Language Acquisition Theories

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Behaviourist / Imitation Theory - Skinner

  • Suggests children acquire language through copying and imitating others
  • They learn to speak through positive and negative reinforcement
  • Look out for adults explicitly modelling or teaching language and children imitating/repeating adults speech and children learning or repairing mistakes after correction from adults

Innateness Theory - Chomsky

  •   Babies are born with an innate knowledge of the structure of language - Language Acquisition Device (LAD)
  • Research by Berko-Gleason found that children were able to provide the plural of 'wug', a word they had never heard before
  • Children learn language at about the same age
  • Look out for children doing more than simply repeating/imitating adult speech e.g. semantic overextension and overgeneralisation suggest children actively construct language
  • & children resisting or not responding to adult correction
  • & children making up new words and new names for things
  • & children forming utterances they've never heard anyone else say

Social Interactionist / Input Theory - Bruner

  • Language is social - "Children learn to use language initially... to get what they want to play games, to stay connected with those on whom they are dependent."
  • Children's language development is enriched and accelerated according to the quantity


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