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16240 13 First Language Acquisitionsp08 Essay

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First Language Acquisition
“The capacity to learn language is deeply
ingrained in us as a species, just as the capacity
to walk, to grasp objects, to recognize faces.
We don’t find any serious difference in children
growing up in congested urban slums, in
isolated mountain villages, or in privileged
suburban villas”
Dan Slobin, The Human Language Series 2 (1994)

First Language Acquisition
Every language is complex.
Before the age of 5, the child knows most of
the intricate system of grammar.
Use the syntactic, phonological, morphological
and semantic rules of the language
Join sentences
Ask questions
Use appropriate pronouns
Negate sentences
Form relative clauses


First Language Acquisition
Learning to speak and understand a
language is different than learning to read
and write.
“ We are designed to walk.. That we are
taught to walk is impossible. And pretty
much the same is true of language.
Nobody is taught language. In fact you
can’t prevent a child from learning it”
Chomsky 1994

Issues in first language
How do children acquire such a complex system
so quickly and effortlessly?
Does a child decide to consciously pursue certain
skills? (e.g., walking)
Do babies make a conscious decision to start
learning a language?
We correct children’s errors sometimes. Does it
‘Nobody don’t like me’
Noisy data


Theories of language acquisition
Nature vs. Nurture
Behaviorism (1950s)
Children learn language through imitation,
reinforcement and analogy
He go out.
A my pencil
What the boy hit?

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