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Theories of First Language Acquisition


Language from the perspective of Constructivism Language is a representational system formed ... Challenges posed by the approach Theory contradicts language ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theories of First Language Acquisition

Theories of First Language Acquisition
  • Behavioristic Approaches Bloomfield, Fries,
    Pavlov, Skinner
  • Nativist Approach Chomsky, Berko
  • Functional Approaches Piaget, Vygotsky, Bloom

Behavioristic Approaches Bloomfield, Fries,
Pavlov, Skinner
  • Focus on linguistic observable behavior and the
    relationships or associations between those
  • Effective language behavior is the production of
    correct responses to stimuli.
  • If a response is reinforced, it becomes habitual
    or conditioned

Skinners theory of Verbal Behavior (1957)
  • learning occurs by operant conditioning
  • a response or operant is maintained by
    reinforcement from another person
  • verbal behavior is controlled by its

Challenges posed by the approach
  • Theory contradicts language creativity
  • No consideration is given to the level of
    underlying meaning or deep structures

Nativist Approach Chomsky, Berko
  • Language acquisition is innately determined
  • Focus is on abstract rules
  • Approach offers a systematic description of the
    childs language as either ruled-governed or
    operating out of parallel distributed processing
  • Concept of universal grammar UG

Lenneberg (1967)
  • certain modes of perception, categorizing
    abilities, and other language related mechanisms
    are biologically determined

Chomsky (1965)
  • LAD--language acquisition device
  • UG--Universal Grammar
  • The generative model

Chomsky (1965)
  • LAD--language acquisition device
  • innate properties of language explains the
    mastery (by children) in such a short time of
    such a complex system composed of highly abstract
    rules as LANGUAGE.

Chomsky (1965)
  • Universal Grammar UG
  • there are properties that are common to all
    languages-- the deep structure of language at its
    deepest level may be common to all languages
  • all human beings are genetically equipped with
    abilities to acquire language--languages are
    universally acquired in the same manner

Chomsky (1965)
  • The Generative Model
  • Language is generated by a series of rules
  • The model proposes hypothetical grammars --the
    abstract rules underlying surface rules of
  • The early grammar of the child -- pivot grammar
    closed class open class item

Challenges posed by the nativist approach
  • Model does not account for the language use or
    discourse, for the connection between language
    and its social use
  • According to the model generative rules are
    connected serially. However, according to the
    distribution processing model PDP the childs
    linguistic performance may be the consequence of
    many interconnected levels of simultaneous neural
    interconnections rather than a serial process of
    one rule being applied, then another, then

Functional Approaches Piaget, Vygotsky, Bloom
  • The study of language now centers on the
    relationship of cognitive development to first
    language acquisition
  • Language is seen as one manifestation of the
    cognitive and affective ability to deal with the
    world, with others, and with the self
  • Language must be understood from two stand
  • the abstract, formal, explicit rules proposed
    under the generative grammar form of language,
  • the deeper functional level of meaning
    constructed from social interaction.

Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development
  • What children learn about language is determined
    by what they already know about the world
  • Cognitive development is at the center of the
    human organism --language is dependent upon and
    springs from cognitive development

Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development
  • The intelligence develops as children
    psychologically adapt to their environment and
    reconcile discrepancies between current forms and
    previously acquired forms of understanding
  • Psychological adaptation has two components
  • Assimilation new information is acquired and
    incorporated into existing structures
  • Accommodation already existing structures are
    adjusted based on newly acquired information.

Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development
  • Cognitive or mental structure scheme
  • Meaning is construed based on previous background
    knowledge structures
  • Schemata are the previously acquired knowledge
    structures through experience.

Piagets Stages of Cognitive Development
Vygotskys Language/Thought Relationship
  • Background
  • The linguist cannot deal with abstract, formal
    rules without dealing with performance or
    discourse functions
  • Language is used for communication
  • Research looks back at Skinners Verbal
    Behaviorthe concrete, the observable

Vygotskys Language/Thought Relationship
  • Social interaction, through language, is a
    pre-requisite to cognitive development
  • Every child reaches his or her potential
    development, in part, through social interaction
  • The interpretative rules of language use are
    acquired through social interaction at a very
    early age
  • language initially serves a social function.

Vygotskys Language/Thought Relationship
  • Cognitive and communicative development evolves
    from the social function of language
  • Language and thought are distinct and develop
  • When the two systems fuse with the development of
    inner speech, logical reasoning develops

Vygotskys zone of proximal development
  • Zone of proximal development is the distance
    between a childs actual cognitive capacity and
    the level of potential development as the child
    matures. Attainment of cognitive development
    depends upon problem solving tasks, which advance
    the childs ability for independent thinking.
    Contact with adults and peers are crucial for
    cognitive development.

Current Approaches Constructivism
  • Constructivism is a social construction and
    negotiation of meaning
  • Learning is a dynamic process that is both social
    and mental
  • The primary concern is the mental construction of
    meaning or the building of knowledge structures.

Brunners constructivism (1994)
  • Children are the active transformers of their
    experiences with the world they pick and choose
    what they need to make their own world in their
  • Children construct meaning by means of social
    contact and negotiation
  • Childrens learning occur within a socio-cultural
    plane and is internalize to the cognitive plane.

Language from the perspective of Constructivism
  • Language is a representational system formed by
    the child as she relates symbols to concrete
    concepts and experiences
  • Language and thought interact to promote
    intellectual growth thus such representations
    function as a medium for intellectual growth.

Language from the perspective of Constructivism
  • Childrens language use reflects their underlying
    cognitive abilities and their social and
    emotional growth
  • Childrens language is culture/community basedit
    reflects their experiences