Theorists for child language acquisition (AQA, B, A2)

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Theorists for child language acquisition
Theorists for acquiring language
Chomsky (Nativist theory)
He believed learning takes place through an innate brain mechanism that has the ability to acquire grammatical
structures. This was known as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). He argued there was such thing as universal
grammar where human language is similar.
Chomsky argued CDS is ineffective because of its repetitive nature.
Positive Negative
All children roughly gain the same language features at No location of the brain mechanism has been found.
the same time.
There is similar grammar throughout languages. Based on anecdotal evidence.
On a lexical level, words may be similar through Case studies of people with no social interaction until the
languages. age of adolescence do not speak properly.
Stroke victims find it difficult to speak because of brain
damage.
Supports overgeneralisations because it is not imitated Underestimates the significance of Skinner's imitation
from an adult and so could be acquired from the LAD as theory (behaviourist).
they have applied the wrong grammatical rule.
Children need further input to understand concepts such
as pragmatics.
Case study- Jean Berko's wug test (support): overgeneralisations.
Skinner (Behaviourist theory)
He believed that children imitate and copy adults and they either get positive/negative reinforcement for their
behaviour.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT- when behaviour is rewarded (e.g. verbal praise) and this encourages the
behaviour to be repeated.
NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT-when an undesirable behaviour is unrewarded with the intention that it will not
be repeated.
Positive Negative
Children imitate accent and dialect. Does not explain how children acquire
overgeneralisations (e.g. mouses) when they have not
heard it before.
Children learn politeness and pragmatic aspects of Do not always respond to corrections.
language.
They repeat language from their surroundings. They aren't always corrected for language and still make
improvements.
Imitation doesn't necessarily mean that they understand
the meanings.
Case study- Berko and Brown's fis phenomenon (against).
Case study- Skinner's rats (against): can't generalise studies on animals to human language.

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Piaget (Cognitive theory)
He believed children are active learners who use their environment and social interactions to shape their language.
Linguistic development occurs as children understand concepts surrounding the word's meanings. This suggests that
children cannot be taught until they are cognitively ready.
Stage Age (years) Description
Sensorimotor -2 Children experience the world through their senses and begin classifying
language as a result of their physical qualities. Object permanence
develops which is the concept that objects exist out of sight.…read more

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Clark's overextensions-Eve Clark studied overextensions and found they base them on the physical qualities
of objects and features such as taste, sound, movement, shape, size and texture.
Clark's adjectives-she found that common adjectives (e.g. nice and big) are developed in the first 50 words,
however, spatial adjectives are acquired later (e.g.wide/narrow).…read more

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Nomination: object/person labelled, e.g. there mam.
Recurrence: event repeated, e.g. more cats.
Negation: is something denied? E.g. no food.
Bellugi's negative formation-she proposed the three stages of negative formation. Stage one involves using
no at the beginning/end of the sentence. Stage two is using no inside the sentence. Stage three is attaching
the negative to auxiliary verbs.
Bellugi's pronoun formation-she proposed the three stages of pronoun formation. The first stage was where
the child uses their own name.…read more

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