Language Acquisition Theories

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  • Language Acquisition Theorists
    • Social Interactionist Theory (PIAGET)
      • Parents conversations with children from birth familiarise children with conversation patterns.
      • Parents speak more slowly to children and simplify their language or expand on the child's speech
      • Feral children who grew up in the wild never learned speech despite adults actively trying to teach them
      • Nelson found that children whose mothers actively corrected them in the one word stage advanced more slowly than children whose mothers accepted errors
      • Argues that children learn best independently and when they are interested in something, rather than because of threats or punishment
      • 'Jim' was the son of deaf parents. He watched a lot of TV but did not speak to his parents much. His speech did not fully develop
      • Children need language to be appropriately sequenced to learn it EG built up steps of difficulty
      • Genie was raised alone in a room until the age of 13 by parents who never spoke to her. Even once she was rescued, she never learned to talk.
      • Parents introduce new words using familiar sentence frames. EG 'Whats this? It's a ...'
      • Critical period- children learn language very well at a certain age - once this period has passed, it becomes more difficult
      • We find learning a second language really difficult (especially if we don't live there)
      • Dad : say 'please' Child: Peas Dad: Please Child: peas
      • Parents place emphasis on children learning polite terms
      • A study in 1973 showed that the more a mother speaks to a child, the higher the child's vocabulary will become
      • Mothers and fathers seem to talk to their children differently. The child will still learn to talk.
    • Nativist  Theory (CHOMSKY)
      • Cruttenden's study of intonation suggested that children can use intonation but not understand it.
      • Children will construct sentences they have not heard before
      • Children's sentences ususally follow a similary pattern of SVO initially (this is common to all language)
      • Parents are more likely to correct the content than the way something is said.
      • All children seem to pass through the same stages of language development
      • Virtuous errors such as 'mans' & 'goed' etc
      • Children are born with the ability to make all sounds; as we get older, we keep only the ones that are in our language
      • Parents don't correct their children's grammatical errors ( but they learn the correct grammar anyway)
      • Children who have learning difficulties often learn correct speech.
      • Children learn to speak remarkably quickly
      • Babies appear to respond to language even when they are in the womb
      • In some cultures parents do not speak to their children until they reach a certain age. Despite this, the children still learn to talk.
    • Cognitive Theory (BRUNER)
      • Children learn words that are part of their environment
      • Once a child can arrange objects into size order they will be able to use the language to describe this.
      • One a child reaches 18 months they will understand object permanence
      • The fis experiment suggests that children can hear errors in others' speech but not their own
    • Behaviourist Theory (SKINNER)
      • Parents smile and say 'well done' when a child says a new word
      • Children develop regional accents
      • Mum says : dog.d(1) og(2) Child: Dog  Mum: well done (.) dog
      • Child asks for 'orange' juice and gets it. After that they always say 'orange'

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