- uniquely human
Theories of language development
- historical debate
- Verbal Behavior, B. F. Skinner
- language learned through operant conditioning
- Syntactic Structures, Noam Chomsky
- LAD (language acquisition device)
How good is the evidence in support of Chomsky's nativist position?
- Children learn rules?
- Development of Creoles?
- Is language unique to humans?
- Are there specialized language areas in the brain?
- left hemisphere
- Broca's Area
- Wernicke's Area
- evidence for these distinct areas?
- Are there sensitive periods for language development?
- recovery of severely abused children
- acquiring a second language
Contemporary criticism of Chomsky's theory
- languages differ greatly in their grammars
- children don't suddenly acquire specific rules of grammar
The course of language development
- categorical perception
- native language categories
as young as 4-6 months
- stress pattern preferences
- word recognition
- phrases and clauses
- 2 months
- 1st vowel-like sounds
- 6 months: CV pairs
- reduplicated babbling
- nonreduplicated babbling
- deaf babies babble
- manual babbling in infants exposed to sign language
- intonation patterns in babbling
- why is babbling important?
- become proficient with phonemes of the language
- leads to associations between sound and meaning
- joint attention
comprehension versus production:
- 12 months: first words
- 6 years: 8,000 words
- adulthood: 30,000 words
vocabulary spurt or naming explosion
- 13 months: comprehend 50 words
- 18 months: produce 50 words
- 18 to 24 months
- fast mapping
semantic development follows cognitive development
individual differences in early semantic development:
- first words
- object words
- action words
- state words
- time words
- referential style
- expressive style
- cultural differences
- multiple meanings
- psychological meanings
how do children learn word meanings?
- word coinage
strategies for word learning:
different theories, but not good support for any of them
- whole object constraint
- principle of mutual exclusivity
- syntactic bootstrapping
- across languages children use two word utterance to express common meanings
- do two word utterances have a grammar?
beyond 2-word utterances
- word order
- parts of speech
- grammatical morphemes
- why this order?
- structural complexity
- semantic complexity
acquiring complex grammatical forms
theories as to how grammatical development takes place
- complex constructions
- conversation: turn taking, turnabout, and shading
- illocutionary intent
- referential communication skills
To see some video clips illustrating children's language skills at various ages, [click here].