NATURE OR NURTURE?
Transcript NATURE OR NURTURE?
NATURE OR NURTURE?
First language acquisition theories
Watson, Pavlov and Skinner
role of the environment
Imitation and practice
Pavlov and classical conditioning
Developing unconditioned responses
Skinner: operant conditioning
We are goverened by the consequences
of our actions
1. "What children say"
Jean Berko (1958):
wented, taked, mices, mouses, sheeps
ett, kenyért, lót, tégem
> Analogous thinking
2. "What children don't say"
CHILD: Nobody don't like me.
MUM: No, say "nobody likes me".
CHILD: Nobody don't like me.
(eight repetitions of this dialogue)
MUM: No, now listen carefully, say "nobody likes me".
CHILD: Oh! Nobody don't likes me.
> Inability to imitate
Chomsky: genetic pre-programming
1. the Argument from the Poverty of the
2. evidence of rule governed language
LAD, language universals
Example: SVO components in sentences
- 75% of the world's languages:
SVO (English, French, Vietnamese) or
SOV (Japanese, Tibetan, Korean)
- 10 - 15% VSO ( Welsh) or VOS (Malagasy)
- 10-15% free word order (Latin, Hungarian),
but SOV common: Márta tortát evett.
„Setting the parameters” – matching UG to particular
Criticism of Chomsky
1. Competence – performance
- Performance igored
- Competence judged on the basis of intuitions?
2. Core grammar – peripheral grammar
- focus on core grammar(?) only
?We was there. I ain’t no fool.
3. Syntax vs. semantics
- Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.
- My mother, he no like bananas.
4. Ignoring meaning, function, context
- situation for child FLA
Focus on imput: Interaction vs. exposure
Bruner’s Language Acquisition Support System
- parents communicate
in ritualistic scenarios
- easily comprehensible
and predictable language
- emotionally charged
- repetition of acts
Motherese, parentese (interaction,
1. Simplified in grammar and meaning
2. Shorter sentences - about 4-8 words/
sentence, when speaking to 2-year olds
3. More restricted range of sentence patterns
4. Expansion and repetition of sentences
5. Slower speech
6. Use of special words and sounds
7. High pitch
8. High, rising intonation - looking for feedback.
9. Embedded in the here and now.
Findings from motherese
Not so partial and ungrammatical as suggested by
a large number of WH forms
No close correlation between motherese and
Not all social groups adapt speech to young
Children do not simply repeat the language they
hear from their caretakers.
They also produce
utterances that they
have never heard.
Motherese: focus on meaning, not on grammar
Child : Mamma isn't boy, he a girl.
Mother : That's right.
Child : And Walt Disney comes on Tuesday.
Mother : No he does not.
Children’s mistakes not random errors - own
Negation sequence of Englishspeaking children
1. No and Not appear as single word sentences.
2. Two-word (pivot) sentences: No car, Not gone
3. Negative words used within constructions:
You no do that, Mummy
4. Negative auxiliaries appear: Won't, can't
5. Not replaces no. Double negatives
6. Any, hardly, scarcely during early years of
Focus on neuro-programming: neurons,
synapses, wiring, circuits
Where does language reside in the brain?
Is there a LAD?
Answer from neurology
- Left hemisphere:
language and logical functions
Paul Broca 1861: „Tan”
Broca’s aphasia: inability to form correct
sentences, patient is aware of difficulty
Broca’s area: responsible for grammatical
Carl Wernicke, 1874: Wernicke’s area
Wernicke’s aphasia: grammatical correctness,
semantically meaningless utterances, unaware
Relation between Broca’s and Wernicke’s
Phases of development
Before birth: neurons,
wiring for life functions
0/1: "biological exhuberance„
neurons connect in response
to environmental impulses
- vocal map of L1 is formed
1/10: flexible synapses, easily formed
- sensorimotor connections flexible (no
- vocab.learnt through repeated
exposure and interaction
After 10: "pruning"
Language: fixed synapses
GENETICALLY PROVIDED BRAIN
"Experts now agree that a baby does not
come into the world as a genetically
preprogrammed automaton or a blank
slate at the mercy of the environment ...
Learning happens by the interaction of the
genes and the environment.„ (S. Begley)
Critical period in FLA:
- no hope after CP
Critical period in SLL/SLA:
- weak version: difficult
- strong version: impossible
Alternative considerations and
Left/Right cooperation in SLL
strategies of acquisition
Hill (1970), Sorenson (1967): multilingual
tribes, no accent
Areas of change
Talent: neurological flexibility
New wiring for L2
Motivation, + attitude, involvement
Language learning, a unique human
capacity: neurological basis
Genetic programme + environment
Learning capacity limited by time (CPH)
Loss of unconnected neurons and unused
Also influenced by personality factors