language-icon Old Web
Sign In

Language acquisition

Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand it), as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate. Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand it), as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate. Language acquisition involves structures, rules and representation. The capacity to successfully use language requires one to acquire a range of tools including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and an extensive vocabulary. Language can be vocalized as in speech, or manual as in sign. Human language capacity is represented in the brain. Even though human language capacity is finite, one can say and understand an infinite number of sentences, which is based on a syntactic principle called recursion. Evidence suggests that every individual has three recursive mechanisms that allow sentences to go indeterminately. These three mechanisms are: relativization, complementation and coordination. There are two main guiding principles in first-language acquisition: speech perception always precedes speech production and the gradually evolving system by which a child learns a language is built up one step at a time, beginning with the distinction between individual phonemes. Linguists who are interested in child language acquisition for many years question how language is acquired, Lidz et al. states 'The question of how these structures are acquired, then, is more properly understood as the question of how a learner takes the surface forms in the input and converts them into abstract linguistic rules and representations.' Language acquisition usually refers to first-language acquisition, which studies infants' acquisition of their native language, whether that be spoken language or signed language as a result of prelingual deafness, though it can also refer to bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA), which refers to an infant's simultaneous acquisition of two native languages. This is distinguished from second-language acquisition, which deals with the acquisition (in both children and adults) of additional languages. In addition to speech, reading and writing a language with an entirely different script compounds the complexities of true foreign language literacy. Language acquisition is one of the quintessential human traits, because non-humans do not communicate by using language. Some early observation-based ideas about language acquisition were proposed by Plato, who felt that word-meaning mapping in some form was innate. Additionally, Sanskrit grammarians debated for over twelve centuries whether humans' ability to recognize the meaning of words was god-given (possibly innate) or passed down by previous generations and learned from already established conventions: a child learning the word for cow by listening to trusted speakers talking about cows. Philosophers in ancient societies were interested in how humans acquired the ability to understand and produce language well before empirical methods for testing those theories were developed, but for the most part they seemed to regard language acquisition as a subset of man's ability to acquire knowledge and learn concepts. Empiricists, like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, argued that knowledge (and, for Locke, language) emerge ultimately from abstracted sense impressions. These arguments lean towards the 'nurture' side of the argument: that language is acquired through sensory experience, which led to Rudolf Carnap's Aufbau, an attempt to learn all knowledge from sense datum, using the notion of 'remembered as similar' to bind them into clusters, which would eventually map into language. Proponents of behaviorism argued that language may be learned through a form of operant conditioning. In B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behaviour (1957), he suggested that the successful use of a sign, such as a word or lexical unit, given a certain stimulus, reinforces its 'momentary' or contextual probability. Since operant conditioning is contingent on reinforcement by rewards, a child would learn that a specific combination of sounds stands for a specific thing through repeated successful associations made between the two. A 'successful' use of a sign would be one in which the child is understood (for example, a child saying 'up' when he or she wants to be picked up) and rewarded with the desired response from another person, thereby reinforcing the child's understanding of the meaning of that word and making it more likely that he or she will use that word in a similar situation in the future. Some empiricist theories of language acquisition include the statistical learning theory. Charles F. Hockett of language acquisition, relational frame theory, functionalist linguistics, social interactionist theory, and usage-based language acquisition.

[ "Pedagogy", "Linguistics", "Mathematics education", "Artificial intelligence", "Order of acquisition", "Acquiring language", "Innateness hypothesis", "Multilingual person", "child language acquisition" ]
Parent Topic
Child Topic
    No Parent Topic