Richard Cromer - Child Language Acquisition Theory

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  • Created on: 30-04-13 20:46
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Roger Brown in the preface to Cromer's last book, Language and Thought in
Normal and Handicapped Children, published a year after his death...
Chapter 2 is the last word we shall have from him on the cognition hypothesis: "It
has become increasingly popular to speculate about whether there are modular
components of human knowledge. 'Language' has often figured prominently in these
speculations, but the different advocates of this position often disagree about what
a module includes. Does modularity apply only to the core syntax... Or is modularity
broader even than syntax itself?"
Word Knowledge Acquisition in Retarded Children
A Longitudinal Study of Acquisition of a Complex Linguistic Structure
Richard F. Cromer
The purpose of this 1-year longitudinal study was to investigate the acquisition of
word knowledge by 18 retarded children. The words examined were relevant to the
correct interpretation of sentences of the type "John is eager/easy to please." The
interest was in how retarded children acquire the subcategorization features of these
words. The study revealed that retarded children, like intellectually normal children,
show great inconsistencies in their interpretations of specific words during an
intermediate stage of performance on this linguistic structure; but the errors by
retarded children, in contrast to those by intellectually normal children, were highly
correlated with word frequency. The results are interpreted in representational terms.
It is argued that both retarded and intellectually normal children show shifts in their
word knowledge representations. Interpretations based on gradual acquisition of
word knowledge are contrasted with a reorganization theory, and a synthesis of the
two views is given. Possible explanations for the finding that the retarded children
nevertheless differed from intellectually normal children in the relation of their errors
to word frequency are also given.
The Critical Age Hypothesis
Argues that there is a `critical age' (hence the name :P ) for language
acquisition without special teaching/learning. During this period, language
learning proceeds easily and quickly without external intervention.
After this period; acquisition of grammar is difficult and sometimes never fully
There are cases of children raised in isolation (feral children, or those starved
of human interaction). None of them were able to speak or knew any
language at the time of reintroduction to society. [Does this mean it supports
the theory? They've had no experiences to develop their use of language
therefore it cannot develop because their intellect hasn't?]
Linguistic inability could be because they received no input showing that the
innate neurological ability to acquire language must be triggered by language
[input and interaction theory?]


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