English Language Theorists - Child Language Acquisition

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Behaviourism - Skinner (1957)

Positive and negative reinforcement

Copying off of adults 

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Innateness - Chomsky (1950's)

LAD - Language Acquisition Device

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Interaction - Bruner

We have to interact with adults to acquire language

Bard and Sachs Studied a boy called 'Jim', who was son of two deaf parents. Although he was exposed to TV and radio, his speech development was severely retarded until he attended sessions with a speech therapist, implying that human interaction is necessary to develop speech.

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Cognitive - Piaget (1936)

We have to understand a concept before we can acquire the language to talk about it

Object permenance etc.

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Burko and Brown - Fis Phenomenon: A child who mispronounces the word 'fis' (fish) cannot understand what an adult means if they use 'fis', but they understand 'fish'


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Lexical acquisition

Katherine Nelson - found that 60% of children's early word phrases contained nouns, then verbs, pre-modifiers and phatic. She also said that the nouns were more commonly things that surrounded the children i.e ball, mum, cat. Nelson also said that in Re-casts (e.g. Ben: "me ball" Mum: "pass me the ball") children whose sentences were re-cast performed better at imitating sentences.

Jean Aitchison came up with stages of lexical development
1- Labelling – Linking words to objects to which they refer, understanding labels
2- Packaging – Exploring labels and where they can apply, over/underextension occurs in order to gain meanings.
3- Network-building – Making connections between words, understanding similarities and opposites in meaning. They start with a HYPERNYM (a general word that can have more specific words under it) and explore HYPONYMS (words that fall under a hypernym’s category)

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Eve Clark

Over and Under Extension: Children base overextensions on a) the physical qualities of objects and b) features such as taste, sound, texture, movement, shape and size.Leslie Rescorla

Division of overextensions: She divided overextensions into three groups: categorical, analogical and mismatch statements.

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Brown (1973) studied children’s language development between the ages of 20 months and 36 months and found the sequence shown below occurred regularly. The features are also listed in the order in which they were acquired:

1)    –ing

2)    plural ‘-s’

3)    possessive ‘-s’

4)    the, a

5)    past tense –ed

6)    third person singular verb ending – s (eg): he sings

7)    auxiliary verb ‘be’  (eg): I am dancing

Cruttenden (1979) divided the acquisition of inflections into the following three stages:

1)    In the first stage, children memorise words on an individual basis

2)    In the second stage they show an awareness of the general rules of inflections. They observe that past tense forms usually end in –ed so instead of ‘ran’ they say ‘runned’. This kind of error is known as Overgeneralisation.

3)    In the third stage, correct inflections are used

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