What is language?
A shared symbolic system for communication
Hockett's Linguistic Universals
characteristics that are true of all human languages
1. vocal auditory channel
2. broadcast transmission
5. total feedback
*12. duality of patterning
13. cultural transmission
Do animals have true language?
Do deaf people have true language?
How do we acquire language?
Children learn the basic rules of their language and
13,000 words by the time they are five.
-- without explicit instruction
What are they learning:
phonology (errors -- spoonerisms -- flow snakes)
syntax -- linguistic intuition
(colorless green ideas sleep furiously
(green furiously colorless ideas sleep)
semantics (meaning from words and order)
(for example: think how these phrases refer to different things:
red fire engine, fire engine red, red engine fire)
How are they learning it?
-- language is innate (Chomsky)
(also known as Modular and Nativist position).
-- learning language is just learning
(General Skills, Interactionists)
|Zack 3 weeks
what he can say: crying, cooing
what he understands: hunger, gas, sucking
(discomfort and comfort)
|Nick 18 months
what he can say:
mama, dada, ball, nana, baba, battlebots, boo, boo(b), boo boo, no, oh, hot, brrr (cold), hat,outz, dots, ooce, beer, doo doo
what he understands:
bedroom, bed, blanket, pillow, crib, diaper, powder, desitin, wipe, white cloth, laundry,trash, truck, ball, guitar, book, hammer, measuring tape, phone, remote,chair,table,eat, goldfish, cheerios, kix, hot dog, oatmeal, potato chips, shoes, socks,pants,shirt, jacket, downstairs, upstairs, house, car, mcdonalds, mailbox,blue, rugrats, baby, nap, bib, spoon, fork, nose, ears, eyes, hair, tummy,rocking chair, fort, pencil, pen, paper, crayons, snow, grass, dog , jeep,horse
How can we study early language abilities?receptive vs. productive languageSucking rate
competence vs. performance
Elicited production (here is a wug. here are two ____)
Basic milestones of acquisition:
By six months:
As they approach a year:
native-language specific babbling
VAREGATED or JARGON babbling
some receptive understanding
Around one year,
end of first growth spurt
produce first words
sounds that approximate adult word
and are used consistently.
Usually specific nominal or favorite object
Usually Labial sounds (easier phonemes to make)
Receptive vocabulary of 50 words.
human babies prefer grammatical sentences!
By two years, most toddlers
fine motor coordination
imitation, like routines
two word stage
productive vocabulary of 50-500 words
putting together strings of words that are related semantically
but with limited syntax (telegraphic speech, pivot grammar)
nouns, routine words, a few verbs, few function words
Sometime in the second year there is a burst of development
after child's vocabulary reaches 100 words
the child learns a wide range of verbs,
grammatical words and endings
this allows for the production of novel GRAMMATICAL utterances
So, how do children learn the words of their language?
First they become familiar with sounds
Phonological Acquisition begins early
we are able to detect differences in phonemes almost from birth
We quickly learn the sounds of our culture
EVEN THOUGH recognition of spoken words is hard because:
problem of invariance
need for top down processing (segmentation errors, oronyms)
We (as adults and native speakers) hear boundaries
because we know words.
How can children begin to understand words/detect word boundaries?
1. prosidy (the rhythm and intonation of speech patterns, we tend to
beginnings of words and sentences (in English))
Evidence that infants are senstive to prosidy:
prefer mother's voice,prefer stories read in utero
English speaking babies prefer strong/weak pattern
Motherese tends to use "sing-song"
(also exaggerated sounds, high pitch and conversational turns)
2. awareness of possible sound patterns (learning THROUGH EXPOSURE
that bluke is possible but btuke and bnuke are not)
I will talk about these two things next time...
How do we learn what words mean?
The gavagai problem (Quine)
Whole object/Basic level assumptions
How do we learn syntax?
1) Is it taught through conditioning, reward or feedback?
2) Is it imitation?
3) children are sensitive to the patterns in the language they hear
They look for rules or regularities. They look for structure.
The classic example -ed
over-regularization of word endings like runned and goed.
Once they learn the rule, they over-apply it
(until they remember they already have a word like "went")
Thus, the key to language acquisition is the detection of PATTERNS
- patterns of stress -- prosidy
- patterns of sounds -- phonology
- patterns of morphemes -- marking
- patterns of words -- syntaxcase in point:"the" is the most frequent word but not the first learnedThe critical debate then is whether we are predisposed to recognize
these specific language-related patterns (nativist)
or if we just have a general pattern detecting ability (general skills)
This is still an open question!