Theories of first language acquisition We are not born speaking! Language must be acquired. ◦ Learning vs. acquisition If we think of all that is entailed in knowing a language, it seems quite a challenge. Children do not learn a new language but naturally acquire it through an innate language device. Learning vs. acquisition Language is an innate faculty We are born with a Language acquisition device (LAD) ◦ A set of language learning (acquisition) tools ◦ All humans have a universal grammar (UG) What evidence is there for innate knowledge of certain basic language features present in all human languages? ◦ LINGUISTIC UNIVERSALS > UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR ◦ All languages have: A grammar Basic word order Nouns and verbs Subjects and objects Consonants and vowels Most languages have a similar word order structure. SVO = The teacher gave a lecture 75% of the world languages use either SVO or SOV. OSV very rare: Yoda (star Wars) Strong with the force you are Humans then learn to specialize this “universal grammar” (UG) for the particulars of their language. Word order, syntactic rule preferences Phonetic and phonological constraints Lexicon Semantic interpretations Pragmatic ways to converse Evidence for innateness of language? The biologist Eric Lenneberg defined a list of characteristics that are typical of innate (preprogrammed) behaviors in animals. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Maturationally controlled, emerging before they are critically needed Do not appear as the result of a conscious decision. Do not appear due to a trigger from external events. Are relatively unaffected by direct teaching and intensive practice. Follow a regular sequence of “milestones” in their development. Generally observe a critical period for their acquisition When is language necessary? When do children usually begin speaking/using language coherently? Is this criterion met? Does a child decide to consciously pursue certain skills? (e.g., walking) Do babies make a conscious decision to start learning a language? Is this criterion met? What would prompt a child to take up football? What would prompt a child to begin speaking? Is this criterion met? We CAN teach prescriptive rules of language. But we’re not talking about that here. We correct children’s errors sometimes. Does it help? ◦ ‘”Yesterday I goed to my friend’s house’ In fact, “coaching” seems to hurt rather than help language ability in children. Is this criterion met? In spite of different backgrounds, different locations, and different upbringings, most children follow the very same milestones in acquiring language. Is this criterion met? What is a critical period? For first language acquisition, there seems to be a critical period of the first five years, during which children must be exposed to rich input. There is also a period, from about 10-16 years, when acquisition is possible, but not native-like. For SLA, the issue is more complicated… More on that later. Is this criterion met? CPH: Proposed by Lenneberg ◦ This hypothesis states that there is only a small window of time for a first language to be natively acquired. ◦ If a child is denied language input, she will not acquire language Genie: a girl discovered at age 13 who had not acquired her first language If humans do have an LAD, it must be located somewhere physically… (Chomsky denies that it can be physically found in the body) Insights from Neurolinguistics Brain and spinal cord constitute the central nervous system (CNS) ◦ Purpose: Communication Cellular unit of the nervous system: neurons ◦ CNS consists of about 12 billion neurons. ◦ Brain consists of about 10 billion neurons. Brain stem is the control system ◦ Regulates breathing, muscle movement, sleep, body temperature etc. Phrenology (Gall, 1796) Brain consists of two hemispheres ◦ Right side controls left body side and vice versa ◦ Dichotic listening tests Hemispheres are connected through Corpus callosum Language is a left hemisphere phenomenon Paul Broca (French surgeon and anatomist) ◦ Research on brain damage ◦ Broca’s area ◦ Broca’s aphasia Carl Wernicke (German physician) ◦ Confirmed theory of left hemisphere ◦ Wernicke’s area ◦ Wernicke’s aphasia What language impairments are found in Broca's aphasia? Nonfluent, labored, and hesitant speech absence of function words and inflectional morphology, short utterances, relatively intact comprehension, awareness of deficit. The language symptoms of Wernicke's aphasia are complementary to those of Broca's aphasia. fluent but empty speech, grammatical inflections, normal prosody utterances of normal length poor comprehension unaware of deficit. Goodglass, H., & Kaplan, E. (1983). Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination. (2nd ed.). Media, PA: Williams & Wilkins. “Cookie jar…fall over…chair…water…empty…ov…ov…[Examin er: “overflow?”] Yeah.” Heny, Jeannine. “Brain and Language (Clark, 634-657). Well, this is…mother is away here workingout o’here to get her better, but when she’s working, the two boys looking in the other part. One their small tile into her time here. She’s working another time because she’s getting, too.” Heny, Jeannine. “Brain and Language (Clark, 634-657). Young man, both spoken and sign language: ◦ Accident and damage to brain ◦ Both spoken and sign languages are affected Deaf-mute person, sign language: ◦ Stroke and damage to left-side of the brain ◦ Impairment in sign language Language learning and brain development go hand in hand. Children need to be exposed to language early. Brain is resilient: Early damage can cause right hemisphere to take over language control. Explain how Genie’s language development fits into the theories of Lenneberg, Chomsky and brain development. According to this text, what is the strongest evidence supporting the theory of a “critical period” for language acquisition? Was Genie’s early language deprivation the ONLY factor that contributed to her abnormal language development? Explain what other factor(s) might have been involved.