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Chapter 10 Language Acquisition

I. Decide whether each of the following statements is True or False:

l.F     2.T     3.T     4.T     5.T     6.F    7.F     8.F    9.F     10.F

11.T     12.T     13.T     14.T     15.T     16.F     17.F     18.T     19.T     20.T

 

II. Fill in each blank below with one word which begins with the letter given:

 

21. acquisition     22. nativist     23. motherese, babytalk

24. Behaviorist     25. holophrastic     26. telegraphic

27. Acquisition     28. Contrastive    29. interlanguage

30. transfer     31. Instrumental, integrative

 

III. There are four choices following each statement. Mark the one that can best complete the statement:

32.A     33.B     34.B     35.C     36.A     37.D     38.A     39.B    40.C     41.D     42. C

 

IV. Explain the following terms:

43. caretaker speech: It is the modified speech typically addressed to young children. Such modified speech is called babytalk, motherses, or parentese.

44. holophrastic sentences: They are children' s one-word utterances. They are called holophrastic sentences, because they can be used to express a concept or predication that would be associated with an entire sentence in adult speech.

45. telegraphic speech: They are the early multiword utterances of children which typically lack inflectional morphemes and most minor lexical cate-gories. Some function words are altogether missing. What occur in these multiword utterances are usually the "substantive" or "content" words that carry the main message. Because of their resemblance to the style of lan-guage found in telegrams, utterances at this acquisition stage are often called telegraphic speech.

46. second language acquisition: Second language acquisition (SLA) is a general term which refers to the acquisition of a second language (L2) , in contrast with first language acqui-sition (FLA). SLA is also used as a general term to refer to the acquisition of a foreign or subsequent language (such as a third or fourth language). Thus, SLA is primarily the study of how learners acquire or learn an addi-tional language after they have acquired their first language (LI).

47. Acquisition: According to Krashen, acquisition refers to the gradual and subcon-scious development of ability in the first language by using it naturally in daily communicative situations.

48. Learning: Learning, however, is defined by Krashen as a conscious process of accumulating knowledge of a second language usu-ally obtained in school settings.

49. Transfer: It refers to the phenomenon that learners subcon-sciously use their LI knowledge in learning a second language.

50. Interlanguage: It is a series of internal representations that comprises the learner's interim knowledge of the target language. This is the language that a learner constructs at a given stage of SLA. Interlanguage consists of a series of interlocking and ap-proximate linguistic systems in-between and yet distinct from the learner's native and target languages. It represents the learner' s transitional compe-tence moving along a learning continuum stretching from one' s LI compe-tence to the target language competence.

51. Fossilization: it is a process that sometimes occurs in second language learning in which incorrect linguistic features become a permanent part of the way a person speaks or writes in the target language.

52. instrumental motivation: Adults are motivated to learn a second language in order to use it functionally. In other words, the learners desire to learn a second language because it is useful for some functional, “instrumental” goals. This motivation is called instrumental motivation.

53. integrative motivation: Adults are motivated to learn a second language in order to use it socially. In other words, the learners learn a second language in order to communicate with native speakers of the target language.

54. Acculturation: It is the process of adapting to the new culture of the L2 com-munity.

V. Answer the following questions as comprehensively as possible. Give examples for illustration if necessary:

55. What's the difference between acquisition and learning, according to Krashen ?

According to Krashen, acquisition refers to the gradual and subcon-scious development of ability in the first language by using it naturally in daily communicative situations. Learning, however, is defined as a conscious process of accumulating knowledge of a second language usu-ally obtained in school settings. A second language, Krashen ar-gues, is more commonly learned but to some degree may also be acquired, depending on the environmental setting and the input received by the L2 learner. A rule can be learned before it is internalized (i.e., acquired), but having learned a rule does not necessarily prevent having to acquire it later. For example, an English language learner may have learned a rule like the third person singular "-s", but is unable to articulate the correct form in casual and spontaneous conversation because the rule has not yet been acquired. This shows that conscious knowledge of rules does not ensure an immediate guidance for actual performance.

56. How do the learner factors potentially influence the way in which a second language is acquired ?

1) The optimum age for second language acquisition: First language acquisition is most successful when it oc-curs during the early years of one' s life before puberty, but the optimum age for SLA does not always accord with the maxim of "the younger the better". The optimum age for SLA is early teenage. This claim is justifiable because this is the age when the learner' s flexibility of the language acquisition faculty has not been com-pletely lost while one's cognitive skills have developed considerably.

2) Motivation: Motivation in language learning can be defined in terms of the learner’s overall goal or orientation. Instrumental motivation occurs when the learner's goal is functional, and integrative motivation occurs when the learner's goal is social. If the target language functions as a foreign language (used in a limited environment such as in school), the learner is likely to benefit from an integrative motivation; but if the target language functions as a second language (used as a primary means of com-munication in the community of the learner), an instrumental motivation is more effective.

3) Acculturation: The acculturation hypothesis focuses on the social and psychological conditions un-der which L2 processing is most likely to take place successfully. It states simply that the more a person aspires to acculturate to the community of the target language, the further he or she will progress along the developmental continuum.

4) Personality: Intuitively, an outgoing per-sonality may contribute to language acquisition. Research results, however, only partially support this hypothesis. No significant relationship has been found between talkativeness on the one hand and overall proficiency in a second language on the other. But it is recog-nized that as a result of being frequently exposed to and interacting with the target language, learners with an extroverted personality are likely to achieve better oral fluency than otherwise.

In sum, A good second language learner is, among other things, an adolescent who has a strong and well-de-fined motivation to learn. He is able to respond and adaptable to differ-ent learning situations. He seeks out all opportunities and makes maxi-mum use of them to interact with the input. He employs appropriate learning strategies. And he is willing to identify himself or herself with the culture of the target language community.

57. What is the role of input for SLA ?

It is evident that SLA takes place only when the learner has access to L2 input and the opportunity to interact with the input. It appears that what learners need is not mere exposure to L2 da-ta, but the kind of input data that are specially suited to their current stage of development. There is, however, no agreement as to precisely what con-stitutes optimum input. Some scholars advise that access to comprehensible input is a necessary condition for acquisition to take place. It is suggested that input can be made comprehensible by the use of learned structures and vocabu-lary, the linguistic and extralinguistic contexts of the input data, and the learner's general knowledge to interpret new language items. It is also sug-gested that interaction (i.e. , taking part in communicative ac-tivities) and intake (i.e. , the input that is assimilated and fed into the interlanguage system) are more important for SLA than input.

 

58. How do you understand interlanguage?

Interlanguage consists of a series of interlocking and ap-proximate linguistic systems in-between and yet distinct from the learner's native and target languages. It represents the learner' s transitional compe-tence moving along a learning continuum stretching from one' s LI compe-tence to the target language competence. As a type of linguistic system in its own right, interlanguage is a product of L2 training, mother tongue interfer-ence, overgeneralization of the target language rules, and communicative strategies of the learner.

59. Discuss the contrastive analysis in detail.

Contrastive Analysis was developed in order to identify and predict the areas of learning difficulty. Given this approach, it was hypothesized that L2 errors were predominantly the re-sult of negative transfer, or mother tongue interference and second language learning was believed to be a matter of overcoming the differences between LI and L2 systems.

According to this view, the major task of second language teaching should predominantly be: first, contrast the native and the target language systems and make predictions about the lan-guage items that would cause difficulty and the errors that learners were like-ly to make; then use these predictions in deciding on the type of language items that needed special treatment in teaching and in material development and the type of intensive techniques that would be employed to overcome learning difficulties created by the interference.

In practice, the Contrastive Analysis is not effective because a large proportion of grammatical errors could not be explained by mother tongue interference. Errors predicted by contrastive analysis have often not occurred, whereas many actual errors, such as "goed" and "foots", come from overgeneralization instead of nega-tive transfer.

Errors, according to the contrastive analysis approach, are negative and had to be overcome or given up. In fact, errors produced in a learner's second language utterance may very well be developmental errors and therefore, should not be looked upon simply as a failure to learn the correct form, but as an indication of the actual acquisition process in action. Developmental errors often result from the effort on the part of the learner to construct and test general rules of communication in the target language.

60. What are the major stages that a child has to follow in first language development What are the features of the linguistic forms at each stage ?

1)The prelinguistic stage: At the babbling stage, the sounds and syllables that children utter are meaningless. Babbling, especially early babbling, is largely independent of the particular language to which children are exposed. The sounds produced in this period seem to include a large variety of sounds. Babbling does not seem to depend on the presence of acoustic, auditory input.

When children are through the tenth and eleventh months, they are capable of using their vocalizations to express emotions and emphasis, and of attempting at the grand task of language acquisition.

2)The one-word stage: This stage usually occurs in the late part of the first year or the early part of the second year. At this stage children learn that sounds are related to meanings. They begin to use the same string of sounds of the native language to "mean" the same thing. Children' s one-word utterances are also called holophrastic sentences, because they can be used to express a concept or predication that would be associated with an entire sentence in adult speech. One-word utterances sometimes show an overextension or underextension of reference.

3)The two-word stage: During the second year of life, child’s utterances gradually become longer. Children are heard uttering two-word expressions in a variety of combinations. Children' s two-word utterances can express a certain vari-ety of grammatical relations indicated by word order, for example:

Daddy hat.

Doggie bark.

Shoe mine.

Apple me.

 

Two-word expressions are absent of syntac-tic or morphological markers. Pronouns are rare.

4) The multiword stage: It occurs between two and three years old. The salient feature of the utterances at this stage ceases to be the number of words, but the variation in strings of lexical morphemes,for example:

Daddy like this book.

He play little tune.

This shoe all wet.

No sit there.

The early multiword utterances typically lack inflectional morphemes and most minor lexical categories, therefore they are often called telegraphic speech. Although they lack grammatical morphemes, telegraphic sentences are not simply words that are randomly strung together, but follow the principles of sentence formation. As this type of telegram-format speech increases, a number of grammatical morphemes begin to appear in children' s speech. Simple prepo-sitions begin to turn up in their speech.

By the age of five, with an operating vocabulary of more than 2,000 words, children have completed the greater part of the language acquisition process.

61. What is the role of correction and reinforcement in first language acquisition ?

According to Behaviorist learning theory, children are believed to gradually assume correct forms of the language of their community when their "bad" speech gets corrected and when their good speech gets positively reinforced.

Researchers have found that correction and reinforcement are not key factors in child language development as they were claimed to be. When adults do attempt to correct children s grammatical errors and the correct form is repeated, their efforts seem to have little effect, or simply doom to failure because children often do not know what the problem is and continue to use a personally constructed form. Children Reinforcement has been found to occur usually in children' s pronun-ciation or reporting of the truthfulness of utterances, rather than in the grammaticality of sentences.

62. Why do we say language acquisition is primarily the acquisition of the grammatical system of language ?

In principle, no human brain can store all the words and expressions of a language. What happens is that when processing the language they hear, children construct the grammar and make sense of the expressions according to the grammar. When producing utterances, they follow the internalized grammatical rules. Without the knowledge of the productive rules, it would be impossible for language users to produce and understand an unlimited number of sentences which they have never heard before.

63. Discuss the biological basis of language acquisition.

Language acquisition is a genetically determined capacity that all hu-mans possess. Although the development of a communicative system is not unique to human beings, the natural acquisition of language as a system of highly abstract rules and regulations for creative communication distinguishes humans from all other animal species. In this sense, humans can be said to be predisposed, that is, biologically programmed, to acquire at least one language. Language development can thus be regarded as analogous to other biological developments in human growth and maturation, such as the growth and maturation of one’s limbs and organs. Humans are equipped with the neural prerequisites for language and language use, just as birds are biologically “prewired” to learn the songs of their species.

64. What is the role of imitation in first language acquisition ?

At one time, it was widely believed that children learned language by simply imitating the speech of those around them. We now know that this cannot be true, since many utterance types produced by children do not closely resemble structures found in adult speech. . If children learn their native tongue by imitating their parents, how can we account for the utter-ances that are typical of children' s language, such as the plural form "my foots," the past tense forms of " I eated," and the negative construction of “No the sun shining” It is impossible that children imitate these structures from adults because they are never heard in adult conversations. In addition, Children with speech impairment for neurological or physiological reasons learn the language spoken to them and understand what is said. A more rea-sonable explanation is that children are attempting to construct and generalize their own grammatical rules.

Some young language learners do seem to make selective use of imitation, but they do not blindly mimic adult speech in a parrot fashion, but rather exploit it in very restricted ways to improve their linguistic skills. The point is that imitation plays at best a very minor role in the child' s mastery of lan-guage.