Ling111Acquisition1_F09

Ling111Acquisition1_F09 - 11/29/09 However elegantly your...

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11/29/09 1 Language acquisition 1 Ling111 Introduction to language “However elegantly your dog may bark he cannot tell you his father was poor but honest” Bertrand Russell But all normally developing humans learn language ‐ universality of human language Language learning One of the most impressive achievements of the human child is the ability to learn a language in a couple of years without explicit instruction. – Language is complex – Learned really fast – Other skills are not learned as fast – Cognition is still developing – But language skills are extraordinary! Language learning How this is possible? 1) How does a child learn a language? 2) What does a child have to learn in order to know a language? Fundamental question in linguistics, psychology Fundamental question about human cognition The big questions No other species learns language like humans do But all normally developing humans learn language – So, must be something innate to humans But, humans in different contexts learn to speak in different ways – So, must be social & environmental as well How do children go about language learning? What is it about human cognition that facilitates language learning? – Mechanisms specific to language? – Or general cognitive mechanisms that are also used for language? – Or both? – All normally developing children acquire language faultlessly within a short period of time. • No special intelligence is required • There are no genetic differences between groups of people which affect their ability to learn a language – Children acquire language without formal training. – Human language interaction is necessary for language development. • Can’t learn a first language from tv, the environment – Probably has to be learned within a critical time frame What do we know?
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11/29/09 2 Isabelle: child of a deaf mute found in Ohio in 1930s, age 6;6 mother and child had spent most of their time alone in a dark room once found, Isabelle passed through the stages of language acquisition quickly by 8;6: not easy to distinguish from other L1 speaking children (Brown 1958) What if children don’t receive human language input? What if children don’t receive human language input? Genie locked up in a small room, strapped to a potty, by her parents punished for making any sounds found age 13 language development progressed more slowly than younger children’s – eg 2 word stage: months not weeks – used ‘no + noun + verb’ for 2 years What if children don’t receive human language input? Genie learned vocabulary quickly learned word order quickly didn’t learn morphology or syntax well BUT also had brain damage to left hemisphere, area for language (Curtiss 1977) What if children don’t receive human language input? Chelsea
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Ling111Acquisition1_F09 - 11/29/09 However elegantly your...

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