Language Acquisition Process Translator Education translation jobs
Home More Articles Join as a Member! Post Your Job - Free! All Translation Agencies

Language Acquisition Process

Become a member of at just $12 per month (paid per year)

See also: Language acquisition

Badr Assila photoI - the basic requirements:

1 - Exposure

It is the first basic requirement for language acquisition. If we take a child born of Moroccan parents and put him in another social environment, such as Italy, he will speak the language spoken there (i.e. Italian) not Moroccan Arabic. This is called cultural transmission, not genetic transmission. If the child were not exposed to a human language, “the language faculty” (that is the ability to acquire language) with which he is born, can not be activated.

2 - Physical Fitness

There is no language output if language faculty was not activated. This leads us to say that language acquisition requires both the auditory and the acoustic input.

3 - The Critical Age

The critical age, called Puberty, occurs in the area where language is. Language acquisition has to be activated before this age. If the language faculty is not activated on time that is before this age language acquisition will certainly fail.

II - Stages of Language Acquisition:

1 - Pre- Linguistic Period:

a - Cooing

During their first months, children cry many times in a day; these cries are accompanied by producing some sounds.

b - Babbling:

Babies all over the world produce the same sounds and they may produce sounds that are never used in their environment. Babbling is an internal behaviour not a response to external stimulation. Children around the sixth to the ninth month begin to differentiate between the sounds and select the sounds that exist in their environment.

2 - The Linguistic Period:

a - The Holophrastic Stage

After one year, children have learnt that sounds are related to meanings; they begin to go through the one-word which is considered for them as one-utterance. The words in this stage serve three major functions. First, they are linked with a child’ own action or desire for action. Second, they are used to convey emotions. Third, they serve a naming function.

b - The Two-Word Utterances:

Babies begin to produce two- word utterances which can show different combination of word order. In this stage, the words lack morphological and syntactic markers but we can notice that there is a word order.

c - Telegraphic Stage:

At this stage, the word forms are beginning to varry; inflectional morphemes begin to appear in addition to the use of simple prepositions. The child pronunciation is closer to the adult one.

III - Morphology:

Some inflectional morphemes will appear, indicating functions of the nouns and the verbs. The child is going to use all the verbs he knows in ?ing form, in the same way, all nouns with plural. This is referred to as the process of Generalization.

For the past inflection, the child is going to use the verb “go” with {?ed} and say ?goed?. By the time, the baby learns further rules, he is going to over generalize them.

IV - Syntax:

The child’s speech shows strong evidence against imitation because his own production remains different on morphological and syntactic level. Many studies about the development of syntax in the child’s language have shown that the use of the child language never violates the English syntactic rules. In the two-word stage, the baby either begins his utterance with a wh-word or only uses a rising intonation. By the Telegraphic speech, he may not use inversion; he would use negation, and may use double negation regularly.

V - Theories of Language Acquisition:

1 - Empiricism:

This school is based on four theories or hypothesises. The stimulus theory, the correctness theory; trial and errors theory, and the imitation theory. The empiricists believe that the actual experience is the source of ideas. The mind is at first a “Tabula Rasa”, they believe that we have no special inborn capacity to acquire language. Language is entirely learnt through environmental stimulus and behavioural response. The empiricists believe that the child imitates the adult in speaking.

2 - Rationalism:

The rationalists believe that the reason is the chief source of knowledge. They stress on the fact that children acquire language so readily because it is in their genes. They also believe that children are born with a capacity to acquire many languages.

> But these two schools agree on some points. First, they agree that children have to be exposed to a certain language. Second, they also agree on learning.

  • Do children learn language by imitation?

    Close observation of babies acquiring their first language show that children do not imitate and that also children do not hear the corrections.

    Children behave as efficient linguists; they form linguistic rules and apply them by generalization. The over-generalization process does not occur in adult’s speech and this is another proof against the hypothesis of imitation.

  • Do children learn language through enforcement?

    Of course children do not learn their language through enforcement. And this example shows this:

  • Child: nobody don’t like me
    Adult: no, say, nobody likes me
    Child: nobody don’t likes me
  • Expansion:

    It means that there are parents who try to expand their children’s simple forms into proper sentences.

  • Motherese:

    It means that there are some parents who try to simplify their speech to their children using simple forms at the early stages.


    Language acquisition


    By Wikipedia,
    the free encyclopedia,

    Language acquisition is the study of the processes through which learners acquire language. First Language Acquisition studies the infants' acquisition of their native language, whereas Second Language Acquisition deals with acquisition of additional languages in both children and adults.

    Theoretical linguistics
    Lexical semantics
    Statistical semantics
    Structural semantics
    Prototype semantics
    Systemic functional linguistics
    Applied linguistics
    Language acquisition
    Linguistic anthropology
    Generative linguistics
    Cognitive linguistics
    Computational linguistics
    Descriptive linguistics
    Historical linguistics
    Comparative linguistics
    Corpus linguistics
    History of linguistics
    List of linguists
    Unsolved problems

    One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes capacities specific to language acquisition, often referred to as universal grammar. For fifty years, linguists Noam Chomsky and the late Eric Ingeberg have argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning[1].

    Other researchers, including Elizabeth Bates, Catherine Snow, and Michael Tomasello, have hypothesized that language learning results only from general cognitive abilities and the interaction between learners and their surrounding communities. Recent work by William O'Grady proposes that complex syntactic phenomena result from an efficiency-driven, linear computational system. O'Grady describes his work as "nativism without Universal Grammar." One of the most important advances in the study of language acquisition was the creation of the CHILDES database by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow.



    Nativist theories

    Nativist theories hold that children are born with an innate propensity for language acquisition, and that this ability makes the task of learning a first language easier than it would otherwise be. These "hidden assumptions" [2] allow children to quickly figure out what is and isn't possible in the grammar of their native language, and allow them to master that grammar by the age of three. [3] Nativists view language as a fundamental part of the human genome, as the trait that makes humans human, and its acquisition as a natural part of maturation, no different from dolphins learning to swim or songbirds learning to sing.

    Chomsky originally theorized that children were born with a hard-wired language acquisition device (LAD) in their brains [1]. He later expanded this idea into that of Universal Grammar, a set of innate principles and adjustable parameters that are common to all human languages. According to Chomsky, the presence of Universal Grammar in the brains of children allow them to deduce the structure of their native languages from "mere exposure".

    Much of the nativist position is based on the early age at which children show competency in their native grammars, as well as the ways in which they do (and do not) make errors. Infants are born able to distinguish between phonemes in minimal pairs, distinguishing between bah and pah, for example.[2] Young children (under the age of three) do not speak in fully formed sentences, instead saying things like 'want cookie' or 'my coat.' They do not, however, say things like 'want my' or 'I cookie,' statements that would break the syntactic structure of the Phrase, a component of universal grammar.[2] Children also seem remarkably immune from error correction by adults, which Nativists say would not be the case if children were learning from their parents.[3]

    The possible existence of a Critical Period for language acquisition is another Nativist argument. Critical periods are time frames during which environmental exposure is needed to stimulate an innate trait. Young chaffinches, for example, must hear the song of an adult chaffinch before reaching maturity, or else would never be able to sing. Nativists argue that if a Critical Period for language acquisition exists (see below), then language acquisition must be spurred on by the unfolding of the genome during maturation.[3]

    Linguist Eric Englebert stated in 1964 that the crucial period of language acquisition ends around the age of 12 years. He claimed that if no language is learned before then (see Feral children), it could never be learned in a normal and fully functional sense. This was called the "Critical period hypothesis." However, the opponents of the "Critical Period Hypothesis" say that in this example the child is hardly growing up in a nurturing environment, and that the lack of language acquisition in later life may be due to the results of a generally abusive environment rather than being specifically due to a lack of exposure to language.

    The "Critical Period" theory of brain plasticity and learning capacity has been called into question. Other factors may account for differences in adult and child language learning. Children’s apparently effortless and rapid language acquisition may be explained by the fact that the environment is set up to engage them in frequent and optimal learning opportunities. By contrast, adults seem to have an initial advantage in their learning of vocabulary and syntax, but may never achieve native-like pronunciation.[4] A more up-to-date view of the Critical Period Hypothesis is represented by the University of Maryland, College Park instructor Robert DeKeyser. DeKeyser argues that although it is true that there is a critical period, this does not mean that adults cannot learn a second language perfectly, at least on the syntactic level. DeKeyser talks about the role of language aptitude as opposed to the critical period.

    More support for the innateness of language comes from the deaf population of Nicaragua. Until approximately 1986, Nicaragua had neither education nor a formalized sign language for the deaf. As Nicaraguans attempted to rectify the situation, they discovered that children past a certain age had difficulty learning any language. Additionally, the adults observed that the younger children were using gestures unknown to them to communicate with each other. They invited Judy Kegl, an American linguist from MIT, to help unravel this mystery. Kegl discovered that these children had developed their own, distinct, Nicaraguan Sign Language with its own rules of "sign-phonology" and syntax. She also discovered some 300 adults who, despite being raised in otherwise healthy environments, had never acquired language, and turned out to be incapable of learning language in any meaningful sense. While it was possible to teach vocabulary, these individuals were unable to learn syntax.[3]

    Derek Bickerton's (1981) landmark work with Hawaiian pidgin speakers studied immigrant populations where first-generation parents spoke highly-ungrammatical "pidgin English". Their children, Bickerton found, grew up speaking a grammatically rich language - neither English nor the syntax-less pidgin of their parents. Furthermore, the language exhibited many of the underlying grammatical features of many other natural languages. The language became "creolized", and is known as Hawaii Creole English. This was taken as powerful evidence for children's innate grammar module.

    Debate within the nativist position now revolves around how language evolved. Derek Bickerton suggests a single mutation, a "big bang", linked together previously evolved traits into full language.[5] Others like Steven Pinker argue for a slower evolution over longer periods of time.[3]

    Criticism and Non-Nativist Theories

    Non-nativist theories include Relational Frame Theory, the competition model, functionalist linguistics, usage-based language acquisition, social interactionism and others. Social-interactionists, like Snow, theorize that adults play an important part in children's language acquisition (see Moerk, E. L., 1992; also: However, some researchers claim that the empirical data on which theories of social interactionism are based have often been over-representative of middle class American and European parent-child interactions. Various anthropological studies of other human cultures, as well as anecdotal evidence from western families, suggests rather that many, if not the majority, of the world's children are not spoken to in a manner akin to traditional language lessons, but nevertheless grow up to be fully fluent language users. Many researchers now take this into account in their analyses.

    Nevertheless, Snow's criticisms might be powerful against Chomsky's argument, if the argument from the poverty of stimulus were indeed an argument about degenerate stimulus, but it is not. The argument from the poverty of stimulus is that there are principles of grammar that cannot be learned on the basis of positive input alone, however complete and grammatical that evidence is. This argument is not vulnerable to objection based on evidence from interaction studies such as Snow's, but it is vulnerable to the clear evidence of the availability of negative input given by Conversational analysis. In addition, meta analysis has shown that there is a large amount of corrections made [6]. Moerk (1994) conducted a meta-analysis of 40 studies and found substantial evidence that corrections do indeed play a role. From this work, corrections are not only abundant but contingent on the mistakes of the child.[7] (see behavior analysis of child development ).

    Many criticisms of the basic assumptions of generative theory have been put forth, with little response from its champions. The concept of a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is unsupported by evolutionary anthropology which shows a gradual adaptation of the human body to the use of language, rather than a sudden appearance of a complete set of binary parameters (which are common to digital computers but not to neurological systems such as a human brain) delineating the whole spectrum of possible grammars ever to have existed and ever to exist.

    The theory has several hypothetical constructs, such as movement, empty categories, complex underlying structures, and strict binary branching, that cannot possibly be acquired from any amount of input. Since the theory is, in essence, unlearnably complex, then it must be innate. A different theory of language, however, may yield different conclusions. Examples of alternative theories that do not utilize movement and empty categories are Head-driven phrase structure grammar, Lexical functional grammar, and several varieties of Construction Grammar. While all theories of language acquisition posit some degree of innateness, a less convoluted theory might involve less innate structure and more learning. Under such a theory of grammar, the input, combined with both general and language-specific learning capacities, might be sufficient for acquisition. Relational Frame Theory (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, Roche, 2001), provides a wholly selectionist/learning account of the origin and development of language competence and complexity. Bolstered by a significant and growing base of experimental and applied research, RFT posits a "functional contextualist" approach to the understanding, prediction and influence of language phenomenon.

    See also


    1. ^ a b Chomsky, N. (1975). Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon Books. 
    2. ^ a b c Yang, Charles (2006). The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn All the Languages of the World. New York: Scribner. 
    3. ^ a b c d e Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Collins. 
    4. ^ One Language or Two: Answers to Questions about Bilingualism in Language-Delayed Children
    5. ^ Bickerton, Derek (1990). Language and Species. United States: University of Chicago Press. 
    6. ^ Moerk, E.L. (1983). A behavioral analysis of controversial topics in first language acquisition: Reinforcements, corrections, modeling, input frequencies, and the three-term contingency pattern. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 12, 129-155
    7. ^ Moerk, E.L. (1994). Corrections in first language acquisition: Theorectial controversies and factual evidence. International Journal of Psycholinguistics, 10, 33-58


    Published - October 2008

    Information from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

    Submit your article!

    Read more articles - free!

    Read sense of life articles!

    E-mail this article to your colleague!

    Need more translation jobs? Click here!

    Translation agencies are welcome to register here - Free!

    Freelance translators are welcome to register here - Free!

    Free Newsletter

    Subscribe to our free newsletter to receive news from us:

    Recommend This Article
    Read More Articles
    Search Article Index
    Read Sense of Life Articles
    Submit Your Article
    Obtain Translation Jobs
    Visit Language Job Board
    Post Your Translation Job!
    Register Translation Agency
    Submit Your Resume
    Find Freelance Translators
    Buy Database of Translators
    Buy Database of Agencies
    Obtain Blacklisted Agencies
    Advertise Here
    Use Free Translators
    Use Free Dictionaries
    Use Free Glossaries
    Use Free Software
    Vote in Polls for Translators
    Read Testimonials
    Read More Testimonials
    Read Even More Testimonials
    Read Yet More Testimonials
    And More Testimonials!
    Admire God's Creations

    christianity portal
    translation jobs


    Copyright © 2003-2023 by
    Legal Disclaimer
    Site Map