CHILD LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Group 5
Verma
07305037 Shitanshu
07305086
07305905
07305913
Rajeshwar G
Girija Limaye
Apoorv Sharma
MOTIVATION
QUESTIONS





When does a child starts listening ?
If child is left alone with a deaf mother will it learn ?
o Akbar’s experiment
If we try to make a chimp available to all the inputs will
it learn ?
o Obvious no, but what makes humans unique
You must have observed
o For a child a dog is any four legged animal
o For a child a city is just the home he knows in the city
o Child never misplaces
Do you know:
o Children don’t like when we talk to them in motherese
o Children understand more phones than adults
IF WE UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS

Fields it will benefit
Psycholinguistics
o Neural Networks
o Psychology
o Statistics
o

Get insight into brains of humans
Compare with other animals
Understand the mental representation

Why a seminar in NLP course?


o
teach the machines the same way
TILL NOW IT IS UNEXPLAINED
IN THIS PRESENTATION

Broad coverage of various aspects of child
language acquisition studies
Observations
o Theories
o

Scope and Roadmap
Fundamentals
o Human’s special affinity to language
o Stages of child language acquisition
o Theories explaining CLA
o

We would not talk (much) about
o
Specific theories explaining individual stages
 Eg. Motor Theory Account
Basics and Biological Human
Adaptation
LANGUAGE

Language
Grammar
o Vocabulary
o Recursive
o

Animals communicate
Have sounds
o Special meanings to sounds
o Unique to humans
o

Seems it is innate to humans
o
Seems !
CHILD LANGUAGE ?
INNATENESS – BIOLOGICAL
DEVELOPMENT
The infant's vocal tract resembles that of a chimpanzee!
o Indistinct oral and pharyngeal cavities
o The soft palate (velum) reaches the epiglottis
This facilitates breathing through the nose while suckling
o By three months the larynx descends into the pharynx
o Allows greater range of speech sounds
o Increases the risk of choking

BRAIN – DEVELOPMENT AND
SUPPORT TO LANGUAGE

Linguistic capability require
o
o
o
o
o
Minimum levels of brain size
Long-distance connections
Extra synapse
These are developed highly during first few years in
children
Infant body is very plastic
Left hemisphere surrounding the Sylvian fissure,
that appears to be designed for language
 High cognitive capabilities

o
Sound and speech : Use broad pitch and rhythm
efficiently
STAGES OF CHILD
LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Observing a child grow 
WAY WE CAN STUDY

Various aspects and ways
Perception development
o Speech development
o
Focus on phonological development
o Focus on meaning understanding development
o Focus on grammar development
o Individual studies on them
o

We will be doing a mixture of these
PRE-BABBLING(VERY YOUNG)

Pre-equipped to head phonetic contrasts
o

even for languages not spoken around them
later become insensitive
At 10 to 12 months
o Seem to be discovering phonemes
o

Infants can distinguish between /p/ and /b/ at
three or four months
BABBLING(4-6 MONTHS)
Using indiscriminate utterance of speech sounds
 Utterances may be other than native language
 Very few consonant clusters
 Repeated syllables are common

PERCEIVING PHONEMIC
DISTINCTIONS
Differences between the sounds of different languages
 Both Hindi and English:
/ba/ vs.
/da/
6-8 month-old babies and adults could discriminate
 Hindi, not English, easy
/Ta/ vs.
/ta/
o
6-8 month-old babies could discriminate.
o Adults could not initially but could after 25 trials of training.
o

Hindi, not English, /th/
vs.
/dh/
6-8 month-old babies could discriminate.
o Adults could not, and never learned
o

Babies can discriminate the sounds of all the world’s
languages and adults cannot
Perceptive Development
They
show high cognitive abilities
Children
can discriminate between

Human speech from other sounds and prefer to listen to it

Their mother’s voice and other adult women’s voice

Infant directed speech from Adult directed speech

Mother Tongue from Other language
RECOGNIZING AND REMEMBERING
WORDS
6 to 7.5 months
olearn to identify familiar words in context
 7.5 months
oEnglish-learners can identify words with
strong-weak stress patterns
 10.5 months
o Can identify words with weak-strong patterns
 Common words are remembered more

Recognizing and Remembering Words
Nouns before verbs
 Content verbs before auxiliary verbs
 Meanings are over generalize or under
generalized
o City name
o only the house they visit in city
o Dog
o Any four legged animal
 The ends of words learned more quickly
o -nana for banana.
o true even in language where the stress in
always on the first syllable.

HOLOPHRASTIC (1 YEAR)
Utter their first word as early as nine months
o Mama
o dada (these words resemble babbling)
 Often the words are simplified
o "du" for duck
o "ba" for bottle
 First words of children are common throughout
the planet

food, body parts, water, toys, mama, etc
o then routine words used in social interaction
yes, no, want, bye-bye, hi
o
TWO-WORD STAGE(18 MONTHS-2 YEARS)

Sentences are of limited meaning
ownership-- Daddy's shoes
o describing events-- Me fall
o labelling-- That dog
o vocational relations-- toy in box
o

Children design pivot grammars
Prefer certain words - pivotal (axis) words
o Use different words with the pivots to create phrases
o
LEARNING THAT ELEMENTS ARE ORDERED

Infants
oRarely scramble the order of words.
oHear more to their mother tongue
oElder babies could find distance dependency

The boy, who I like, is here today
oSensitive
to the statistical properties of what they hear
 Develops before and during infancy
DOES THIS MEAN THAT BABIES
‘KNOW’ GRAMMAR ‘INNATELY’?
Younger babies could not do this, though some
experiments found that they could do a related but much
simpler task at 7 months
 Babies are sensitive to the statistical properties of what
they hear and these sensitivities are developing before
and during infancy.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT(AFTER 18
MONTHS)
Begins to form longer utterances
 Lack grammatical correctness but the meaning is
conveyed
 Some examples

dirty hand wash it
o car sleeping bed = the car was now parked in the
garage
o
Inflection is learnt by the age of 3
 Look for phrases to built upon the rules of the
language
 The sentences become more lengthy and
grammatically complex afterwards

EXPLAINING CHILD
LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Theories on Child Language Acquisition
THEORY – CLASSIFICATION

On basis of principles
Nature
brain has innate propensity for CLA
o Nurture
CLA is general cognitive ability
no specific biological evolution
o None is fully in opposition to other
o
oWhich is dominant factor
THEORY – UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED
FACTS

The basic ability to acquire language is innate to
the child
o Needs external trigger

Akbar’s experiment
Intelligence is not related with L1A
 No specific structural property of language has
yet been proven to be innate

THEORY – OPEN ISSUES
None explains all the observations
 Is it modularity of brain?
 Is it native to brain?
note difference between nativism and
modularity
 L1 competency is better than L2 competency
 L2 acquisition at different extent

Some Popular Theories
Cognitive
 Imitation and positive reinforcement
 Innateness
 and others like Motherese

COGNITIVE THEORY

Nurture
o
No special part of brain promotes LA

Introduced by Piaget

Language acquired attributed to
o

general intellectual development
Process
o
acquires concepts
o
concept -> word mapping

natural cognitive development
COGNITIVE THEORY


Suggests
o
simpler ideas learnt earlier
o
irrespective of grammatical complexity
Explains
o

order of certain aspects of LA
Does not explain
o Why languages emerge?

o
Cognitively found in animals, but they don't acquire
language
Studies: Despite abnormal mental development,
children speak fluently
Inputs to Child Language Acquisition
Positive Evidence
o information available for correct grammatical
structures
 Negative Evidence
o information available for incorrect
grammatical structures
 Motherese
o modified language used by parents
 Prosody
o Melody, timing and stress
 Context
o Learns only with help of context
o Never learn from radio or television

IMITATION AND POSITIVE
REINFORCEMENT
By imitating adults and repeating what they
hear
 Limitations:

o

Based on observations
Unanswered:
Mistakes: indicate application of rules, not just
imitation (intelligent mistakes)
o Feedback
o

Governed by Truth value rather than syntax
POVERTY OF THE STIMULUS

Claim
o

Grammar is unlearn able given the linguistic data
available to children.
Premises
Limited input signals received
o The degenerate nature:
 frequent incorrect usage, utterances of partial
sentences
o Patterns that cannot be learned using positive
evidence alone.
o

Conclusion
o
Child must have some form of innate linguistic
capacity.
INNATENESS

Innate capabilities of language learning
o
Language Acquisition Device

o
assumed to have Syntactic structures
They only learn words
Explains intelligent mistakes (with LAD)
 Limitations

Only focus is on grammar
o Syntactic structures: Language dependent, Innate??
o Explaining LAD?
o
LANGUAGE ACQUISITION DEVICE
Supposed to be an Organ of brain
 Intractable complexity of language acquisition
 Assumed Components

technique for representing input signals
o a way of representing structural information about
them
o some initial delimitation of the class of possible
language structure hypotheses
o a method for determining meaning of hypotheses for
each sentence
o
LANGUAGE ACQUISITION DEVICE

Steps
o Input signals --> structural information
o Checks the compatibility of input with the
hypothesis
o Checks the compatibility using knowledge of
implications for each hypothesis
o One hypothesis or ‘grammar’ is selected as
being compatible with the input signals.
o This grammar provides the device with a
method of interpreting sentences
Conclusion
Humans do have a better biological evolved body
for language
 Certain traits such as sound processing are
innate to infants
 Children learn language remarkably fast
 Interesting patterns are present in child
language acquisition process
 Various theories have been proposed

None explains all
 Nature vs Nurture is the prime issue

References
www.wikipedia.org
 Language Acquisition, Steve Pinker, Draft
version
 pandora.cii.wwu.edu
 Language Acquisition, Elena Lieven, School of
Psychological Sciences,University of Manchester
 Language Acquisition, Michel Frank

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Child Language Acquisition