File Name: principles and theories of language acquisition and learning .zip
- Main Theories of Language Acquisition
- The Search for a Unified Theory of Language Learning
- A DISCUSSION OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION THEORIES
Main Theories of Language Acquisition
Empiricism, in this sense, can be contrasted to nativism, which holds that at least some knowledge is not acquired through interaction with the environment, but is genetically transmitted and innate. To put it another way, some theoreticians have based their theories on environmental factors while others believed that it is the innate factors that determine the acquisition of language.
It is, however, important to note that neither nurturists environmentalists disagree thoroughly with the nativist ideas nor do nativists with the nurturist ideas. Only the weight they lay on the environmental and innate factors is relatively little or more. Before sifting through language acquisition theories here, therefore, making a distinction between these two types of perspectives will be beneficial for a better understanding of various language acquisition theories and their implications for the field of applied linguistics.
In the following paragraphs, the two claims posed by the proponents of the two separate doctrines will be explained and the reason why such a distinction has been made in this article will be clarified. Environmentalist theories of language acquisition hold that an organism's nurture, or experience, are of more significance to development than its nature or inborn contributions. Yet they do not completely reject the innate factors.
Behaviorist and neo-behaviorist stimulus-response learning theories S-R for simplicity are the best known examples. Even though such theories have lost their effect partially because of Chomsky's intelligent review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior Chomsky, , their effect has not been so little when we consider the present cognitive approach as an offshoot of behaviorism.
The nativist theories, on the other hand, assert that much of the capacity for language learning in human is 'innate'. It is part of the genetic makeup of human species and is nearly independent of any particular experience which may occur after birth. Thus, the nativists claim that language acquisition is innately determined and that we are born with a built-in device which predisposes us to acquire language.
This mechanism predisposes us to a systematic perception of language around us. Eric Lenneberg cited in Brown, , in his attempt to explain language development in the child, assumed that language is a species -specific behavior and it is 'biologically determined'.
Another important point as regards the innatist account is that nativists do not deny the importance of environmental stimuli, but they say language acquisition cannot be accounted for on the basis of environmental factors only. There must be some innate guide to achieve this end. The particular reason why such a distinction between environmentalist and nativist theories has been made in this study is to create a clear-cut picture of the current status of language acquisition theories, present and former studies in the field of language acquisition and language teaching methodology.
In the following part, the most important ones of language acquisition theories resulting from the two opposing views mentioned above will be discussed.
Most of the theories may be considered in both L1 mother tongue and L2 second or foreign language acquisition even though certain theories to be discussed here have been resulted from second language acquisition SLA studies. It is important to note once again that language acquisition theories have been influenced especially by linguistic and psychological schools of thought.
Thus they have given relatively changing weights on different factors in approaching the acquisition process as can be seen in the following subsections. Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal DevelopmentVygotsky was a psychologist but his studies on conscious human behavior led him to investigate the role that language plays in human behavior.
Vygotsky's point of view is simply that social interaction plays an important role in the learning process. He places an emphasis on the role of "shared language" in the development of thought and language. The term "shared language" refers to social interaction and can be best elucidated through the notion of "zone of proximal development".
According to Vygotsky , two developmental levels determine the learning process: egocentricity and interaction. We can look at what children do on their own and what they can do while working with others. They mostly choose to remain silent or speak less on their own less egocentric speech when they are alone.
However, they prefer to speak to other children when they play games with them more egocentric speech. The difference between these two types of development forms has been called "Zone of Proximal Development".
This zone refers to the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in cooperation with more capable friends of the child. The first thing that children do is to develop concepts by talking to adults and then solve the problems they face on their own.
In other words, children first need to be exposed to social interaction that will eventually enable them build their inner resources. As for the drawbacks of the views proposed by Vygotsky, it is not clear what Vygotsky meant by inner resources.
Also, his emphasis on the significance of egocentric speech in the development of thought and language is worth discussing. He suggests that egocentric speech is social and helps children interact with others. When a child is alone he uses less egocentric language than he uses it when playing games with other children. This implies that speech is influenced by the presence of other people. It seems that Vygotsky overemphasizes the function of egocentric speech in the development of language.
It is true that society and other people are important factors helping children to acquire language. However, Vygotsky fails to account for the role of the self itself in this process, even though he stresses the importance of egocentric speech, which is not the self actually, and see the relative role of inner linguistic and psycholinguistic mechanisms that promote language acquisition. In conclusion, Vygotsky contends that language is the key to all development and words play a central part not only in the development of thought but in the growth of cognition as a whole.
Within this framework, child language development, thus acquisition, can be viewed as the result of social interaction. Skinner's Verbal BehaviorBehavioristic view of language acquisition simply claims that language development is the result of a set of habits.
This view has normally been influenced by the general theory of learning described by the psychologist John B. Watson in , and termed behaviorism. Behaviorism denies nativist accounts of innate knowledge as they are viewed as inherently irrational and thus unscientific.
Knowledge is the product of interaction with the environment through stimulusresponse conditioning. Broadly speaking, stimulus ST -response RE learning works as follows. An event in the environment the unconditioned stimulus, or UST brings out an unconditioned response URE from an organism capable of learning.
That response is then followed by another event appealing to the organism. That is, the organism's response is positively reinforced PRE. This will consequently cause the organism to give the same response when it confronts with the same stimulus. In this way, the response becomes a conditioned response CRE.
The most risky part of the behavioristic view is perhaps the idea that all leaning, whether verbal language or non-verbal general learning takes place by means of the same underlying process, that is via forming habits. In , the psychologist B. When language acquisition is taken into consideration, the theory claims that both L1 and L2 acquirers receive linguistic input from speakers in their environment, and positive reinforcement for their correct repetitions and imitations.
As mentioned above, when language learners' responses are reinforced positively, they acquire the language relatively easily. These claims are strictly criticized in Chomsky's "A Review of B. Skinner's Verbal Behavior". Chomsky asserts that there is "neither empirical evidence nor any known argument to support any specific claim about the relative importance of feedback from the environment".
What is more, the theory overlooks the speaker internal factors in this process. The behaviorists see errors as first language habits interfering with the acquisition of second language habits. If there are similarities between the two languages, the language learners will acquire the target structures easily.
If there are differences, acquisition will be more difficult. This approach is known as the contrastive analysis hypothesis CAH. Lightbown and Spada 25 note that:"… there is little doubt that a learner's first language influences the acquisition of second language. It is true that there might be some influences resulting from L1, but research Ellis, has shown that not all errors predicted by CAH are actually made. In brief, Skinner's view of language acquisition is a popular example of the nurturist ideas.
The theory sees the language learner as a tabula rasa with no built-in knowledge. The theory and the resulting teaching methods failed due to the fact that imitation and simple S-R connections only cannot explain acquisition and provide a sound basis for language teaching methodology. Piaget's View of Language AcquisitionEven though Piaget was a biologist and a psychologist, his ideas have been influential in the field of first and second language acquisition studies.
In fact he studied the overall behavioral development in the human infant. But his theory of development in children has striking implications as regards language acquisition. Ellidokuzoglu notes that "many scientists, especially the psychologists are hesitant to attribute a domain-specific built-in linguistic knowledge to the human infant. Piaget was one of those psychologists who view language acquisition as a case of general human learning.
He has not suggested, however, that the development is not innate, but only that there is no specific language module. Piaget's view was then that the development i. Piaget cited in Brown, , Eyseneck, outlined the course of intellectual development as follows:-The sensorimotor stage from ages 0 to 2 understanding the environment -The preoperational stage from ages 2 to 7 understanding the symbols -The concrete operational stage from ages 7 to 11 mental tasks and language use -The formal operational stage from the age 11 onwards dealing with abstraction Piaget observes, for instance, that the pre-linguistic stage birth to one year is a determining period in the development of sensory-motor intelligence, when children are forming a sense of their physical identity in relation to the environment.
Piaget, unlike Vygotsky, believes that egocentric speech on its own serves no function in language development. Piaget's work, which dwells on the idea that students can learn things when they are developmentally ready to do so since learning follows development, can be regarded as a starting point of the cognitivist ideas.
Cognitive psychologists emphasized the importance of meaning, knowing and understanding. According to them, 'meaning' plays an important role in human learning. In the case of language acquisition, these representations are based on language system and involve procedures for selecting appropriate vocabulary, grammatical rules, and pragmatic conventions governing language use. David Ausubel cited in Brown, , who criticized the popular Audiolingual method for its theory based on reinforcement and conditioning, stated that adults learning a second language could profit from certain grammatical explanations.
Whether adults do really profit from such explanations depends on 1 the suitability and efficiency of the explanation, 2 the teacher, 3 the context, and 4 other pedagogical variables. Though children do not use deductive presentations of grammar and they do not have superior cognitive capacities, they acquire their mother tongue quite successfully. Cognitive psychologists see second language acquisition, on the other hand, as the "building up of knowledge systems that can eventually be called automatically for speaking and understanding" Lightbown and Spada,
The Search for a Unified Theory of Language Learning
Humans are storytelling beings. As far as we know, no other species has the capacity for language and ability to use it in endlessly creative ways. From our earliest days, we name and describe things. For people immersed in the study of language and the study of learning, one really important question has engendered a lot of debate over the years: How much of this ability is innate — part of our genetic makeup — and how much do we learn from our environments? But is there an inherited ability underlying our individual languages — a structural framework that enables us to grasp, retain, and develop language so easily? Whether we learn Arabic, English, Chinese, or sign language is determined, of course, by the circumstances of our lives. Chomsky and other linguists have said that all languages contain similar elements.
Theoretical Accounts of Language-Learning. 1 Innate knowledge of the principles underlying language, however, is not sufficient to account for how children acquire manual modality makes sign languages unique in at least one respect.
A DISCUSSION OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION THEORIES
The main purpose of theories of second-language acquisition SLA is to shed light on how people who already know one language learn a second language. The field of second-language acquisition involves various contributions, such as linguistics , sociolinguistics , psychology , cognitive science , neuroscience , and education. These multiple fields in second-language acquisition can be grouped as four major research strands: a linguistic dimensions of SLA, b cognitive but not linguistic dimensions of SLA, c socio-cultural dimensions of SLA, and d instructional dimensions of SLA. While the orientation of each research strand is distinct, they are in common in that they can guide us to find helpful condition to facilitate successful language learning.
Second-language acquisition SLA , sometimes called second-language learning — otherwise referred to as L2 language 2 acquisition , is the process by which people learn a second language.
The solution, we say, is to be more like those kids that we once were when we learned our first language. Nor do most of us want to spend 18 years of our lives studying a language just to achieve high school level fluency. And that thing is theory. Theory, that most highly condensed form of thought based on principles and evidence, can help us as adults to excel in language learning in ways that would otherwise not be possible. Of course, learning about language learning theory in no way needs to occupy the bulk of your time. Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy.
By Henna Lemetyinen , published Language is a cognition that truly makes us human. Whereas other species do communicate with an innate ability to produce a limited number of meaningful vocalizations e.
Principles of first and second language acquisition will be examined in light of such linguistic theory. This will focus on current theoretical notions of language acquisition while paying particular attention to how such notions might become relevant for institutional learning. My eyes really hurt if I use the computer too much. Sentence 4. Sentence
Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: Krashen Published Computer Science. This text explores the relationship between second language teaching practice and what is known about the process of second language acquisition and summarizes the current state of second language acquisition theory.
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