Child Language Acquisition Theories

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  • Child Language Acquisition Theories
    • Behaviourism
      • B.F. Skinner
      • All behaviour is a result of the conditioning we experienced rather than any freedom of choice
      • Operant Conditioning - the idea that either a positive or negative response given by a caregiver can influence the way in which a child talks on future occasions
      • Positive Reinforcement - the positive feedback given to a child which is thought to encourage similar performance again
      • Negative Reinforcement - correction or negative feedback that that might prevent a child from making the same error repeatedly
      • Children are more likely to be corrected on the truth of their statement rather than the linguistic accuracy
      • There is evidence to suggest that children do not respond to correction and that it can actually hamper their development
      • Children do not produce the Standard English sentences you might expect from imitation
      • Children learn through imitation and operant conditioning
    • Nativism
      • Noam Chomsky
      • Opposes Skinner's behaviourist theory
      • Language Acquisition Device - a proposed idea that all humans are born with an innate language learning capacity
      • Universal Grammar - the notion that all human languages possess similar grammatical properties which the brain is 'hard-wired; to be able to decode and use
      • Virtuous Errors - grammatical errors that are understandable and logical through incorrect assumption being made about grammar rules
      • Went against Aristotle's view that the human brain is a Tabula Rasa
      • The human brain has a naturally programmed ability to learn language
      • a child makes errors in their grammar, inflections and syntax because they are attempting to apply the rules that they recognised from the language around them
      • Does not place sufficient importance on the role of caregivers in influencing language
      • chilldren who lack sufficient exposure to alnguage and interaction will never really catch up
    • Stages of Development
      • Four stages through which children progress as their language and thoughts mature
      • Sensorimotor Stage
        • Child begins to interact with the built environment
        • Child remains egocentric but an understanding of object permanence appears
        • 0-2 Years
      • Pre-Operational Stage
        • Characterised by a child learning to speak and developing their imaginative focus
        • Become capable of representing the world symbollically
        • 2-6/7 Years
        • Remains egocentric and struggles to understand things from others' points of view
        • Ask questions frequently and start to develop understanding
      • Concrete Operational Stage
        • 6/7-11/12 Years
        • Stops being egocentric
        • Begins to understand the PoV of others
        • Become more capable of logical thought
      • Formal Operational Stage
        • 11-16+ Years
        • There will no longer be a problem with logical thought and thinking becomes increasingly abstract
      • Children develop their own understanding by exploring and questioning the world around them
      • at the core of a child's development of understanding is the learning that a child undertakes
      • Piaget
    • Social Interactionism
      • Rejected Chomsky's LAD and focused on the importance of a child's interaction with caregivers
      • Language Acquisition Support System - system where the caregivers and other individuals play a key role in a child's language development
      • Jerome Bruner
      • Places emphasis back on the social situations in which a child takes part
      • the way in which carers question, encourage and support the child through scaffolding enables children to gradually develop their speech
      • Linked to Vygotsky's scaffolding theory
    • Scaffolding
      • Lev Vygotsky
      • suggested the importance of 'doing' for a child to be able to develop
      • Zone of Proximal Development - describes the area between what a child can already do and that which is beyond their reach. It is the area into which a caregiver might enable the child to progress by offering the necessary support or scaffolding to facilitate learning
      • Through supporting the child from a position of having more knowledge, the adult can direct the child through the ZPD
      • More Knowledgeable Other - the older participant in an interaction who might offer support to a child so that they can further their own development or learning
    • Cognitive Lingusitics
      • Usage-Based linguistics - a model that emphasises that language structure emerges from use in that linguistic patterns are formed and become what we know as grammatical constructions
      • Further rejection of Chomsky's idea of universal grammar
      • Michael Tomasello
      • Outlines a usage-based model of language acquisition and development
      • Arguing against language being special 'instinct'. Instead,
      • By the age of 9-12 months children make use of pattern-forming ability, which become the building blocks for various grammatical patterns
      • Children build generalisations about how those words form larger syntactic constructions or schemas
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