Published on March 1, 2014
GENERAL IDEAS OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION By: ABDUL MOMIN & MUHAMMAD AMIR
Language Before Noam Chomsky Before Chomsky, Language was considered as behavior not knowledge, as incorporated in the structuralists linguists best known from Bloomfield‟s book Language.(Bloomfield 1933) The adult is a crucial part of Language Acquisition Process; the child would never learn to use any word without the adult‟s reaction and reinforcement. The Bloomfieldian version of language acquisition was the commonplace of lingusitics before Chomsky. (Cont.)
Chomsky repudiated behaviorist theory of B.F.Skinner. According to Skinner, Language is determined by stimuli consisting of specific attributes of the situation, by responses the stimuli call up in the organism, and by reinforcing stimuli that are their consequences. (e.g., Milk-Deprivation) As with Bloomfield , Language originates from a physical need and is a means to a physical end. The parents‟ provision of reinforcement is a vital part of the process.
CHOMSKY’s Views of Language Creativity is the key notion for Chomsky. People regularly understand and produce sentences that they have never heard before. Stimulus is not always as simple as milk deprivation. What would be the response of a person looking at a painting. He might say Dutch or Clashes with the wallpaper, I think you like abstract art, Never saw it before, Tilted, Hanging too low, Dull, Beautiful, Awesome, Stunning, or any thing else comes to mind. One stimulus apparently has many responses. There can be no certain prediction from stimulus to response. (Cont.)
In other words, human language is basically unpredictable from the stimulus. The important thing about language is that it is stimulus-free not stimulus-bound. We can say anything anywhere without being controlled by precise stimuli. The children rarely encounters appropriate external rewards or punishment; „it is not true that children can learn language only through “meticulous care” on the part of adults who shape their verbal repertoire through careful differential reinforcement‟ (Chomsky, 1959, p42) We cannot simply predict a particular response from any particular stimulus.
STATES OF LANGUAGE FACULTY Chomsky has conceptualized language in terms of initial and final „states‟ of the mind‟. In the beginning is the mind of new-born baby who knows no language, termed the initial or zero state, S0. At the end is the adult native speaker with full knowledge of language. This final state is static and competence is essentially complete and unchanging once it has been attained. The adult native speaker‟s knowledge is therefore termed as the steady state or Ss. Acquiring language means progressing from not having any language, S0 to having full competence, Ss. S0 Ss
Language Acquisition Device (LAD) Children hear a number of sentences said by their parents and other caretaker- the „primary linguistic data’; they process these in some fashion within their black box called the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), and they acquire linguistic competence i.e. a „generative grammer‟ Input „primary linguistic data‟ Language Acquisition Device Output „generative grammar‟ It shows that LAD not only processes input data but also add something of its own in this raw data.
3 Levels of Adequacy
The poverty of the stimulus argument Plato’s Problem Our knowledge of language is complex and abstract; the experience of language we receive is limited. Human minds could not create such complex knowledge on the basis of such sparse information. It must therefore come from somewhere other than the evidence they encounter. Plato says that it originates from memories of prior existence. According to Chomsky it is the innate property of mind and sourse of data is within the mind itself. The data in the stimulus are too thin to justify the knowledge that is built out of them, thus called „poverty-of-the-stimulus’ argument.
4 stages to the poverty of the stimulus argument (Cook, 1991)
The principles and parameters theory and language acquisition Universal Grammar is present in the child‟s mind as a system of principles and parameters. The principles of UG are principles of initial state, S0, The Projection Principle, Binding, Government and the others are the built-in structure of the language faculty in the human mind. These principles are not learnt so much as applied. Parameter-setting allows the child to acquire the circumscribed variation between languages. A speaker of English has set the head parameter to head-first, a Japanese to head-last . Acquiring a language means setting all the parameters of UG appropriately. As we have seen, they are limited in number but powerful in their effects. (Cont.)
Grammatical competence is a mixture of universal principals, values of parameters and lexical information, with an additional component peripheral knowledge. Some of it has been present in the speaker‟s mind from the beginning; some of it comes from experiences that have set values for parameters and led to the acquisition of lexical knowledge. According to Chomsky „what we “know innately” are the principles of various subsystems of S0 and the manner of their interaction, and the parameters associated with these principles. What we learn are the values of the parameters and the elements of the periphery.‟ Ex.1 His father plays tennis with him in the summer. Ex.2 Kare wa tegami o eki de yomimasu. He letter station on He read the letter on the station. read.
The ‘Evidence’ available to L1 learner
Requirements on the language evidence for the child Positive Evidence Requirement Occurrence Requirement •In principle children must be able to learn language simply from examples of language spoken by others (Positive evidence), without corrections or explanation etc. ( Negative evidence) •Any type of evidence needed by the child must be shown to occur in normal language situations, for example correction does not normally occur. Uniformity Requirement •The type of evidence must be available uniformly to all children regardless of variations in culture class etc. Take-up Requirement •Children must be shown actually to make use of this type of evidence.
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