Child Language Acquisition
Sahil Thapa
Amit Kumar Upadhyay
Prakhar Goyal
Naineet Patel
Language Acquisition
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Ponder on Language Acquisition
A complex task
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Encompasses research fields
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:
Natural Language Processing
Neural networks
Psychology
Statistics …and other related fields
Language Acquisition- The meaning..
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Language acquisition - process by which the language
capability develops in a human.
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First language acquisition or ‘Child Language Acquisition’
concerns the development of language in children.
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da --> daddy --> daddy loves me ..
Why to learn that !!
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Long range influences on adult behaviour: as the twig is
bent, so grows the tree !!
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Children change so rapidly compared to us adults.
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Insights into complex adult processes.
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Interesting subject matter.
Lets learn How ‘Krish’ learns to talk
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1 Week "WAAAAAAAA!"
Translation - "I'm hungry!"
Krish learns that people pay attention to you when you
make noises
Lets learn How Krish learns to talk
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6 Months "Babadadagugubaba"
Translation - none.
Krish has learned that making noises is fun.
Lets learn How Krish learns to talk
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1 Year "paalle - g"
Translation – "I want biscuit" (First time he ate ‘Parle G’
biscuit, although this time, it is a different biscuit now)
Krish has learned that you don't always have to point to
show people things.
You can correlate one type of thing to its similar type.
Lets learn How Krish learns to talk
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2-3 Years "Chacha Choudhry hit boy. Stick daddy. No
Talks !!"
Translation – Chacha Choudhry hitting boy with his
stick. And stop reading this story daddy! ( Because I'm
scared)
He has learned that language helps you be quite specific
about what you feel and what you want.
Lets learn How Krish learns to talk
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5 Years "Papa, mai yeh kaam karna chahta huun!"
Finally he has learned the core structure and grammar of
the language.
By now, he is almost able to communicate with his
fellow people and from now onwards he will try
expanding the vocabulary and knowledge of the
language.
Outline
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Motivation & Meaning
Some facts about language acquisition
Theories explaining Child Language Acquisition
Imp Stages in CLA
CHILDES
3 imp facts about CLA
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1. REGARDLESS OF THE LANGUAGE KIDS ARE
EXPOSED TO....
◦ at 6 weeks they coo
◦ at 6 months they babble
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at 1 year they produce their first word
◦ at 2 years they construct 2 word sentences
◦ at 5 years they have almost acquired the core grammar of their
language
3 imp facts about CLA
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2. Universal phenomenon phonologically, syntactically,
and semantically.
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3 . A natural process
◦ Their syntax is very rarely explicitly corrected, and attempts at
such correction are almost invariably unsuccessful.
Outline
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Motivation & Meaning
Some facts about language acquisition
Theories explaining Child Language Acquisition
Imp Stages in CLA
CHILDES
Theories of Language Acquisition
Theories
Nativist
Non Nativist
Cognitive
Behaviorist
Chomsky
Vyogtsky
Piaget
Skinner
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
 “Language is a process of free creation; its laws
and principles are fixed, but the manner in which
the principles of generation are used is free and
infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use
of words involves a process of free creation“
-- Avram Noam Chomsky
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
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Language acquisition is influenced by language, not
controlled by it !!!
Arguments:
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Language is complicated
No formal instruction.
Always succeed and that too in a short period of time
Independent of other mental tasks.
Use deduction rather than by imitation or memorization.
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
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Neurological system in human brains that supports language
acquisition. “Language Acquisition Device” or LAD.
Children are exposed to infinite data and given data LAD
produce a finite set of grammar rules.
Data as Input
Grammar Output
L.A.D.
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
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Children learn language by applying this unconscious universal
grammar to the sounds they hear.
Universal grammar forms the foundation of all human language. A
universal grammar can be equated with computer languages.
There are many kinds of computer languages, but they all have
some fundamental similarities
Language
Base Component
Transformational Component
(Innate)
(comes by interaction with society)
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
Lexicon
Base Rules
Deep
Structure
Transformation
Rules
Surface
Structure
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
Transformation rules are language specific..
 Single Deep Structure can be expressed in many
different Surface Structures
 Ambiguity in the sentence:
 “I have seen eating a rabbit” – Deep Structure
 I have seen someone eating a rabbit..
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I have seen a rabbit eating something.
Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory
So how these transformation rules look like?
• Subject-auxiliary inversion (SAI).
X NP AUX Y ==> X AUX NP Y
“Ram is eating an alphonso mango."
“Is ram eating an alphonso mango?".
 the bird was killed by the cat  the bird was killed.
“Deletion” A+B+C → A+ B:
• ‘Get out!  Get out of here!;
“addition”/”insertion”, A+B→ A+B+ C:
• Mary up  Call up Mary
“permutation” A+B+C→ A+C+B Call
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Theories of Language Acquisition
(Revisiting..)
Theories
Nativist
Non Nativist
Cognitive
Behaviorist
Chomsky
Vyogtsky
Piaget
Skinner
The Cognitive Approach (Piaget)
• Children can only use certain linguistic structures when
they understand fully the concepts surrounding them
A child can not use comparison of size if he/she does not understand
the concept of size. Can focus on only one aspect or dimension
of problems.
Example - row of 5 blocks and a row of 7 blocks can count the blocks
in each row and can tell number contained in each. But can’t tell which
is longer?
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Progressive reorganization resulting from maturation
and experience.
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Based on discrepancies between what they already
know and what they discover, they modify it.
The Cognitive Approach (Piaget)
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Sensorimotor stage (0-2 yrs):
Trial and error learning.
Behaviors become goal directed.
Object permanence.
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Preoperational stage (2-7 yrs):
mentally
represent objects and events.
egocentric thoughts and communications.
unable to focus on more than one concepts simultaneously.
The Cognitive Approach (Piaget)
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Concrete operational stage(711yrs):
Abilities of conversation and reversibility.
Organized and rational thinking.
can solve problems with more logical fashion.
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Formal operational stage(11+ yrs):
More abstract thinking.
Higher order reasoning.
Can combine and classify in more sophisticated way.
The Cognitive Approach (Vygotsky)
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Knowledge from external world transformed and
internalized.
Not isolated 'lone thinker', culture and society are more
important for a child's thought.
Social Interaction and then cognition:
Development first on a social plane. Learn from parents'
behavior, their speech, imitate them. Parents correct
them.
Afterwards information becomes internalized.
Language is now inner speech.
The Behaviorist Approach (Skinner)
language is acquired by conditioning and reinforcement
 Learns through rewards and punishments.
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Children learn to speak by imitation. Parents then
reinforce or correct their speech. Children don’t imitate perfectly
they may say words similar to what they hear around them.
Problems :
 1. They over-extend language patterns they already
know;
Steal > stealed > instead of stole
Drive > drived > instead of drove
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This is not imitation instead it is an extension
as adults do
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Poverty of the Stimulus
Outline
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Motivation & Meaning
Some facts about language acquisition
Theories explaining Child Language Acquisition
Imp Stages in CLA
CHILDES
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
Function
Meaning & Examples
Structure
What children try
to do with the
language:- request,
ask questions,
etc..
States, events &
relationships about
which they talk.
The way in which
their language is put
together – ultimately
the ‘Grammar’ !!
Some interesting
examples too !!
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
Stage - 1
Function
First utterances:
Purpose:•To
get someone’s
attention.
•To
Meaning & Examples
Commonly called as
“naming insight”.
They relate objects to
other things, places and
people.
direct attention
Mummy
to an object or
event.
Daddy car
Structure
-Single
words such as
‘look’ ‘car’ – known
as “operators”.
Other sentences
consist of 2 words:
-
Daddy car
(Obj Name +
Operator)
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
Stage - 2
Function
Ask questions
“where” & “what”
questions appear
first..
Purpose:•They
try to fulfill
the desire of
naming &
classifying things.
Meaning & Examples
•They
may begin to talk
about locations
changing and actions.
daddy sitting car
•Curious
Structure
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Sentences follow:
interrogative pronoun +
(object or verb)
(where ball)
to know about - Other sentences:
‘where’ and ‘what’ of
Articles (a/an, the)
object !
appear before noun:
where ball
A man
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
Stage - 3
Function
Meaning & Examples
Structure
•Start
asking lots of •They enquire about the - Sentences follow:
questions !
state of the actions in a subject + verb +
proper way.
•More complexity
object
appears in the
Daddy sitting in car ?
(mai khaau use ??)
sentences !
•They start to ask about - Auxiliary verbs
actions & events.
come into play. Use
Sally play in garden ? prepositions too !!
“daddy sitting in car”
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
Stage - 4
Function
•Sentences
Meaning & Examples
become •Here, they begin to
more complex:
express meaning
indirectly, replacing
•Start making
imperatives (Give me...)
requests.
with questions (Can I
•Ask for
have?) when these suit
explanations too:
their purposes better.
Why questions
kya main use khaun?
appear !
•They learn “grasp and
use”
Structure
Use question forms
(Can I) & negations
(doesn’t laugh) easily.
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-They
use (often
implied) relative
clauses
I know daddy is sitting
in car.
(implied that after
know) .
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
Stage - 5
Function
•Learns
Meaning & Examples
Structure
to make
actual use of
language for all the
things they do !
•They
are able to talk
about things
conditionally
-Multiple
If I study, I will score good
-Up
•Give
•They
& take info.
•Ask
& answer
questions.
•Express
understand the
conditions & answer.
Where is your bag?
their
-In my room.
feelings & attitudes.
I am very happy today.
or complex
clauses appear in
statements.
to now
grammatical
development has
mostly added to the
length of sentences.
They know almost
complete grammar.
Significant stages in Child Language Acquisition
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This model explains the process of language acquisition.
Variations possible among children at each stage but little
variation in sequence of language learning.
From stage-5 on, what is learned increasingly depends upon
experience and environment
◦ Opportunities to use language
◦ And hearing it used.
◦ Involves wide range of contexts and corresponding
environment.
Outline
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Motivation & Meaning
Some facts about language acquisition
Theories explaining Child Language Acquisition
Imp Stages in CLA
CHILDES
CHILDES
CHIld Language Data Exchange
System
Childes – Its relevance !!
A system for transcribing and encoding children’s
interactions.
 It is developed at CMU.
 It helps in studying syntactic construct and Part of
Speech.
 Research on various language disorders.
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A brief introduction
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Founded : 1984
Director: Brian Mac Whinney
An international Database for the study of first and second
language acquisition
Tools to analysis conversational interaction
Linking data to digitized audio and video
4500 Members
 1500 published articles
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Components
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CHILDES includes three integrated components
◦ CHAT
 the system for discourse notation and coding
◦ CLAN (Child Language Analysis)
 the set of computer programs for searching and
manipulating the database
◦ Database
 language community from over sixty major projects in
English and additional data from various other languages
An Example
A
picture description task
- the patient is mentioning animal in a set of
pictures
- each picture having animal eating bananas.
- only single animal appears in each
- “raw” form, the patient said was simply,
rabbits, squirrel and monkeys
Here is how this is transcribed:
Transcription
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@g: 3a = bunny is eating banana
*PAT: rabbits [*].
%mor: DET|0 N|rabbit-*PL
%err: rabbits = rabbit $SUB;
@g: 3b = squirrel eating banana
*PAT: squirrel.
%mor: DET|0 N|squirrel
@g: 3c = monkey eating banana
*PAT: monkeys [*].
%mor: DET|0 N|monkey-*PL.
%err: monkeys = monkey $SUB ;
References
Manolson, Ayala It Takes Two to Talk, A Parent's Guide to Helping
Children Communicate. 1992
 Communication and Cognition - Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 12,
Nos. 1-2, pp. 45-61, Special Issue Self-Reference in Biological
and Cognitive Systems, Luis Rocha
 On the role of parameters in Universal Grammar: a reply to
Newmeyer, Ian Roberts and Anders Holmberg, University of
Cambridge/ University of Newcastle upon Tyne
 A Working Paper on First Language Acquisition Research:
Some Notes on Theory and Method, Joseph Galasso, San
Diego State University (1999)
• The CHILDES System, Brain Mac Whinney, From: American
Journal of Speech-Language Pathology,Vol.5,1996, Page 5-14
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Thank You
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Child Language Acquisition