
as an adult you will
always speak with an
Most easily master
language as a child
The Interactionist Position
Piaget: Language is dependent upon and springs from cognitive
development. That is, children’s cognitive development determines
their language development.
(e.g., the use of words as “bigger” or “more” depends on children’s
understanding of the concepts they represent.)
He argued that the developing cognitive understanding is built on
the interaction between the child and the things which can be
observed, touched, and manipulated.
The Interactionist Position
Vygotsky: sociocultural theory of human mental processing. He
argued that language develops primarily from social interaction.
Zone of proximal development (ZPD): a level that a child is able to do
when there is support from interaction with a more advanced
interlocutor. That is, a supportive interactive environment enables
children to advance to a higher level of knowledge and performance
than s/he would be able to do independently.
He observed the importance of conversations which children have
with adults and with other children and saw in these conversations
the origins of both language and thought.
Though both Nativism and connectionism look at the cognitive
aspect of language acquisition, yet they differ in the following:
Connectionists hypothesize that language acquisition dose
not require a separate “module of the mind” but can be
explained in terms of learning in general.
Connectionists argue that what children need to know is
essentially available in the language they are exposed to.
They attribute greater importance to the role of the
environment than to any innate knowledge in the learner.
Connectionism views language as a complex system of
units which become interconnected in the mind as they
are encountered together. The more often units are
heard or seen together, the more likely it is that the
presence of one will lead to the activation of the other.
Language acquisition is not just a process of associating
words with elements of external reality. It is also a
process of associating words and phrases with the other
words and phrases that occur with them, or words with
grammatical morphemes that occur with them.
Is it difficult for children to cope with 2 language?
1. There is little support for the myth that learning more than one
language in early childhood slows down the child’s linguistic
development or interferes with cognitive and academic development.
2. Bilingualism can have positive effects on abilities that are related to
academic success, such as metalinguistic awareness.
3. The learning of languages for bilingual children is more related to
the circumstances in which each language is learned than to any
limitation in the human capacity to learn more than one language.
Language attrition for bilinguals -
“Subtractive bilingualism” (Lambert, 1987)
When children are “submerged” in a second language for long
periods in early schooling, they may begin to lose their native
language before they have developed an age-appropriate
mastery of the second language.
It can have negative consequences for children’s self-esteem.
In some cases, children continue to be caught between two
languages; not having mastered the second language, but not
having continued to develop the first language.
40. Whorf’s Linguistic Determination
The idea that language
determines the way we
The Hopi tribe has no
past tense in their
language, so Whorf says
they rarely think of the
much thinking occurs
A European visitor to the United States asked a taxi driver, “Can you please a ride to the airport me give?” This visitor has apparently not yet mastered the syntax of the English language.
Syntax – in English, adjectives precede nouns
Nouns precede verbs