Child Language Acquisition


What are the 5 main strands of child language acqu

1. innate theory - this is the biological theory that language is inbuilt and that children acquire language through an innate structure 

2. immitation theory - this is also known as behaviourist theory, this says that language is a learnt behaviour and children acquire it through immitation 

3. cognitive theory - language acquisition is a mental process and a child needs to acquire certain mental abilities in order to obtain language

4. child directed speech - also known as motherese and baby talk where the parents encourage and supprt a childs utterances 

5. functionalism - some theorists believe that children acquire language because they need it to complete certain functions 

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What are the innate theories?

1. Chomsky - perhaps the most famous is Chomsky who believes we have an inbuilt language acquisition device or LAD which children use to acquire language, creating universal grammar as all children seem to pass through the same stages of grammar at the same time and if they have a poverty of stimulus can still acquire language 

2. Gopnik - discovered the gene FoxP2 which is responsible for language acquisition through her work with the KE family who were missing this gene 

3. DeCasper - first he worked with Fifer and found that a child recognises their mothers voice from the womb with the sucking test, then later with Spence by getting mothers to read the cat in the hat during pregnancy found that they could recognise what had been read to them after birth 

4. Mehler - worked with French mothers and saw that after birth the babies preferred their native language as oppose to other languages 

5. Fitzpatrick - monitored a baby's heart during pregnancy and after showing it slowed when it heard its mother's voice 

6. Berko - did the wug test which showed children used overgeneralisations and understood language 

7. Katamba - looked at parents use of inflections and their child's acquisition finding it had no impact so language is innate 

8. Macnamara - doesnt believe in the LAD but believes children can read social situations and this innate ability allows them to understand the world and language 

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What are the behaviourist theories?

1. Skinner - believed in verbal behaviour, that with positive reinforcement and immitation, a child recieves what they want and so continue to speak

2. Genie - the fact that Genie was punished for making noise shows that there is some evidence for negative and positive reinforcement impacting child language acquisition 

3. Bancroft - believes that peek-a-boo parrallels teach a child turn-taking 

4. Berko and Brown's 'fis' phenomenom disproves the behaviourism approach 

5. Rescorla - over and under extensions also dispprove behaviourism 

6. Pinker - language is an instinct and we all have universal grammar but young children cant express it 

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What are the critical period theories?

1. Lenneberg - there is a critical period where without linguist input before the age of 5, children wont ever fully linguistically develop

2. Penfield and Roberts - there is a critical period which means children can learn multiple languages easily before a certain age 

3. Genie would support this 

4. Pettito and Holowaka's study of bilingual children would also support it 

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What are the stages of child acquisition?

this is a theory put forward by David Crystal 

1. vegetative stage - cooing and babbling 

2. one word/holophrastic stage - only one word but it has pragmatic meaning 

3. two word stage - subject and verb order acquired, basic questions form

4. telegraphic - 3 or more elements, more lexical words 

5. post telegraphic - almost completely correct by age 4 

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What are the child directed speech theories?

1. Bruner - LASS (language acquisition support system) where children need an adult to support them and help them reach markers

2. Vygotsky - social interaction, MKO (more knowledgeable other) and ZPD (zone of proximal development)

3. Snow - mothers interpret the smiles and vocalisations of children from birth showing there is some evidence and need for parent input 

4. Aitchison would support this theory as she believes there are 3 ways parents help childre, firstly by labelling, then by packaging and then networking 

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What are the functionalism theories?

1. Bates - children use language in 2 ways to complete an action i) using protodeclaratives where they use an object by means of getting attention and ii) protoimperatives where they use an adult as a means to an object 

2. Clark - children learn 8-9 new words a day from 18 months old and purpose verbs are the first verbs showing there is need to use these words 

3. Nelson - between 40 and 65% of a child's first 50 words are nouns to label the world around them

4. Bloom - in Chinese and Korean more verbs are used, so there is a noun biased in English as verbs are a frequency to verbs of 5:1 and are negation and question markers 

5. Saxton - believes we use some words more than others as there is more linguistic usage, creating a stronger connection in the brain 

6. Saphir - Whorf - your native language affects the way you think e.g Kennings 

7. Halliday's functions of language - instrumental, regulatory, interactional, heuristic, imaginative, personal and representational 

8. Dore's functions of language - labelling, repeating, calling, requesting action, greeting, protesting and practising 

9. Garvey - children adopt identities in play, fulfilling the imaginative function 

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What are the cognitive theories?

1. Piaget - sensorimotor (world experienced through senses), preoperational (language is egotistical and learnt through play, 3 mountain test), concrete operational (children think about concrete events, reversibility water test) and formal operational (abstract responding develops)

2. Pettito and Holowaka - babbling comes from the right side of the mouth so the left side of the brain is responsible, stroke victims cannot speak often 

3. Brown - inflections seem to be obtained at stages showing cognitive understanding, starting with ing, plurals, the irregular past and then finally possessives 

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