Update: 2015-12-18 01:36 PM -0500




H. Douglas Brown in PRINCIPLES of LANGUAGE LEARNING AND TEACHING. www.deil.uiuc.edu

Notes by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com 

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Contents of this page
Ch02. First Language Acquisition
01. Theories of First Language Acquisition
01.01. Behavioristic Approaches
01.02. Nativist Approach
01.03. Functional Approaches
01.03.1. Cognition and Language Development
01.03.2. Social Interaction and Language Development
02. Issues in First Language Acquisition
02.01. Competence and Performance
02.02. Comprehension and Production
02.03. Nature or Nurture
02.04. Universals
02.05. Systematicity and Variability
02.06. Language and Thought
02.07. Imitation
02.08. Practice
02.09. Input
02.10. Discourse
03. In the Classroom: Gouin and Berlitz – The First Reformers
04. Topics and Questions for Study and Discussion
05. Suggested Readings
06. Language Learning Experience: Journal Entry

Noteworthy passages:
Children are excellent imitators. It is simply a matter of understanding exactly what it is that they are imitating.

UKT notes
a game of wordsBenjamin WhorfB. F. SkinnerCharles BerlitzCharles Osgood's Mediational theoryChild in a Bilingual SurroundingCognitive and affective considerationsConnectionismDan SlobinDietrich TiedemanEnglish <s> and <th>Eric LennebergFrancois GouinGoethe and SchillerJames JenkinsJean PiagetJerome Brunerjury is still out" • Kenneth MacCorquodaleLADMaximilian BerlitzmemeNoam Chomskyoperant conditioningPivot GrammarPop Go WeaselPrinciple of Structure DependencyPrinciple of Word Order PermutationSapir-Whorf hypothesis (SWH) • sentence-2tabula rasaTelegrapheseTheories of language acquisitionscientific methodVoici la tableWerner LeopoldZone of Proximal Development

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UKT: Abbreviations I will be using: L1 - First Language: L2 - Second Language.

That marvelous capacity for acquiring competence in one's native language within the first few years of life has been a subject of interest for many centuries. "Modern" research on child language acquisition dates back to the late eighteenth century when the German philosopher Dietrich Tiedemann recorded his observations of the psychological and linguistic development of his young son. For a century and a half, few if any significant advances were made in the study of child language; for the most part research was limited to diary-like recordings of observed speech with some attempts to classify word types. Only in the second half of the twentieth century did researchers begin to analyze child language systematically and to try to discover the nature of the psycho linguistic process that enables every human being to gain fluent control of an exceedingly complex system of communication. In a matter of a few decades some giant strides were taken, especially in the generative and cognitive models of language, in describing the acquisition of particular languages, and in probing universal aspects of acquisition. Today literally hundreds of linguists and psychologists are studying linguistic, psychological, sociological, and physiological aspects of L1 acquisition.

This wave of research in child language acquisition led foreign language teachers and teacher trainers to study some of the general findings of such research with a view to drawing analogies between first and second language acquisition, and even to justifying certain teaching methods and techniques on the basis of L1 learning principles. On the surface, it is entirely reasonable to make the analogy. After all, all children, given a normal developmental environment, acquire their native languages fluently and efficiently; moreover, they acquire them "naturally," without special instruction, though not without notable conscious effort and attention to language. However, the direct comparisons such as those that have been made must be treated with caution. There are dozens of salient differences between first and second language learning; the most obvious difference, in the case of adult second language learning, is the tremendous cognitive and affective contrast between adults and children. A detailed examination of these differences is made in Chapter Three.

This chapter is designed to outline issues in L1 learning as a foundation on which you can build an understanding of principles of L2 learning. A coherent grasp of the nature of first language learning is an invaluable aid, if not an essential component, in the construction of a theory of L2 acquisition. This chapter provides an overview of various theoretical positions-positions that can be related to the paradigms discussed in Chapter One -- in L1 acquisition, and a discussion of some key issues that are particularly significant for an understanding of L2 learning. Information on L1 acquisition beyond that which is presented here should be sought in the suggested readings at the end of this chapter.

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There is no one who has not at some time witnessed the remarkable ability of children to communicate. As small babies, children babble and coo and cry and vocally or nonvocally send an extraordinary number of messages and receive even more messages. As they reach the end of their first year, specific attempts are made to imitate words and speech sounds heard around them, and about this time they utter their first "words." By about 18 months of age these words have multiplied considerably and are beginning to appear in combination with each other to form two-word and three-word "sentences " – commonly referred to as "telegraphic" utterances – such as "allgone milk," "bye-bye Daddy," "gimme toy," and so forth. [{See my note on Telegraphese.}] The production tempo now begins to increase as more and more words are spoken every day and more and more combinations of two- and three-word sentences are uttered. By about age 3, children can comprehend an incredible quantity of linguistic behavior; their speech capacity mushrooms as they become the generator of nonstop chattering and incessant conversation, language thus becoming a mixed blessing for those around them! This fluency continues into school age as children internalize increasingly complex structures, expand their vocabulary, and sharpen communicative skills. At school age, children not only learn what to say but what not to say as they learn the social functions of their language.

How can we explain this fantastic journey from that first anguished cry at birth to adult competence in a language? From the first word to tens of thousands? From telegraphese at 18 months to the compound-complex, cognitively precise, socioculturally appropriate sentences just a few short years later? It is these sorts of questions that theories of language acquisition attempt to answer. [{See my note on Theories of language acquisition.}]

In principle you can adopt one of two polarized positions in the study of L1 acquisition. The extreme behavioristic position would be that children come into the world with a tabula rasa, a clean slate bearing no preconceived notions about the world or about language, and these children are then shaped by their environment, slowly conditioned through various schedules of reinforcement. At the other extreme, you would find a position that claims that children come into this world with very specific innate knowledge, knowledge that includes not only general predispositions and tendencies but also knowledge of the nature of language and of the world. Then, through their own volition, they act upon their environment by developing these bodies of knowledge.

Both of the extreme positions represent opposites on a continuum with many possible positions in between. Three such points are elucidated in this chapter. The first (behavioristic) position is set in contrast to the second (nativist) and third (functional) positions, which are more clearly on the generative/cognitive side of the continuum.

UKT: Mario Vaneechoutte and John R. Skoyles, 1998 in The memetic origin of language: modern humans as musical primates. Journal of Memetics -- Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1998/vol2/vaneechoutte_m&skoyles_jr.html © JoM-EMIT 1998, the authors have pointed out that
"However, none has suggested the memetic origin of language and that the acquisition of audiolingual skills may be based upon the ability of the humans to sing -- an ability not shared by any of the large apes."

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01.01. Behavioristic Approaches

Language is a fundamental part of total human behavior, and behaviorists have examined it as such and sought to formulate consistent theories of L1 acquisition. The behavioristic approach focuses on the immediately perceptible aspects of linguistic behavior -- the publicly observable responses -- and the relationships or associations between those responses and events in the world surrounding them. A behaviorist might consider effective language behavior to be the production of correct responses to stimuli. If a particular response is reinforced, it then becomes habitual, or conditioned. Thus children produce linguistic responses that are reinforced. This is true of their comprehension as well as production responses, though to consider comprehension is to wander just a bit out of the publicly observable realm. One learns to comprehend an utterance by reacting appropriately to it and by being reinforced for that reaction.

One of the best-known attempts to construct a behavioristic model of linguistic behavior is embodied in B.F. Skinner's (1957) classic, Verbal Behavior. Skinner was commonly known for his experiments with animal behavior in "Skinner's boxes," but he also gained recognition for his contributions to education through teaching machines and programmed learning (Skinner 1968). Skinner's theory of verbal behavior was an extension of his general theory of learning by operant conditioning. Operant conditioning refers to conditioning in which the organism (in this case, a human being) emits a response, or operant (a sentence or utterance), without necessarily observable stimuli; that operant is maintained (learned) by reinforcement (for example, a positive verbal or nonverbal response for another person). If a child says "want milk" and a parent gives the child some milk, the operant is reinforced and, over repeated instances, is conditioned. According to Skinner, verbal behavior, like other behavior, is controlled by its consequences. When consequences are rewarding, behavior is maintained and is increased in strength and perhaps frequency. When consequences are punishing, or when there is lack of reinforcement entirely, the behavior is weakened and eventually extinguished.

UKT: See the Brave New World in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World 080223
   "Brave New World is a 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley. Set in London in 2540 AD, the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, biological engineering, and sleep-learning that combine to change society. Huxley answers this book with a reassessment in an essay, Brave New World Revisited (1958), and with his final work, a novel titled Island (1962), ...

Skinner's theories attracted a number of critics, not the least among them Noam Chomsky (1959), who penned a highly critical review of Verbal Behavior. Some years later, however, Kenneth MacCorquodale(1970) published a reply to Chomsky's review in which he eloquently and quite convincingly defended Skinner's points of view. And so the battle raged on. Today few linguists and psychologists would agree that Skinner's model of verbal behavior adequately accounts for the capacity to acquire language, for language development itself, for the abstract nature of language, and for a theory of meaning. A theory based on conditioning and reinforcement is hard-pressed to explain the fact that every sentence you speak or write -- with a few trivial exceptions -- is novel, never before uttered either by you or by anyone else! These novel utterances are nevertheless created by the speaker and processed by the hearer.

In an attempt to broaden the base of behavioristic theory, some psychologists proposed modified theoretical positions. One of these positions was mediation theory, in which meaning was accounted for by the claim that the linguistic stimulus (a word or sentences) elicits a "mediating" response that is self-stimulating. Charles Osgood (1953, 1957) called this self-stimulation a "representational mediation process," a process that is really covert and invisible, acting within the learner. Interestingly, mediation theory thus attempted to account for abstraction by a notion that reeked of "mentalism" -- a cardinal sin for dyed-in-the-wool behaviorists! In fact, in some ways mediation theory was really a cognitive-rational theory masquerading as behavioristic. (See UKT note on Charles Osgood's Mediational theory.)

Mediation theories still left many questions about language unanswered. The abstract nature of language and the integral relationship between meaning and utterance were unresolved. All sentences have deep structures – the level of underlying meaning that is only manifested overtly by surface structures. These deep structures are intricately bound up in a person's total cognitive and affective experience. Such depths of lan,guage were scarcely, plumbed by mediational theory.

Yet another attempt to account, for L1 acquisition within a behavioristic framework was made by Jenkins and Palermo (1964). While admitting that their conjectures were "speculative" and "premature" (p. 143), the authors attempted to synthesize notions of generative linguistics and mediational approaches to child language. They claimed that the child may acquire frames of a phrase-structure grammar and learn the stimulus-response equivalences that can be substituted within each frame; imitation was an important if not essential aspect of establishing stimulus-response associations. But this theory, too, fails to account for the abstract nature of language, nor does it account satisfactorily for the generalization process that is inferred in the theory. Also, it does not account for the creativity evident in even a young child's ability to comprehend and produce novel utterances. David McNeill (1968:408-409) further pointed out that it is mathematically impossible for a child to acquire all the frames and items implied by Jenkins and Palermo's theory.

The difficulties with finite-state grammars are simple and arithmetical. In order to acquire grammar through mediation paradigms, a child must learn all the transitions among grammatical classes that are allowable in English. The number of these, however, is astronomical. Take, for example, the sentence, "The people who called and wanted to rent your house when you go away next year are from California" (Miller and Chomsky 1963). There is a dependency between the second word (people) and the seventeenth word (are). If this intuition was learned through mediation, then each of us has learned a unique set of transitions covering a sequence of 15 grammatical categories. Assuming (conservatively) that an average of four grammatical categories might occur at any point in the development of an English sentence, detection of the dependency between "people" and "are" signifies that we have learned at least 4 15 = 109 different transitions, which means, as Miller and Chomsky point out, that we learned " . . . the value of 109 parameters in a childhood lasting only 108 seconds" (p. 430). Evidently, mediation paradigms yield the wrong kind of structure. At the very least, we need a theory which avoids assuming that sentences consist of nothing more than simple left-to-right transitions.

It would appear that the rigor of behavioristic psychology, with its emphasis on empirical observation and the scientific method, can only begin to explain the miracle of language acquisition. It leaves untouched a vast domain that can be explored only by an approach that probes deeper.

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01.02. Nativist Approach

On the other end of the theoretical continuum we find generative theories of child language, with their typical rationalistic approach – asking deeper questions, looking for clearer explanations of the mystery of language acquisition. The failure, or at least the shortcomings, of behavioristic views of child language caused researchers to ask more ultimate questions-questions that probed beneath and beyond scientific investigation.

One such set of questions was found in a generative approach to child language known as the nativist approach. The term nativist is derived from the fundamental assertion that language acquisition is innately determined, that we are born with a built-in device of some kind that predisposes us to language acquisition-to a systematic perception of language around us, resulting in the construction of an internalized system of language. Innateness hypotheses gained support from several sides. Eric Lenneberg (1967)proposed that language is a "species-specific" behavior and that certain modes of perception, categorizing abilities, and other language-related mechanisms are biologically determined. Chomsky (1965) similarly claimed the existence of innate proper ties of language to explain the child's mastery of his native language in such a short time despite the highly abstract nature of the rules of language. This innate knowledge, according to Chomsky, is embodied in a "little black box" of sorts, a language acquisition device (LAD). McNeill (1966) described LAD as consisting of four innate linguistic properties: ¶UKT

1. the ability to distinguish speech sounds from other sounds in the environment,
2. the ability to organize linguistic events into various classes which can later be refined,
3. knowledge that only a certain kind of linguistic system is possible and that other kinds are not,
4. the ability to engage in constant evaluation of the developing linguistic system so as to construct the simplest possible system out of the linguistic data that are encountered.

McNeill and other Chomskyan disciples composed eloquent arguments for the appropriateness of the LAD proposition, especially in contrast to behavioristic, stimulus-response (S-R) theory which was so limited in accounting for the generativity of child language. Aspects of meaning, abstractness, and creativity were accounted for more adequately. Even though it was readily recognized that the LAD was not literally a cluster of brain cells that could be isolated and neurologically located, such inquiry on the rationalistic side of the linguistic-psychological continuum stimulated a great deal of fruitful research.

In recent years, researchers in the nativist tradition have continued this line of inquiry through a new genre of child language acquisition research (see Bley-Vroman 1988, Horstein & Lightfoot 1981) that focuses on what has come to be known as Universal Grammar(UG). Positing that all human beings are genetically equipped with language-specific abilities, researchers are now expanding the LAD notion into a system of universal linguistic rules that go well beyond what was originally proposed for the LAD. UG research is attempting to discover what it is that all children, regardless of their environmental stimuli (the language(s) they hear around them) bring to the language acquisition process. Such studies have looked at question formation, negation, word order, discontinuity of embedded clauses (The ball that's on the table is blue), subject deletion ("Es mi hermano") [{"Es mi hermano" Machine translation by http://translator.dictionary.com/text.html : "He is my brother." }], and a host of other grammatical phenomena.

One of the more practical contributions of nativist theories is evident if you look at the kinds of discoveries that have been made about how the system of child language works. Research has revealed that the child's language, at any given point, is a legitimate system in its own right. The child's linguistic development is not a process of developing fewer and fewer "incorrect" structures, not a language in which earlier stages have more "mistakes" than later stages. Rather, the child's language at any stage is systematic in that the child is constantly forming hypotheses on the basis of the input received and then testing those hypotheses in speech (and comprehension). As the child's language develops, those hypotheses get continually revised, reshaped, or sometimes abandoned.

Of course, the notion of the child as hypothesis tester is not new. Fifteen centuries ago St. Augustine provided in his Confessions a self-analysis of his own language learning process:

For I was no longer a speechless infant, but a speaking boy. This I remember; and have since observed how I learned to speak. It was not that my elders taught me words ... in any set method; but I, longing by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my thoughts, that so I might have my will, and yet unable to express all that I willed, or to whom I willed, did myself, by the understanding which Thou, my God, gavest me, practise the sounds in my memory.... And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human life.
[{ UKT: The above paragraph on St. Augustine is not present in 4th ed.}]

Before generative linguistics came into vogue, Jean Berko (1958) demonstrated that children learn language not as a series of separate discrete items, but as an integrated system. Using a simple nonsense-word test, Berko discovered that English-speaking children as young as 4 years of age applied rules for the formation of plural, present progressive, past tense, third singular, and possessives. She found, for example, that if a child saw one "wug" he could easily talk about two wugs, or if he were presented with a person who knows how to "gling," the child could talk about a person who glinged yesterday, or sometimes who glang.

Nativists carried out a rash of studies on the systematic nature of child language acquisition. Having thrown off the shackles of behavioristic constraints, researchers were free to construct hypothetical "grammars" of child language, although such grammars were still solidly based on empirical data. These grammars were largely formal representations of the deep structure -- the abstract rules underlying surface output, the structure not overtly manifest in speech. Linguists began to examine child language from early forms of "telegraphese" to the complex language of 5- to 10- year-olds. Borrowing one tenet of structural and behavioristic paradigms, they approached the data with few preconceived notions about what the child's language ought to be, and probed is the data for internally consistent systems, in much the same way that a lingu st describes a language in the "field." The use of a generative framework was, of course, a departure from structural methodology.

The generative model has enabled researchers to take some giant steps toward understanding the process of L1 acquisition. The early grammars of child language were referred to as pivot grammars. It was commonly observed that the child's first two-word utterances seemed to manifest two separate word classes, and not simply two words thrown together at random. Consider the following utterances:

Linguists noted that the words on the left-hand side seemed to belong to a class that words on the right-hand side generally did not belong to. That is, my could co-occur with cap, horsie, milk, or sock, but not with that or allgone. Mommy is, in this case, a word that belongs in both classes. The first class of words was called pivot, since they could pivot around a number of words in the second, open class. Thus the first rule of the generative grammar of the child was described as follows:

Sentence –> Pivot word + Open word

Reams of research data have been gathered in the generative framework, yielding a multitude of such rules. Some of these rules appear to be grounded in the UG of the child. As the child's language matures and finally becomes adult-like, the number and complexity of generative rules accounting for language competence simply boggles the mind.

In recent years the generative "rule-governed" model in the Chomskyan tradition has been challenged. The assumption underlying this tradition is that those generative rules, or "items" in a linguistic sense, are connected serially, with one connection between each pair of neurons in the brain. A new "messier but more fruitful picture" (Spolsky 1989:149) is provided by what has come to be known as the parallel distributed processing (PDP) model (also called Connectionism) in which neurons in the brain are said to form multiple connections: each of the 100 billion nerve cells in the brain may be linked to as many as 10,000 of its counterparts. Thus, a child's (or adult's) linguistic performance may be the consequence of many levels of simultaneous neural interconnections and not a serial process of one rule being applied, then another, then another, and so forth.

A simple analogy to music might illustrate this complex notion. Think of an orchestra playing a symphony. The score for the symphony may have, let's say, twelve separate parts that are performed simultaneously. The "symphony" of the human brain enables us to process many segments and levels of language, cognition, affect, and perception all at once – in a parallel configuration. And so, according to the PDP model, a sentence – which has phonological, morphological, syntactic, lexical, semantic, discourse, sociolinguistic, and strategic properties – is not "generated" by a series of rules (Sokolik 1990; Ney and Pearson 1990). Rather, sentences are the result of the simultaneous interconnection of a multitude of brain cells.

All of these approaches within the nativist framework have made at least three important contributions to our understanding of the L1 acquisition process:

1. freedom from the restrictions of the so-called "scientific method" to explore the unseen, unobservable, underlying, abstract linguistic structures being developed in the child;

2. systematic description of the child's linguistic repertoire as either rule-governed or operating out of a parallel distributed processing capacities; and

3. the construction of a number of potential properties of Universal Grammar.

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01.03. Functional Approaches

As liberating as the nativist framework was, it still possessed some glaring inadequacies. The late 1960s witnessed a shift in patterns of research, not away from the generative/ cognitive side of the continuum, but perhaps better described as a move "deeper" into the essence of language. The generative rules that were proposed under the nativistic framework were abstract, formal, explicit, and quite logical, yet they dealt specifically with the forms of language and not with the very deepest level of language, that level where memory, perception, thought, meaning, and emotion are all interdependently organized in the superstructure of the human mind. Linguists began to see that language was one manifestation of general development, one aspect of the cognitive and affective ability to deal with the world and with self. Linguists also began to see that language was hardly something you could extract and detach from your cognitive and affective framework and consider separately, and that linguistic rules written as mathematical equations failed to capture that ever elusive facet of language: meaning. The generative rules of nativists were failing to account for the functions of language.

UKT: The above paragraph has been replaced by the following in 4th ed.:
More recently, with an increase in constructivist approaches to the study of language, we have seen a shift in patterns of research. The shift has not been so much away from the generative/cognitive side of the continuum, but perhaps better described as a move even more deeply into the essence of language. Two emphases have emerged: (a) Researchers began to see that language was one manifestation of the cognitive and affective ability to deal with the world, with others, and with the self. (b) Moreover, the generative rules that were proposed under the nativistic framework were abstract, formal, explicit, and quite logical, yet they dealt specifically with the forms of language and not with the deeper functional levels of meaning constructed from social interaction. Examples of forms of [{4th ed. p028begin}] language are morphemes, words, sentences, and the rules that govern them. Functions are the meaningful, interactive purposes, within a social (pragmatic) context, that we accomplish with the forms.

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01.03.1. Cognition and Language Development

Lois Bloom (1971) cogently illustrated the issue in her criticism of pivot grammar when she pointed out that the relationships in which words occur in telegraphic utterances are only superficially similar. For example, in the utterance "Mommy sock," which nativists would describe as a sentence consisting of a pivot word and an open word, Bloom found at least three possible underlying relations: agent-action (Mommy is putting the sock on), agent-object (Mommy sees the sock), and possessor-possessed (Mommy's sock ... ). By examining data in reference to contexts, Bloom concluded that children learn underlying structures, and not superficial word order. Thus, depending on the context, "Mommy sock" could mean a number of different things to the child. Those varied meanings were inadequately captured in a pivot grammar approach.

Lewis Carroll aptly captures this characteristic of language in Through the Looking Glass (1872), where Alice argues with Humpty Dumpty about the meanings of words (See UKT note on a game of words.):

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."

Bloom's research, along with that of Jean Piaget, Dan Slobin, and others, paved the way for a new wave of child language study, this time centering on the cognitive prerequisites of linguistic behavior. Piaget described overall development as the result of children's interaction with their environment, with a complementary interaction between their developing perceptual cognitive capacities'an-d their linguistic experience.-Mat -children learn about language is determined by what they already kn6w about the world. As Gleitman and Wanner (1982:13) noted in their review of the state of the art in child language research, "children appear to approach language learning equipped with conceptual interpretive abilities for categorizing the world.... Learners are biased-to map each semantic idea on the linguistic unit word."

Lois Rloom (1976:37) summarized the shift in emphasis:

There have been two main thrusts in attempts to explain how children learn to talk. On the one hand, it was proposed that the course of language development depends directly on the nature of the linguistic system and, more specifically, on the nature of those aspects of language that might be universal and represented in an innate, predetermined program for language learning. On the other hand, evidence began to accrue to support a different hypothesis which emphasized the interaction of the child's perceptual and cognitive development with linguistic and nonlinguistic events in his environment.

Dan Slobin (1971, 1986), among others, demonstrated that in all languages, semantic learning depends on cognitive development and that sequences of development are determined more by semantic complexity than by structural complexity: "There are two major pacesetters to language development, involved with the poles of function and of form: (1) on the functional level, development is paced by the growth of conceptual and communicative capacities operating in conjunction with innate schemas of cognition; and (2) on the formal level, development is paced by the growth of perceptual and information-processing capacities, operating in conjunction with innate schemas of grammar" (Slobin 1986:2). Bloom (1976:37) noted that "an explanation of language development depends upon an explanation of the cognitive underpinnings of language: what children know will determine what they learn about the code for both speaking and understanding messages." So child language researchers are now tackling the formulation of the rules of the functions of language, and the relationships of the forms of language to those functions.

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01.03.2. Social Interaction and Language Development

In recent years it has become quite clear that language functioning extends well beyond cognitive thought and memory structure. Holzman (1984:119), in her "reciprocal model" of language development, proposes that "a reciprocal behavioral system operates between the language-developing infant-child and the competent [adult] language user in a socializing-teaching-nuturing role." Some recent research (Berko-Gleason 1988, Lock 1991) is looking at the interaction between the child's language acquisition and the learning of how social systems operate in human behavior. Other investigations (for example, Budwig 1995, Kuczaj 1984) of child language have centered on one of the thorniest areas of linguistic research: the function of language in discourse. Since language is used for communication, it is only fitting that one study the communicative functions of language: what do children know and learn about talking with others? about connected pieces of discourse (relations between sentences)? the interaction between hearer and speaker? conversational cues? This newest wave is revolutionizing research on L1 acquisition. The very heart of language – its communicative function – is being tackled in all its variability.

But even more revolutionary is the almost paradoxical fact that the most current research on the generative side of the theoretical continuum has focused once again on the performance level of language. All those overt responses that were so carefully observed by structuralists and hastily weeded out as "performance variables" by generative linguists in their zeal to get at competence have now returned to the forefront. Hesitations, pauses, backtracking, and the like are indeed significant conversational cues. Even some of the contextual categories described by – of all people – Skinner, in Verbal Behavior, turn out to be relevant! The linguist can no longer deal with abstract, formal rules without dealing with all those minutiae of day-to-day performance which were previously ignored.

UKT:  Figure 2.1. Theories of first language acquisition  was not in the downloaded version, but was in 4th ed.

Several theoretical positions have been sketched out here. Perhaps we will never realize a complete, consistent, unified theory of L1 acquisition, but even in its infancy, child language research has manifested some enormous strides toward that ultimate goal. And even if all the answers are far from evident, maybe we are asking more of the right questions.

We turn now to a look at a number of "issues" in L1 acquisition-key questions and problems that have been and are being addressed by researchers in the field. A study of these issues will help you to round out your understanding of the nature of child language acquisition.

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02.01. Competence and Performance

For centuries scientists and philosophers have operated with the basic distinction between competence and performance. Competence refers to one's underlying knowledge of a system, event, or fact. It is the nonobservable ability to do something, to perform something. Performance is the overtly observable and concrete manifestation or realization of competence. It is the actual doing of something: walking, singing, dancing, speaking. In Western society we have used the competence-performance distinction in all walks of life. In our schools, for example, we have assumed that children possess certain competence in given areas and that this competence can be measured and assessed by means of the observation of elicited samples of performance called "tests" and "examinations."

In reference to language, competence is your underlying knowledge of the system of a language-its rules of grammar, its vocabulary, all the pieces of a language and how those pieces fit together. Performance is actual production (speaking, writing) or the comprehension (listening, reading) of linguistic events. You will recall in Chapter One of reference to Ferdinand de Saussure's (1916) version of the competence/performance construct: a distinction between langue and paroleas two separate phenomena, independent of each other. "Langue exists in the form,of a sum of impressions deposited in the brain of each member of the community.... Parole [is] ... an individual.... willful phonational acts" (Saussure 1916:14-19).

Chomsky (1965) likened competence to an "idealized" speaker-hearer who does not display such performance variables as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, errors, and hesitation phenomena such as repeats, false starts, pauses, omissions, and additions. (Maclay and Osgood [1959:24] outline a diverse number of hesitation types.) Chomsky's point was that a theory of language had to be a theory of competence lest the linguist vainly try to categorize an infinite number of performance variables which are not reflective of the underlying linguistic ability of the speaker-hearer.

The distinction is one that linguists and psychologists in the generative/ cognitive framework have been operating under for some time, a mentalistic construct that structuralists and behaviorists do not deal with. just how does one infer this unobservable, underlying level? How can one be sure that an accurate assessment has been made?

Brown and Bellugi (1964) give us a rather delightful example of the difficulty of attempting to extract underlying grammatical knowledge from children. Unlike adults, who can be asked, for example, whether it is better to say "two foots" or "two feet," children exhibit what is called the " pop-go-wease l" effect, as witnessed in the following dialogue between an adult and a two-yearold child:

ADULT: Now Adam, listen to what I say. Tell me which is better to say ... some water, or a water.
ADAM: Pop go weasel.

The child obviously has no interest in – or cognizance of – the adult's grammatical interrogation and therefore says whatever he wants to! The researcher is thus forced to devise indirect methods of inferring competence. Among those methods are the tape recording and transcription of countless hours of speech followed by studious analysis, or the direct admission of certain imitation, production, or comprehension tests, all with numerous disadvantages. How is one, for example, to infer some general competence about the linguistic system of a 5-year-old, monolingual, English-speaking girl whose recounting of an incident viewed on television is transcribed below:

... they heared 'em underground ca-cause they went through a hoyle – a hole – and they pulled a rock from underground and then they saw a wave going in – that the hole – and they brought a table and the wave brought 'em out the k-tunnel and then the – they went away and then – uh – m – ah – back on top and it was – uh – going under a bridge and they went – then the braves hit the – the bridge – they – all of it – th-then they looked there – then they – then they were safe.

On the surface it might appear that this child is severely impaired in her attempts to communicate. In fact, this same transcript was presented without identification of the speaker to a group of speech therapists several years ago and I asked them to analyze the various possible "disorders" manifested in the data. After they cited quite a number of technical manifestations of aphasia, I gleefully informed them of the real source of the data! The point is that every day in our processing of linguistic data we comprehend such strings of speech and comprehend them rather well by attending to the underlying meaning of the utterance and by not allowing ourselves to be distracted by a number of performance variables. Adult talk is often no less fraught with monstrosities, as we can see in the following verbatim transcription of comments made on a talk show by golfer Tony Jacklin:

Concentration is important. But uh – I also – to go with this of course if you're playing well – if you're playing well then you get up tight about your game. You get keyed up and it's easy to concentrate. You know you're playing well and you know ... in with a chance than it's easier, much easier to – to you know get in there and – and start to ... you don't have to think about it. I mean it's got to be automatic.

Perhaps Mr. Jacklin would have been better off if he had simply uttered the very last sentence and omitted all the previous verbiage!

If we were to record many more samples of the 5-year-old's speech we would still be faced with the problem of inferring her competence. What is her knowledge of the verb system? of the concept of a "sentence"? Even if we administer rather carefully designed tests of comprehension or production to a child, we are still left with the problem of inferring, as accurately as possible, the child's underlying competence. Often these inferences are mere guesses, and what research is all about is converting the guesswork to accurate measurement.

The competence-performance model has not met with universal acceptance. Major criticisms of the model focus on the notion that competence, as defined by Chomsky, consists of the abilities of an "idealized" hearer-speaker, devoid of any so-called performance variables. [Stubbs (1996), reviewing the issue, reminded us of the position of British linguists Firth and Halliday: dualisms are unnecessary, and the only option for linguists is to study language in use. -- UKT note: This line is from 4th ed.] As Tarone (1988) points out, such views disclaim responsibility for a number of linguistic goofs and slips of the tongue that may well arise from the context within which a person is communicating. In other words, every single one of a child's (or adult's) slips and hesitations and self-corrections are potentially connected to what Tarone calls heterogeneous competence – abilities that are in the process of being formed. So, while we may be tempted to claim that the five-year-old quoted above knows the difference, say, between a "hole" and a "hoyle," we must not too quickly pass off the latter as an irrelevant slip of the tongue.

What are you to conclude, therefore, about language acquisition theory based on a competence- performance model? I think it is clear that a cautious approach to inferring someone's competence will allow you to draw some conclusions about overall ability while still leaving the door open for some significance to be attributed to those linguistic tidbits that you might initially be tempted to discount.

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02.02. Comprehension and Production

Not to be confused with the competence/performance distinction, comprehension and production can be aspects of both performance and competence. One of the myths that has crept into some foreign language teaching materials is that comprehension (listening, reading) can be equated with competence, while production (speaking, writing) is performance. It is important to recognize that this is not the case: production is of course more directly observable, but comprehension is as much performance – a "willful act," to use Saussure's term – as production is.

In child language, most observational and research evidence points to the general superiority of comprehension over production: children seem to understand "more" than they actually produce. For instance, a child may understand a sentence with an embedded relative in it, but not be able to produce one. W.R. Miller (1963:863) gave us a good example of this phenomenon in phonological development: "Recently a three-year-old child told me her name was Litha. I answered 'Litha? 'No, Litha.' 'Oh, Lisa.' 'Yes, Litha."' The child clearly perceived the contrast between English s and th, even though she could not produce the contrast herself.

UKT: I have always been interested in the the Hindi-Devanagari speakers confusing the <th> {þa.} [θ] of Burmese-Myanmar with <s> {sa.} [s]. The difference has resulted in the difference International Pali and the Pali-Myanmar which has led some Myanmar to question the correctness of the pronunciation of Pali-Myanmar. It has also led some linguists to suggest that {þa.} was actually {sa.} in the ancient Burmese language. In one email Dr. Zev Handel, Assoc. Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics, Univ. of Washington had written to me: "By the way, very few Tibeto-Burman languages have the "thibilant" sound.  You can check "Phonological Inventories of Tibeto-Burman Languages", edited by Namkung, published by Berkeley's STEDT project." -- UKT 070916

How are we to explain this difference, this apparent "lag" between comprehension and production? We know that even adults understand more vocabulary than they ever use in speech, and also perceive more syntactic variation than they actually produce. Could it be that the same competence accounts for both modes of performance? Or can we speak of comprehension competence as something that is somewhat separately identified from production competence? Because comprehension for the most part runs ahead of production, is it more completely indicative of our overall competence? Is production indicative of a smaller portion of competence? Surely not. It is therefore necessary to make a distinction between production competence and .comprehension competence. A theory of language must include some accountIng, of the separation of two types of competence. In fact, linguistic competence no doubt has several modes or levels, at least as many as four, since speaking, listening, reading, and writing are all separate modes of performance.

Perhaps an even more compelling argument for the separation of competencies comes from research that appears to support the superiority of production over comprehension. Gathercole (1988) reported on a number of studies in which children were able to produce certain aspects of language they could not comprehend. For example, Rice (1980) found that children who did not previously know terms for color were able to respond verbally to such questions as "What color is this?" But they were not able to respond correctly (by giving the correct colored object) to "Give me the [color] one." While lexical and grammatical instances of production-before-comprehension seem to be few in number, it still behooves us to be wary in concluding that all aspects of linguistic comprehension precede, or facilitate, linguistic production.

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02.03. Nature or Nurture?

Chomsky contended that the child is born with an innate knowledge of or predisposition toward language, and that this innate property (the LAD or UG) is universal in all human beings. The innateness hypothesis was a possible resolution of contradiction between the behavioristic notion that language is a set of habits that can be acquired by a process of conditioning and the fact that such conditioning is much too slow and inefficient a process to account for the acquisition of a phenomenon as complex as language.

But the innateness hypothesis presented a number of problems itself. One of the difficulties has already been discussed in this chapter: the LAD proposition simply postpones facing the central issue of the nature of the human being's capacity for language acquisition. Having thus "explained" language acquisition, one must now explain LAD. Ambrose Bierce summed it up wryly in The Devil's Dictionary: "The doctrine of innate ideas is one of the most admirable faiths of philosophy, being itself an innate idea and therefore inaccessible to disproof" (in Clark and Clark 1977:517).

What, exactly, are the innate properties and predispositions embodied in LAD? How are they genetically transmitted? What has so far been discovered in research on universals of language points toward answers, but the discovery of universals does not necessarily imply innateness. Furthermore, research has been an inadequate testing ground in support of the LAD hypothesis; researchers have too often merely assumed the hypothesis to be true when accounting for their data.

Another problem emerges if you consider the complement of innateness: learning. For years psychologists and educators have been embroiled in the "nature-nurture" controversy: What are those behaviors that "nature" provides either innately, in some sort of predetermined biological timetable, and what are those behaviors that are, by environmental exposure – by "nurture," by teaching – learned and internalized? We do observe that language acquisition is universal, that every child acquires language. But how is the efficiency and success of that learning determined by the environment the child is in? Can children be "taught" their L1? The waters of the innateness hypothesis are considerably muddied by such questions, whose answers are yet to be found.

An interesting line of research on innateness was pursued by Derek Bickerton (1981), who found evidence, across a number of languages, of common patterns of linguistic and cognitive development. He proposed that human beings are "bio-programmed" to proceed from stage to stage. Like flowering plants, people are innately programmed to "release" certain properties of language at certain developmental ages. Just as you can not make a geranium bloom before its "time," so human beings will "bloom" in predetermined, preprogrammed steps.

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02.04. Universals

Closely related to the innateness controversy is the claim that language is universally acquired in the same manner, and moreover, that the deep structure of language at its deepest level may be common to all languages. Years ago Werner Leopold (1949) who, incidentally, was far ahead of his time, made a rather eloquent case for certain phonological as well as grammatical universals in language. Leopold inspired later work by Greenberg (1963, 1966), Bickerton (1981), and Slobin (1986, 1992).

Currently, as noted earlier in this chapter, research in Universal Grammar continues this quest. One of the keys to such inquiry lies in research on child language acquisition across many different languages in order to determine the commonalities. Slobin (1986, 1992) and his colleagues have gathered some data on language acquisition in Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Polish, Hebrew, and Turkish, among others. Interesting universals of pivot grammar and other telegraphese are emerging. Maratsos (1988) enumerates some of current universal linguistic categories under investigation by a number of different researchers:

word order
morphological marking tone
agreement (e.g., of subject and verb)
reduced reference (e.g., pronouns, ellipsis) nouns and noun classes
verbs and verb classes
question formation

UKT note: The following to the end of this section was not in the downloaded version, but is given in the 4th edition.

Much of current UG research is centered around what have come to be known as principles and parameters. The child's "initial state is supposed to consist of a set of universal principles which specify some limited possibilities of variation, expressible in terms of parameters which need to be fixed in one of a few possible ways" (Saleemi 1992: 58). In simpler terms, this means that the child's task of language learning is manageable because of certain naturally occurring constraints. For example, the Principle of Structure Dependency "states that language is organized in such a way that it crucially depends on the structural relationships between elements in a sentence (such as words, morphemes, etc.)" (Holzman 1998: 49). Take, for example, the following sentences:

1. The boy kicked the ball.
2. The boy that's wearing a red shirt and standing next to my brother kicked the ball.
3. She's a great teacher.
4. Is she a great teacher?

The first two sentences rely on a structural grouping, characteristic of all languages, called "phrase," or more specifically, "noun phrase." Without awareness of such a principle, someone would get all tangled up in sentence (2). Likewise, the Principle of Word Order Permutation allows one to perceive the difference between (3) and (4). Children, of course, are not born with such sophisticated perceptions of language; in fact, sentences like (2) are incomprehensible to most native English speaking children until about the age of four or five. Nevertheless, the principle of structure dependency eventually appears in both the comprehension and production of the child.

According to UG, languages cannot vary in an infinite number of ways. Parameters determine ways in which languages can vary. Just one example should suffice to illustrate. One parameter, known as "head parameter," specifies the position of the "head" of a phrase in relation to its complements in the phrase. While these positions vary across languages, their importance is primary in all languages. Languages are either "head first" or "head last." English is a typical head-first language, with phrases like "the boy that's wearing a red shirt" and "kicked the ball." Japanese is a head-last language, with sentences like "E wa kabe ni kakkatte imasu" (picture wall on is hanging) (from Cook & Newson 1996:14).
(See Sentence 2 rendered into Burmese-Myanmar)


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02.05. Systematicity and Variability

One of the assumptions of a good deal of current research on child language is the systematicity of the process of acquisition. Indeed, most of the data gathered so far point to the systematic nature of the learning process. From pivot grammar to three- and four-word utterances, and to full sentences of almost indeterminate length, children exhibit a remarkable ability to infer the phonological, structural, lexical, and semantic system of language. Ever since Berko's (1958) groundbreaking "wug" study, we have been discovering more and more about the systematicity of the acquisition process.

But in the midst of all this systematicity, there is an equally remarkable amount of variability in the process of learning! Even in English, researchers are not agreed on how to define various "stages" of language acquisition. Certain "typical" patterns appear in child language. For example, it has been found that young children who have not yet mastered the past-tense morpheme tend first to learn past tenses as separate items ("walked," "broke," "drank") without knowledge of the difference between regular and irregular verbs. Then, around the age of 4 or 5, they begin to perceive a system in which the -ed morpheme is added to a verb, and at this point all verbs become regularized ("breaked," "drinked," "goed"). Finally, after school age, children perceive that there are two classes of verbs, regular and irregular, and begin to sort out verbs into the two classes, a process that goes on for many years and in some cases persists into young adulthood. [{UKT: see my note on language acquisition of a child in an bilingual surrounding - upbringing of my grandsons in Canada)

Even after acquisition has been more or less completed, the native language of adults is full of variability. Consider the variations in regional and social dialects and styles, as stated by Saussure (1916:9):

But what is language? ... It is both a social product of the faculty of speech and a collection of necessary conventions that have been adopted by a social body to permit individuals to exercise that faculty. Taken as a whole, speech is manysided and heterogeneous; straddling several areas simultaneously – physical, physiological, and psychological – it belongs both to the individual and to society; we cannot put it into any category of human facts, for we cannot discover its unity.

In both first and second language acquisition, the problem of variability is being carefully addressed by researchers (see Tarone 1988). One of the major current research problems is to account for all this variability: to determine if what is now variable in our present point of view can some day be deemed systematic through such careful accounting.

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02.06. Language and Thought

The relationship between language and thought poses thorny issues and questions. For years researchers have probed the relationship between language and cognition. The behavioristic view that cognition is too mentalistic to be studied by the scientific method is diametrically opposed to such positions as that of Piaget (1972), who claimed that cognitive development is at the very center of the h-uman organism and that language is dependent upon and springs from lmgnitive development. Others choose to emphasize the influence of language on cognitive development. Jerome Bruner (Bruner, Olver, and Greenfield 1966), for example, singled out sources of language-influenced intellectual development: words shaping concepts, dialogues between parent and child or teacher and child serving to orient and educate, and other sources. [Vygotsky (1962, 1978) also differed from Piaget in claiming that social interaction, through language, is a prerequisite to cognitive development. Thought and language were seen as two distinct cognitive operations that grow together (Schinke-Llano 1993). Moreover, every child reaches his or her potential development, in part, through social interaction with adults and peers. Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development is the distance between a child's actual cognitive capacity and the level of potential development (Vigotsky 1978:86). – UKT: material within the present square brackets are from 4th ed.] It is clear that the research of the past decade has pointed to the fact that cognitive and linguistic development are inextricably intertwined with dependencies in both directions.

One of the champions of the position that language affects thought was Benjamin Whorf, who with Edward Sapir formed the well-known Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity -- namely, that each language imposes on its speaker a particular "world view." (See Chapter Seven for more discussion of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.)

The issue at stake in child language acquisition is to determine how thought affects language, how language affects thought, and how linguists can best describe and account for the interaction of the two. Once again we probe the issue of how best to explain both the forms and the function of a language. And again we do not have complete answers. But we do know that language is a way of life, is at the foundation of our being, and interacts simultaneously with thoughts and feelings.

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02.07. Imitation

It is a common, informal observation that children are "good imitators." We think of children typically as imitators and mimics, and then conclude that imitation is one of the important strategies a child uses in the acquisition of language. That conclusion is not inaccurate on a global level. Indeed, research has shown that echoing is a particularly salient strategy in early language learning and an important aspect of early phonological acquisition. Moreover, imitation is consonant with behavioristic principles of language acquisition principles relevant, at least, to the earliest stages.

But it is important to ask what type of imitation is implied. Behaviorists assume one type of imitation, but there is a deeper level of imitation that is far more important in the process of language acquisition. The first type is surface-structure imitation, where a person repeats or mimics the surface strings, attending to a phonological code rather than a semantic code. It is this level of imitation that enables an adult to repeat random numbers or nonsense syllables, or even to mimic unknown languages. The semantic data, if any, underlying the surface output are neither internalized nor attended to. In foreign language classes, rote pattern drills often evoke surface imitation: a repetition of sounds by the student without the vaguest understanding of what the sounds might possibly mean.

The earliest stages of child language acquisition may manifest a good deal of surface imitation since the baby may not possess the necessary semantic categories to assign "meaning" to utterances. But as children perceive the importance of the semantic level of language, they attend primarily if not exclusively to that meaningful semantic level  – the deep structure of language. They engage in deep-structure imitation. In fact, the imitation of the deep structure of language can literally block their attention to the surface structure so that they become, on the face of it, poor imitators. Consider the following conversation as recorded by McNeill (1966:69):

You can imagine the frustration of both mother and child, for the mother was attending to a rather technical, surface grammatical distinction, and yet the child sought to derive some meaning value. Finally the child perceived some sort of surface distinction between what she was saying and what her mother was saying and made what she thought was an appropriate change. [{UKT: see language acquisition of a child in an bilingual surrounding.}]

A similar case in point occurred one day when the teacher of an elementary-school class asked her pupils to write a few sentences on a piece of paper, to which one rather shy pupil responded, ¶UKT

"Ain't got no pencil."

Disturbed at this nonstandard response the teacher embarked on a barrage of corrective models for the child: ¶UKT

"I don't have any pencils, you don't have a pencil, they don't have pencils.

When the teacher finally ended her monologue of patterns, the intimidated and bewildered child said, ¶UKT

"Ain't nobody got no pencils?"

The teacher's purpose was lost on this child because he too was attending to language as a meaningful and communicative tool and not to the question of whether certain forms were "correct" and others were not. The child, like all children, was attending to the truth value of the utterance.

Research has also shown that children, when explicitly asked to repeat a sentence in a test situation, will often repeat the correct underlying deep structure with a change in the surface rendition. For example, sentences like ¶UKT

"The ball that is rolling down the hill is black" and
"The boy who's in the sandbox is wearing a red shirt"

tend to be repeated back by preschool children as

"The black ball is rolling down the hill" and
"The red boy is in the sandbox" (Brown 1970).

UKT: I have hated long sentences all my life, probably because of the influence of Burmese-Myanmar usage. Maybe, I have never left the "preschool". I would be quite comfortable with:
"The black ball is rolling down the hill" and
"The red-shirted boy is in the sandbox"

Children are excellent imitators. It is simply a matter of understanding exactly what it is that they are imitating.

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02.08. Practice

Closely related to the notion of imitation is a somewhat broader question, the nature of practice in child language. Do children practice their language? If so, how? What is the role of the frequency of hearing and producing items in the acquisition of those items? It is common to observe children and conclude that they "practice" language constantly, especially in the early stages of single-word and two-word utterances. A behavioristic model of L1 acquisition would claim that practice-repetition and association – is the key to the formation of habits by operant conditioning.

One unique form of practice by a child is recorded by Ruth Weir (1962). She found that her children produced rather long monologues in bed at night before going to sleep. Here is one example: "What color ... What color blanket ... What color mop ... What color glass ... Mommy's home sick ... Mommy's home sick ... Where's Mommy home sick ... Where's Mikey sick ... Mikey sick." Such monologues are not uncommon among children, whose inclination it is to "play" with language just as they do with all objects and events around them. Weir's data show far more structural patterning than has commonly been found in other data. Nevertheless, children's practice seems to be a key to language acquisition.

Practice is usually thought of as referring to speaking only. But one can also think in terms of comprehension practice, which is often considered under the rubric of the frequency of linguistic input to the child. Is the acquisition of particular words or structures directly attributable to their frequency in the child's linguistic environment? There is evidence that certain highly frequent forms are acquired first: what questions, irregular past-tense forms, certain common household items and persons. Brown and Hanlon (1970), for example, found that the frequency of occurrence of a linguistic item in the speech of mothers was an overwhelmingly strong predictor of the order of emergence of those items in their children's speech.

There are some conflicting data, however. Telegraphic speech is one case in point. Some of the most frequently occurring words in the language are omitted in such two- and three- word utterances. And McNeill (1968:416) found that a Japanese child produced the Japanese postposition ga far more frequently and more correctly than another contrasting postposition wa, even though her mother was recorded as using wa twice as often as ga. McNeill attributed this finding to the fact that ga as a subject marker is of more importance, grammatically, to the child, and she therefore acquired the use of that item since it was more meaningful on a deep- structure level. Another feasible explanation, however, for that finding might lie in the easier pronunciation of ga.

The jury is still out on the frequency issue. Nativists who claim that "the relative frequency of stimuli is of little importance in language acquisition" (Wardhaugh 1971:12) might, in the face of evidence thus far, be more cautious in their claims. It would appear that frequency of meaningful occurrence may well be a more precise refinement of the notion of frequency.

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02.09. Input

The role of input in the child's acquisition of language is undeniably crucial. Whatever one's position is on the innateness of language, the speech that young children hear is primarily the speech heard in the home, and much of that speech is parental speech or the speech of older siblings. Linguists once claimed that most adult speech is basically semigrammatical (full of performance variables), and that children are exposed to a chaotic sample of language and only their innate capacities can account for their successful acquisition of language. McNeill, for example, wrote: "The speech of adults from which a child discovers the locally appropriate manifestation of the linguistic universals is a completely random, haphazard sample, in no way contrived to instruct the child on grammar" (1966:73). However, Labov (1970:42) noted that on the basis of his studies the presumed ungrammaticality of everyday speech appears to be a myth. Bellugi and Brown (1964) and Drach (1969) found that the speech addressed to children was carefully grammatical and lacked the usual hesitations and false starts common in adult-to-adult speech. Landes's (1975) summary of a wide range of research on parental input supported their conclusions. More recent studies of parents' speech in the home (Hladik and Edwards 1984; Moerk 1985) confirm earlier evidence demonstrating the selectivity of parental linguistic input to their children.

UKT: Pay attention to the case of Genie who had to learn her L1 after the age of 12 in my note on Eric Lenneberg.

At the same time, it will be remembered that children react very consistently to the deep structure and the communicative function of language, and they do not react overtly to expansions and grammatical corrections as in the "nobody likes me" dialogue quoted above. Such input is largely ignored unless there is some truth or falsity that the child can attend to. Thus, if a child says "Dat Harry" and the parent says "No, that's John, " the child might readily self-correct and say "Oh, dat John." But what Landes and others showed is that in the long run children will, after consistent, repeated models in meaningful contexts, eventually transfer correct forms to their own speech and thus correct "dat" to "that's."

UKT: It is probable that it is easier for the child to pronounce /d/ than the /ð/ -- the voiced form of <th>/<þ>.

The importance of the issue lies in the fact that it is clear from more recent research that adult and peer input to the child is far more important than nativists earlier might have believed. Adult input seems to shape the child's acquisition, and the interaction patterns between child and parent change according to the increasing language skill of the child. Nurture and environment in this case are tremendously important, though it remains to be seen just how important parental input is as a proportion of total input.

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02.10. Discourse

A subfield of research that is occupying the attention of an increasing number of child language researchers is the area of conversational or discourse analysis. While parental input is a significant part of the child's development of conversational rules, it is only one aspect, as the child also interacts with peers and, of course, with other adults. Berko-Gleason (1982:20) described the new trend:

"While it used to be generally held that mere exposure to language is sufficient to set the child's language generating machinery in motion, it is now clear that, in order for successful L1 acquisition to take place, interaction, rather than exposure, is required; children do not learn language from overhearing the conversations of others or from listening to the radio, and must, instead, acquire it in the context of being spoken to."

While conversation is a universal human activity performed routinely in the course of daily living, the means by which children learn to take part in conversation appear to be very complex. Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) proposed that conversations be examined in terms of initiations and responses. What might in a grammatical sentence-based model of language be described as sentences, clauses, words, and morphemes, are viewed as transactions, exchanges, moves, and acts. The child learns not only how to initiate a conversation but how to respond to another's initiating utterance. Questions are not simply questions but are recognized functionally as requests for information, for action, or for help. At a relatively young age, children learn subtle differences between, say, assertions and challenges. They learn that utterances have both a literal and an intended or functional meaning. Thus, in the case of a question "Can you go to the movies tonight?," the response "I'm busy," is understood correctly as a negative response ("I can't go to the movies"). How do children manifest the development of discourse rules? What are the key features the child attends to? [{How do they detect pragmatic and intended meaning? How are gender roles acquired? – UKT additions from 4th ed. }] These and other questions about the acquisition of discourse ability are being researched. (see Holmes 1995 and Tannen 1996)

Much remains to be studied in the area of the child's development of conversational knowledge (see Shatz and McCloskey 1984, and McTear 1984 for a good summary). Nevertheless, such development is perhaps the next frontier to be mastered in the quest for answers to the mystery of language acquisition. Clearly there are important implications here, as we shall see in the next chapter, for second language learners. The barrier of discourse is one of the most difficult for second language learners to break through.

A number of theories and issues in child language have been explored in this chapter with the purpose of briefly characterizing both the current state of child language research and of highlighting a few of the key concepts that emerge in the formation of an understanding of how babies learn to talk and eventually become sophisticated linguistic beings. There is much to be learned in such an understanding. Every human being who attempts to learn a L2 has already learned a L1. It is said that the second time around on something is always easier. In the case of language this is not necessarily true. But in order to understand why it is not, you need to understand the nature of that initial acquisition process, for it may be that some of the keys to the mystery are found therein. That search is continued in the next chapter as we compare and contrast L1 and L2 acquisition.

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In The Classroom:
Gouin and Berlitz – The First Reformers

UKT: See my note on Gouin , and also on Berlitz.
There were two Berlitz's, the grandfather (Maximilian Berlitz) and grandson (Charles Berlitz).

In the second of our series of vignettes on classroom applications of theory, we turn the clock back about a hundred years to look in on the first two reformers in the history of "modern" language teaching, François Gouin and Charles Berlitz. Their perceptive observations about language teaching help us to set the stage for the development of language teaching methodologies for the century following.

In his The Ail of Learning and Studying Foreign Languages (1880), François Gouin described a painful set of experiences that finally led to his insights about language teaching. Having decided in his midlife to learn German, he took up residency in Hamburg for one year. But rather than attempting to converse with the natives he engaged in a rather bizarre sequence of attempts to "master" the language. Upon arrival in Hamburg he felt he should memorize a German grammar book and a table of the 248 irregular German verbs! He did this in a matter of only ten days and then hurried to "the academy" (the university) to test his new knowledge. "But alas!" he wrote, I could not understand a single word, not a single word!" Gouin was undaunted. He returned to the isolation of his room, this time to memorize the German roots and to rememorize the grammar book and irregular verbs. Again he emerged with expectations of success. "But alas! " – the result was the same as before. In the course of the year in Germany Gouin memorized books, translated Goethe and Schiller, and even memorized 30,000 words in a German dictionary – all in the isolation of his room, only to be crushed by his failure to understand German afterwards. Only once did he try to "make conversation" as a method, but this caused people to laugh at him and he was too embarrassed to continue that method. At the end of the year, Gouin, having reduced the classical method to absurdity, was forced to return home, a failure.

UKT: The above "misadventure" of Gouin had set me thinking of the ancient Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien (ca. 337 - ca. 422) from China who (an already an old man pushing into 70s) had tracked overland to India to collect the Buddhist texts. And there was I-Tsing or YiChing (635-713) after Fa-hsien. How did they manage to carry on the daily conversation with the native Indian monks? Was there a secret method or methods known then and now forgotten in the East to teach "foreigners" conversation? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa_Xian 080306, and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching_(monk) 080306

But there is a happy ending. Upon returning home Gouin discovered that his 3-year-old nephew had, during that year, gone through that wonderful stage of child language acquisition in which he went from saying virtually nothing at all to become a veritable chatterbox of French. How was it that this little child succeeded so easily in a task, mastering a L1, that Gouin, in a second language, had found impossible? The child must hold the secret to learning a language! So Gouin spent a great deal of time observing his nephew and other children and came to the following conclusions: Language learning is primarily a matter of transforming perceptions into conceptions. Children use language to represent their conceptions. Language is a means of thinking, of representing the world to oneself. (These insights, remember, are being formed by a language teacher over a century ago!)

So Gouin set about devising a teaching method that would follow from these insights. And thus the Series Method was created, a method that taught learners directly (without translation) and conceptually (without grammatical rules and explanations) a "series" of connected sentences that are easy to perceive. The first lesson of a foreign language would thus teach the following series of 15 sentences:

I walk toward the door. I draw near to the door. I draw nearer to the door. I get to the door. I stop at the door.

I stretch out my arm. I take hold of the handle. I turn the handle. I open the door. I pull the door.

The door moves. The door turns on its hinges. The door turns and turns. I open the door wide. I let go of the handle.

The 15 sentences have an unconventionally large number of grammatical properties, vocabulary items, word orders, and complexity. This is no simple "Voici la table" lesson! Yet Gouin was successful with such lessons because the language was so easily understood, stored, recalled, and related to reality.

The "naturalistic" – simulating the "natural" way in which children learn L1s – approaches of Gouin and a few of his contemporaries did not take hold immediately. A generation later, largely through the efforts of Charles Berlitz, applied linguists finally established the credibility of such approaches in what became known as the Direct Method.

The basic premise of Berlitz's method was that L2 learning should be more like L1 learning: lots of active oral interaction, spontaneous use of the language, no translation between L1 and L2s, and little or no analysis of grammatical rules. Richards and Rodgers (1986:9-10) summarize the principles of the Direct Method:

1. Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.

2. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.

3. Oral communication skills were built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and students in small, intensive classes.

4. Grammar was taught inductively.

5. New teaching points were introduced orally.

6. Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.

7. Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.

8. Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.

The Direct Method enjoyed considerable popularity through the end of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. It was most widely accepted in private language schools where students were highly motivated and where native-speaking teachers could be employed. To this day "Berlitz" is a household word; Berlitz language schools are thriving in every country of the world. But almost any "method" can succeed when clients are willing to pay high prices for small classes, individual attention, and intensive study. The Direct Method did not take well in public education where the constraints of budget, classroom size, time, and teacher background made such a method difficult to use. Moreover, the Direct Method was criticized for its weak theoretical foundations. The methodology was not so much to be credited for its success as the general skill and personality of the teacher.

UKT: A method of teaching known as New Method was introduced into Bengal in India in the late 19th century by the British administrators, and then into Burma. Both India and Burma were under the British rule at that time. I still remember the New Method Readers which we had to use when I was young. (I still need to check with my references in Yangon, and the reader is warned that I might have to change my views. I am writing this in Canada. 080306). See the cover of the New Method Reader 3 in TIL collection.

By the end of the first quarter of this century the use of the Direct Method had declined both in Europe and in the United States. Most language curricula returned to the Grammar Translation Method or to a "reading approach" that emphasized reading skills in foreign languages. But interestingly enough, by the middle of the 20th century the Direct Method was revived and redirected into what was probably the most visible of all language teaching "revolutions" in the modern era, the Audiolingual Method (see Chapter Three). So even this some what short-lived movement in language teaching would reappear in the changing winds and shifting sands of history.

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1. Why is it that behavioristic theories can account sufficiently well for the earliest utterances of the child, but not for utterances at the sentence and discourse level? Do nativistic and functional approaches provide the necessary tools for accounting for those later, more complex utterances?

2. If you can, try to record samples of young children's speech. A child of about 3 is an ideal subject for you to observe in the study of a human being's growing competence in a language. Transcribe a segment of your recording and see if, inductively, you can determine some of the rules the child is using.

3. Briefly describe the continuum of behavioristic, nativistic, and functional approaches to the study of child language acquisition. In what way do functional approaches cycle back, in part, to behavioristic approaches?

4. What is Universal Grammar? Is it something different from the nativists' concept of LAD?

5. Why do you think Chomsky insisted on weeding out "performance variables" in analyzing language? What do theorists gain from examining only the "idealized" speaker-hearer? What do they lose? How might Tarone's notion of "heterogeneous" competence go beyond the limitations of Chomsky's understanding of competence?

6. Competence and performance are difficult to define. In what sense are they interdependent? Suppose, for example, that an accomplished pianist suffers an accident in which her hands are cut off: does the pianist still possess the competence to play her favorite Mozart concerto? If a person suffers brain damage and can no longer talk, does that person still have the competence to talk?

7. Do you think comprehension and production are two separate modes of competence? In what way are they distinctly related? Cite examples supporting their possible unrelatedness.

8. Explain the essential difference between what is referred to as the forms of language and the functions of language. To which aspect does the child give more conscious attention?

9. Do you think that theories of the variability in child language are simply a researcher's way of saying there are many utterances that children produce that we just can't account for in terms of a possible system?

10. The frequency of a linguistic item in the child's input may or may not be an important factor in determining acquisition. What is meant, though, by saying that "frequency of meaningful occurrence may well be a more precise refinement of the notion of frequency" (p. 40)?

11. Listen to the conversation of a 3- or 4-year-old child, either with parents or with peers. Try to notice the subtleties of language that the child processes: understanding intended meaning, seeking clarification, turn-taking, nonverbal communication, and so on. Then try to make subtle grammatical corrections of his childlike forms. How does the child respond to the corrections?

12. In what way do you think Gouin reflected some ideas about language and about language acquisition that are now current over a hundred years later? Would the Series Method or the Direct Method work for you as a teacher? Discuss pros and cons.

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Most of the L1 acquisition issues dealt with in this chapter are treated in textbooks on child language. A comprehensive treatment of child language acquisition was provided by Berko- Gleason (1985), Manner and Gleitman (1982), and Clark and Clark (1977).

Theoretical positions and research issues in child language acquisition are the subject of three anthologies that you might wish to consult: Krasegnor et a]. (1991), Weissenborn et a]. (1991), and Kessel (1988).

It would be valuable to read a synopsis of Skinner's (1957) classic work (the whole volume itself is interesting but time-consuming reading). Chomskys (1959) review of Skinner, followed by MacCorquodale's (1970) belated response to Chomsky are both heavy reading, but they are eloquent defenses of two contrasting points of view.

Bickerton's (1981) fascinating book on creolization contains his explanation of the notion of bioprogramming.

Taylor (1988) provides a good review of theories of competence.

Much of the research on Universal Grammar is difficult to comprehend without a substantive background in linguistic theory, but you might want to try reading Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991:227f) or Bley-Vroman (1988) for readable descriptions of research in this area.

For further information on Parallel Distributed Processing and its relationship to first and second language issues, look at Sokolik (1990), Spolsky (1989), and Ney and Pearson (1990).

For a good discussion of Chomsky's "homogeneous" competence model and Tarone's "heterogeneous" competence model, consult Tarone (1988).

Diller (1978) provides a summary of Francois Gouin's language learning experiences and his Series Method.

UKT: There is considerable difference between the above list and the list given in the 4th edition.

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[Note: See pages 18 and 19 of Chapter 1 for general guidelines for writing a journal on a previous or concurrent language learning experience.]

• As you learn(ed) a foreign language, did you feel any of the learning was due to a "knack" you had for it? Think of some examples to illustrate either the presence or the absence of some ability to pick up the language.

• Is your class focused more on the forms of language than the functions? illustrate with examples.

• Go through the issues discussed in this chapter and ask yourself if, in your foreign language class, you have had opportunities to understand and to speak, to imitate the teacher, to practice discourse and conversation?

• Consider how children learn their L1 and figure out inductively (before you go on to Chapter 3) what some of the child's "secrets" are that enable them to acquire a language seemingly efficiently.

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The first question people ask me when they hear that a new edition is about to appear is: "What changes will you make?" In anticipation of these questions about the Fourth Edition, I offer the following highlights:

1. Updated topics and references. In a field growing as rapidly as ours a period of six or seven years sees many advances. The current edition features some new topics: constructivist approaches to SLA, new data on the critical period hypothesis, emotional intelligence, language aptitude, strategies-based instruction (SBI), the neurobiology of affect, language policy and politics, intercultural communication, cross-linguistic influence, form-focused instruction, and Long's Interaction Hypothesis, to name a few. Other topics have been updated to reflect current work in the field. And out of literally thousands of new articles, books, and chapters that have appeared since the last edition, I have added a selection of some 200 new bibliographic references that report the latest work in SLA.

2. Reorganized chapters. If you were just getting used to the Third Edition, be prepared to look carefully at the new edition. The process of revising has involved a reorganization of a substantial proportion of the material.

3. Deletion of the chapter on Language Testing (10). An overwhelming number of readers and reviewers have stated that the Testing chapter cannot be covered within the scope of a term of coursework. I have therefore deleted that chapter and placed it, in revised form, into the new Second Edition of my companion textbook, Teaching by Principles. What was Chapter 11 in the Third Edition has become Chapter 10 here.

4. Redesigned teacher-friendly end-of-chapter exercises. In previous editions, the end-of-chapter exercises were designed for individual contemplation and possibly for teachers to adapt to classroom discussion. In this edition, new and improved classroom-tested exercises are explicitly designed for in-class group work, pair work, whole-class discussion, and individual work.

5. More accessible suggestions for further reading. In this edition the suggestions for further reading now more effectively target an audience of students just beginning in the field of SLA. Few esoteric, technical articles are listed, and instead students are led to more reader-friendly material.

6. Journal guidelines for a language learning experience. I have always recommended that the information in a book like this is best internalized if the reader is concurrently taking a course in a foreign language. At the end of each chapter in this edition is a new section that offers classroom-tested journal-writing guidelines for the reader either to reflect on a current experience learning another language or to take a retrospective look at a previous foreign language learning experience. In both cases, the reader is asked to apply concepts and constructs and models to a personal experience learning a foreign language.

7. Revised end-of-chapter "In the Classroom" vignettes. As in the Third Edition, these vignettes provide information on various pedagogical applications and implications of second language research. The first four vignettes describe a historical progression of language-teaching methods; the other chapters deal with related classroom implications of the information in the chapter itself. A new vignette – a model for class-room error treatment-has been added to Chapter 8.


This book has grown out of graduate courses in second language acquisition that I have taught at San Francisco State University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Michigan. My first debt of gratitude is therefore to my students – for their insights, enthusiasm, and support. They offered invaluable comments on the first three editions of the book, and I have attempted to incorporate those insights into this Fourth Edition. I always learn so much from my students!

I am also grateful to faculty colleagues both here at San Francisco State University and around the world for offering verbal commentary, informal written opinion, and formal published reviews, all of which were useful in fashioning this Fourth Edition. I especially want to thank Tom Scovel, May Shih, ]im Kohn, Aysegill Daloglu, and the publisher's anonymous reviewers for feedback and encouragement. Further, I wish to acknowledge the staff and the resources of the American Language Institute for support in the time-consuming task of this revision. I am particularly grateful to Kathy Sherak for assuming the ALI directorship duties while I took a leave to complete this revision.

Finally, to Mary – my wife, lifetime companion, and best friend – thanks once again for believing in me way back when I embarked on this career, and for letting me take over two rooms of the house for this project!

H. Douglas Brown
San Francisco, California

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UKT notes

a game of words

"A Game of Words: the Ambiguities of Language in Great Expectations and Through the Looking-Glass" by Katie Krauskopf '97 (English 73, 1995) www.victorianweb.org/victorian/dickens/ge/language.htm

"So here's a question for you. How old did you say you were?" Alice made a short calculation and said, "Seven years and six months." "Wrong!" Humpty Dumpty exclaimed triumphantly. "You never said a word like it!" "I thought you meant 'How old are you?'" Alice explained. "If I'd meant that, I'd have said it," said Humpty Dumpty (Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking-Glass).

"What is he prepared to swear?" "Well, Mas'r Jaggers," said Mike, wiping his nose on his fur cap this time; "in a general way, anythink." Mr. Jaggers suddenly became most irate. "Now, I warned you before," said he, throwing his forefinger at the terrified client, "that if ever you presumed to talk in that way here, I'd make an example of you. You infernal scoundrel, how dare you tell ME that?" The client looked scared, but bewildered too, as if he were unconscious what he had done.... "Now I ask you, you blundering booby," said my guardian very sternly, "once more and for the last time, what the man you have brought here is prepared to swear?" Mike looked hard at my guardian, as if he were trying to learn a lesson from his face, and slowly replied, "Ayther to character, or to having been in his company and never left him all the night in question." "Now, be careful. In what station of life is this man?" Mike looked at his cap, and looked at the floor, and looked at the ceiling, and looked at the clerk, and even looked at me, before beginning to reply in a nervous manner, "we've dressed him up like-" when my guardian blustered out: "What? you WILL, will you?"... After some helpless casting about, Mike brightened and began again: "He is dressed like a 'spectable pieman. A sort of a pastry-cook." "Is he here?" asked my guardian. "I left him," said Mike, "a-setting on some doorsteps round the corner." (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, pp.155-156)

      The games begin immediately for Alice when she encounters Humpty Dumpty during her Looking-Glass wanderings, as they do for Mike as soon as he enters Jaggers's infamous law office. What exactly are these so-called games that both Dickens and Carroll invent? They are the games that can be played with the ambiguities of language.
     Humpty Dumpty greatly frustrates Alice by toying with the double meaning of the question "how old did you say you were?", presenting Alice with a question she had not thought she had been asked. A similar circumstance occurs just before Alice first meets Humpty Dumpty. In this situation, it is Alice who uses the ambiguous nature of language to her advantage. "And how exactly like an egg he is!" she said aloud... "It's very provoking," Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence..."to be called an egg-very!" "I said you looked like an egg, Sir" (Through the Looking-Glass, p.159). Dickens also demonstrates the ambiguity in the English language. Jaggers's very success as a lawyer depends upon it. Double meanings and unclear interpretations allow him to be just vague enough to gather information from his witnesses and clients, such as Mike, without obtaining knowledge that would incriminate himself. Jaggers is not the only character in Great Expectations who experiences the dual nature of English as a language. When Pip is a young boy, his literal interpretation (based on experience) of the expression "to be brought up by hand" is amusing and also poignant. In using ambiguous language, authors such as Carroll and Dickens present a broad spectrum of emotions to their readers. It is a device that can serve to frustrate, humor or instill empathy.
     "The decade of the 1860s was also the signal decade of the new philology in England. Philological discussion connected, in the popular mind, with a sense of breakthrough in many other historical and comparative disciplines" (Dennis Taylor. Hardy's Literary Language and Victorian Philology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. p.97). This quest to establish the authentic meaning of written texts and documents perhaps sheds some light on why Carroll and Dickens were so fond of playing with language. Whether they were doing so in order to prove a point about the difficulties surrounding that quest, or if it was simply just a device that they both thought effective is a difficult question to answer.

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Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941)

From Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Whorf 080221

Benjamin Lee Whorf (April 24, 1897 in Winthrop, Massachusetts – July 26, 1941) was an American linguist. Whorf, along with Edward Sapir, is best known for having laid the foundation of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

The son of Harry and Sarah (Lee) Whorf, Benjamin Lee Whorf graduated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 1918 with a degree in chemical engineering. Shortly thereafter, he began work as a fire prevention engineer (inspector) for the Hartford Fire Insurance Company, pursuing linguistic and anthropological studies as an avocation.
   In 1931, Whorf began studying linguistics at Yale University and soon deeply impressed Edward Sapir, who warmly supported Whorf's academic pursuits. In 1936, Whorf was appointed Honorary Research Fellow in Anthropology at Yale. In 1937, Yale awarded him the Sterling Fellowship. He was a Lecturer in Anthropology from 1937 through 1938, when he began having serious health problems.
   Whorf said that having an independent, non-academic source of income allowed him to pursue his specific academic interests more freely. Although he never took up linguistics as a profession, his contributions to the field were nevertheless profound, and have proved influential down to the present day. He disseminated his ideas not only by publishing numerous technical articles, but also by writings accessible to lay readers, and by popular lectures (reportedly, he was a captivating speaker).
   Whorf's primary area of interest in linguistics was the study of Native American languages, particularly those of Mesoamerica. He became quite well known for his work on the Hopi language, and for a theory he called the principle of linguistic relativity. Among Whorf's most fascinating findings while studying the Hopi was that: “… the Hopi language is seen to contain no words, grammatical forms, construction or expressions or that refer directly to what we call “time”, or to past, present, or future…'
   [{UKT: Why did Whorf used the word "relativity"? Was he thinking of another very famous theory with a similar name though from another discipline "General Relativity Theory" of Einstein being developed in the years 1907-1915? -- my own question 080221}].
   The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis primarily dealt with the way that language affects thought. Also sometimes called the Whorfian hypothesis, this theory claims that the language a person speaks affects the way that he or she thinks, meaning that the structure of the language itself affects cognition.
   Some of Whorf's early work on linguistics and particularly on linguistic relativity was inspired by reports he wrote on insurance losses, in which misunderstanding based on linguistic confusion had been a contributing factor. In an incident recounted in his essay " The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language," (Whorf, 1956/1997), Whorf explains how the idea of language affecting thought first came to him. Employed as an investigator for a fire insurance company, his job was to investigate the causes of industrial fires. In his own words:

"My analysis was directed toward purely physical conditions, such as defective wiring, presence of lack of air spaces between metal flues and woodwork, etc., and the results were presented in these terms. ... But in due course it became evident that not only a physical situation qua physics, but the meaning of that situation to people, was sometimes a factor, through the behavior of people, in the start of a fire. And this factor of meaning was clearest when it was a LINGUISTIC MEANING [Whorf's emphasis], residing in the name or the linguistic description commonly applied to this situation. Thus, around a storage of what are called 'gasoline drums,' behavior will tend to a certain type, that is, great care will be exercised; while around a storage of what are called 'empty gasoline drums,' it will tend to be different -- careless, with little repression of smoking or of tossing cigarette stubs about. Yet the 'empty' drums are perhaps the more dangerous, since they contain explosive vapor. Physically, the situation is hazardous, but the linguistic analysis according to regular analogy must employ the word 'empty,' which inevitably suggests a lack of hazard. The word 'empty' is used in two linguistic patterns: (1) as a virtual synonym for 'null and void, negative, inert,' (2) applied in analysis of physical situations without regard to, e.g., vapor, liquid vestiges, or stray rubbish, in the container." (Whorf, 1956, p. 135)

In studying the cause of a fire which had started under the conditions just described, Whorf concluded that it was thinking of the "empty" gasoline drums as "empty" in the meaning described in the first definition (1) above, that is as "inert," which led to a fire he investigated. His papers and lectures featured many other examples from his insurance work to support his belief that language shapes understanding.
   Less well known, but important, are his contributions to the study of the Nahuatl and Maya languages. He claimed that Nahuatl was an oligosynthetic language (a claim that would be brought up again some twenty years later by Morris Swadesh, another controversial American linguist). In a series of published and unpublished studies in the 1930s, he argued that Mayan writing was phonetic to some degree. Although many details of his work on Maya are now known to have been incorrect, his central claim was vindicated by Yuri Knorozov's syllabic decipherment of Mayan writing in the 1950s.
   Whorf died of cancer at the age of 44. He is mainly remembered for a posthumous collection of his work, titled Language, Thought, and Reality, first published in 1956.

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B. F. Skinner (1904-1990)

• Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner 080219
• Operant Conditioning. http://www.psychology.org/
• Dr. C. G. Boeree www.ship.edu .
• D.G. Likely, www.unb.ca/psychology/likely

From Wikipedia

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (Mar 20, 1904 - Aug 18, 1990), Ph.D. was a highly influential American psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform and poet. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until retirement in 1974. He invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism, and founded his own school of experimental research psychology — the experimental analysis of behavior. His analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior, which has recently seen enormous increase in interest experimentally and in applied settings. He discovered and advanced the rate of response as a dependent variable in psychological research. He invented the cumulative recorder to measure rate of responding as part of his highly influential work on schedules of reinforcement. In a recent survey, Skinner was listed as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century. He was a prolific author, publishing 21 books and 180 articles.

From Operant Conditioning

The theory of B.F. Skinner is based upon the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behavior. Changes in behavior are the result of an individual's response to events (stimuli) that occur in the environment. A response produces a consequence such as defining a word, hitting a ball, or solving a math problem. When a particular Stimulus-Response (S-R) pattern is reinforced (rewarded), the individual is conditioned to respond. The distinctive characteristic of operant conditioning relative to previous forms of behaviorism (e.g., Thorndike, Hull) is that the organism can emit responses instead of only eliciting response due to an external stimulus.
     Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's S-R theory. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response. It could be verbal praise, a good grade or a feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction. The theory also covers negative reinforcers -- any stimulus that results in the increased frequency of a response when it is withdrawn (different from adversive stimuli -- punishment -- which result in reduced responses). A great deal of attention was given to schedules of reinforcement (e.g. interval versus ratio) and their effects on establishing and maintaining behavior.
     One of the distinctive aspects of Skinner's theory is that it attempted to provide behavioral explanations for a broad range of cognitive phenomena. For example, Skinner explained drive (motivation) in terms of deprivation and reinforcement schedules. Skinner (1957) tried to account for verbal learning and language within the operant conditioning paradigm, although this effort was strongly rejected by linguists and psycholinguists. Skinner (1971) deals with the issue of free will and social control.

From: Dr. C. G. Boeree

SKINNER, Burrhus Frederic  1904-1990.
     B. F. Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, to a lawyer-father and a strong and intelligent housewife-mother.  His upbringing was old-fashioned and hard-working. He received his BA in English from Hamilton College, New York State, but the college with its requirement of students attending chapel every day did not suit Skinner who was an atheist. After trying unsuccessfully to be a writer of short stories and poetry, he wrote newspaper articles on labor problems. He lived as a "bohemian" for sometime in the Greenwich Village, New York City. He went back to school at Harvard where he got his masters in psychology in 1930 and his doctorate in 1931. He became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University in 1945.  From 1948 until he died he was at Harvard doing research, guiding hundreds of doctoral candidates and writing many books.  Though not successful as a writer of fiction and poetry, he became one of the best psychology writers, including the book Walden II, which is a fictional account of a community run by his behaviorist principles. He was perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud.
     Theory. B. F. Skinner’s entire system is based on operant conditioning.  The organism is in the process of “operating” on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around it world, doing what it does.  During this “operating,” the organism encounters a special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer.  This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the operant -- that is, the behavior occurring just before the reinforcer.  This is operant conditioning:  “the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organisms tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.”

From: D.G. Likely

C. B. Ferster & B. F. Skinner's 1957 book, Schedules of reinforcement, provides records of thousands of operant responses. For many years thereafter, more and more complicated combinations of reinforcement schedules were tested using an increasing variety of species. There is no doubt that these experiments produced (mostly) orderly behaviour but by 1970 there was considerable question as to whether the findings could usefully be applied to situations less artificial that those obtaining in Skinner boxes. Skinner had deliberately eschewed theoretical analysis in favour of behavioural control but others mistook the operational simplicity of the operant preparation for a vastly oversimplified account of animal and human psychology. (The difficulty in analysing precisely how a reinforcement schedule controls behaviour is discussed in Mackintosh, 1974, p. 168f.)

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Charles Berlitz (1914-2003)

From: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Berlitz 080220

Charles Frambach Berlitz (November 20, 1914 – December 18, 2003) was a linguist and language teacher known for his books on anomalous phenomena, as well as his language-learning courses. He is listed in People's Almanac as one of fifteen most eminent linguists in the world and was awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld International Prize for Non-fiction in 1976 for The Bermuda Triangle (1974), which sold over 20 million copies. He was a brilliant polyglot and spoke 32 languages

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Charles Osgood's Mediational theory

1. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_E._Osgood 080306
2. From First Edition of A First Look at Communication Theory by Em Griffin, © 1991, McGraw-Hill, Inc. www.afirstlook.com

From Wikipedia:

Charles Egerton Osgood (1916-1991) was a distinguished psychologist who developed a technique for the measurement of the connotative meaning of concepts known as the semantic differential.
   Osgood was born in 1916, in Somerville, Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University in 1945.
   He was a professor of psychology of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana from 1949 to 1984, and a research professor of the Institute of Communications Research (ICR), in the UI College of Communications. He as the Director of the ICR from 1957 to 1984. He served as president of the American Psychological Association from 1962 to 1963.
   Osgood served on the Social Science Advisory Board of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1964 to 1971, at the height of the Cold War.
   Among his many awards were the APA's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1960), and the APA's Kurt Lewin Award (1971).
   Charles Osgood died in 1991.

From First Edition of A First Look at Communication Theory by Em Griffin, © 1991, McGraw-Hill, Inc. www.afirstlook.com

Theories based on Skinner's theory of language acquisition claimed that words take on the meaning of their referent through the process of paired association. Thus if a child hears someone say "thunder" almost every time there's a rumble in the sky, she would associate the word thunder with the noise and nothing else. However, an adult who knows that thunder and lightning (the static electrical discharge) can come together, would not go out swimming in the lake whereas the child would. According to Osgood "words represent things because they produce some replica of the actual behavior toward these things, as a mediation process." (Ref.11.) This "representational mediated process" occurs on a more complex mental level than sensation or perception. It mirrors not what the word is, nor what we think it should be, but what it signifies.
     Osgood's theory is in direct contradiction to Whorf's hypothesis of linguistic relativity. Whorf claimed that language shapes thought. Osgood says it’s the other way around.
     Ref. 11: Charles E. Osgood, "The Nature and Measurement of Meaning," Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 49, No. 3, 1952, p. 204

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child in a bilingual surrounding

by UKT

   Both my grandsons of ethnic-Myanmar parents were born and brought up in English-speaking countries (one born in Scotland and the other born in Canada – both brought up in Canada). The parents speak both English and Burmese fluently and tend to switch between the two languages all the time at home. Since both the parents were working their business language was exclusively English. Moreover since, both the TV and radio were in English, both children, as they were growing up would be hearing mostly English but some Burmese as well. Though the two languages are quite different in the use of verbs (for example, tense is important in English but the Burmese language has almost no use of tenses), both children were able to perceive the presence of both regular and irregular verbs in English and were also aware of the absence of tenses in Burmese. It is quite remarkable to see how both children speak without any effort to their parents and grandparents mostly in Burmese, but to others in English.
   Since, grammar and word order is not very restrictive in Burmese language, my general observation (not supported by field study) is Myanmar children can converse meaningfully with adults at a very age. My mother, an English teacher, would support this view by citing the example of my elder sister (who died at the age of 14 months). My sister was able to speak Burmese fluently by the time she was 8 or 9 months. According to many Myanmar mothers, girls tend to speak at an earlier age than boys, and that there are many cases of children speaking before the age of 12 months which many Myanmar Buddhists attribute to immediate reincarnation into the human world instead of the 'soul' having to spend time either in the disincarnate spirit state or in other worlds.
   For the belief on reincarnation, the reader is referred to the work of Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia, who has devoted his career to the study of cases suggestive of reincarnation. The cases consist of narratives of young children who claim to remember past lives. The cases occur primarily in India, Sri Lanka, South Asia, West Africa, Lebanon, and among Northwestern Native Americans, in cultures and religions in which reincarnation is accepted. (Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect - http://endeavor.med.nyu.edu/lit-med/ )

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Cognitive and affective considerations

From: AHTD and unknown source

cognitive adj. 1. Of, characterized by, involving, or relating to cognition: “ Thinking in terms of dualisms is common in our cognitive culture ” Key Reporter  2. Having a basis in or reducible to empirical factual knowledge. -- AHTD

affective adj. 1. Psychology Influenced by or resulting from the emotions: affective disorders. 2. Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions; emotional. -- AHTD

A child learns a language without knowing it. The child is still free from emotions such as self-doubt and learns L1 without much effort. Whereas, an adult has become a creature of emotions. Self-doubt is creeping up on him with the result that L2 learning becomes more difficult. -- UKT: My regret: source lost

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From Connectionism by J.W. Garson, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/connectionsim.htm

Connectionism is a movement in cognitive science which hopes to explain human intellectual abilities using artificial neural networks (also known as ‘neural networks’ or ‘neural nets’). Neural networks are simplified models of the brain composed of large numbers of units (the analogs of neurons) together with weights that measure the strength of connections between the units. These weights model the effects of the synapses that link one neuron to another. Experiments on models of this kind have demonstrated an ability to learn such skills as face recognition, reading, and the detection of simple grammatical structure.
     Philosophers have become interested in connectionism because it promises to provide an alternative to the classical theory of the mind: the widely held view that the mind is something akin to a digital computer processing a symbolic language. Exactly how and to what extent the connectionist paradigm constitutes a challenge to classicism has been a matter of hot debate in recent years.

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Dan Slobin

Based on http://ihd.berkeley.edu/slobincv.htm

Dan I. Slobin, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley. Professor, Department of Psychology, Research Psychologist, Institute of Human Development,  Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, University of California at Berkeley .

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Dietrich Tiedemann

From: www.unb.ca/psychology/likely/headlines/C1780_99.htm

Dietrich Tiedemann (1748-1803), a German philosopher, seems to have been the first person to prepare and publish an extended infant biography, in 1787. It may be not be overstated to say that the idea of childhood as a special period of natural development was invented in the last half of the 18th century. This isn't to say that before that, people did not love their children, merely to suggest that children were regarded much as we regard rather incompetent adults.

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English  <s>  and  <th>

by UKT

Many Myanmar Buddhists are quite amazed to find that Pali sentences are pronounced differently in Sri Lanka. For example a Burmese-Myanmar speaker would say: boad dam. tha. ra. nam gis. hsa mi. // The Sri Lankan would say almost the same except he would pronounce tha. ra. nam. as sa. ra. nam. / The Burmese-Myanmar Buddhist further discovers that Pali has no script of its own: in country of Myanmar it is written in the Myanmar script, and in Sri Lanka in the Sinhala script. See Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinhala_script 080306, which belongs the Tamil group. The Tamil group differs from the northern Indic languages, because it is highly rhotic and the r6c5 akshara is pronounced as /s/ instead of /θ/. 
   Burmese similar to English can pronounce /θ/ - a thibilant, whereas many of the Indic languages, especially the southern group (Tamil group) pronounce the r6c5 akshara as /s/ - a sibilant. It is also interesting to note that German does not have the /θ/ sounds. I suspect it was the German linguists who were studying Buddhism, who failed to recognize that in other countries such as Myanmar, the pronunciation is /θ/ instead of /s/. It was because of this, in the so-called International Pali, the /θ/ sound has become the /s/ sound.
   The use of /θ/ in Burmese is not an aberration because Pali or rather the dialect used by Gautama Buddha -- the language of Magadha -- was imported to Myanmar by a group of Buddha's relatives in the life-time of Buddha. They founded the Kingdom of Tagaung in northern Myanmar. See the narration in Glass Palace Chronicles of the event.
   I was quite amazed to find the same change between {sa.} and {tha.}/{þa.} in the Inlay "dialect" of Myanmar (the people of Inlay Lake in Myanmar still speaks an older form of the Burmese language). One of my former students, who eventually became a professor of chemistry, by the name Ma Than Nwe would write in her name in Burmese-Myanmar as {ma.than:nwè.}/{ma.þan:nwè.}. However, she would pronounce it as {ma.san:nwè.}.
   Thus my observation is that though both Lisa and Ma Than Nwe cannot pronounce the words s and th differently, but both probably "heard" the words differently.

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Eric Lenneberg

Eric H. Lenneberg (1921-1975). Based on Second Language Acquisition in Didactis - Lectures in SLA & EFL: Cours de licence d'anglais by Timothy Mason, Université de Versailles St. Quentin http://www.uvsq.fr

The neuropsychologist Eric Lenneberg, in his book Biological Foundations of Language, 1967, the capacity to learn a language is indeed innate, and, like many such inborn mechanisms, it is circumscribed in time. If a child does not learn a language before the onset of puberty, the child will never master language at all. This is known as the CPH (critical period hypothesis). This theory was cited to be proven in the case of Genie who had to learn her L1 after the age of 12. However T. Mason stated that "Genie's lack of progress with language is ... quoted, capable of interpretation either in a Chomskian framework, or in line with Bruner's ideas. Her experience does suggest that, over a certain age, any child who has not learnt a language will have great difficulty in acquiring one. Lenneberg's hypothesis is not proven, but it is strongly supported." This theory was again tested in the case of Chelsea who was born deaf and whose problem was not diagnosed until she was 31. ... "After therapy, she now scores on IQ tests at levels for a normal ten year old, she works at a vet’s, reads, writes and communicates. But when she speaks, she produces strings of words, with no apparent underlying syntactic structure. Her utterances may be comprehensible in context, but they look nothing like normal sentences." "Other evidence from deaf people is also interesting. Recently, linguists have been showing more and more interest in the language of the hard-of-hearing -- Sign language. We now know that Sign Language is a full language -- it has a full lexical range, it has a complex syntax, and a complex system of signs, whose relationship to referents is as arbitrary as is that of other languages -- even when they seem most iconic. There is not simply one sign language -- people who use British Sign Language cannot understand people who use ASL -- neither language is directly related to English. People who learn to sign in adolescence or adulthood are very similar to people who learn a foreign language -- they have an accent, and they never master the more arcane syntactic rules. Children who learn do master the language -- and, according to Steven Pinker, they master it even when they learn from parents who do not speak it properly. Once again, this is suggestive -- children are specially programmed to learn a language, and they lose this skill at puberty -- once again, both Chomsky's and Lenneberg's positions appear to be vindicated."

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Francois Gouin (1831-1896)

UKT: Not listed in Wikipedia 08021
For a more comprehensive description on Gouin see A.P.R. Howatt's A History of English Language Teaching, ISBN 0-19-437075-5.

Excerpt from A.P.R. Howatt:
     "Gouin published his major work, The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages in Paris in 1880 on the eve of the Reform Movement, but it had actually been written much earlier and printed privately in Geneva, where he owned a language school for a time. The English translation appeared in London in 1892.
     The work of the contemporary Reform Movement attracted public attention to the inadequacy of traditional schoolroom methods of language teaching, and Gouin had a clear, easily understood and methodologically simple alternative to offer in the shape of the famous 'series' technique. He benefited from the 'new wave', but he did not directly contribute to it. The origins of the 'series' have passed into the folklore of language teaching and we shall return to them in a moment. First, however, the 'series' itself.
     Gouin's central concept was that the structure of a language text reflected the structure of the experience it described. For reasons which we shall come to, he believed that sequentiality was the primary feature of experience and that all events could be described in terms of a 'series' of smaller component events, so that, for example, opening the door could be analysed into moving towards "the door, turning the handle, opening it, holding it open, and so on. This sequential structure provided the framework for the associated language: I am walking to the door, I am standing by the door, I am turning the handle, etc., and the familiarity of happenings of this kind helped the learner to understand the new language and remember it more efficiently. Gouin also argued, less convincingly, that describing experiences of this kind was intrinsically motivating. Sweet [{Henry Sweet (1845-1912)?}], for one, was not impressed: 'some of the series, such as that which gives a detailed description of opening and shutting a door ... are as uninteresting as they are useless'.  Gouin's own example from his book is the celebrated log-chopping incident which, presumably, was intended to demonstrate how the most unassuming events of life could be put to useful service. He claimed four particular advantages for the exercise:

1. Each phrase expressing a detail, a new fact, the repetition of the same subjects and same complements, has not the character of an ordinary repetition, of a repetition pure and simple. Owing to this new detail, this step made in advance in each phrase, neither tediousness nor fatigue is to be feared

2. This natural repetition of the same nouns, this constant and periodic return of the thought towards the same object, this reiterated effort of the representative or visualising faculty upon the same idea, is not all this the graver's tool which engraves the ideas and their expressions upon the memory?

3. This same repetition, this perpetual recurrence of the same sounds, is not this the essential condition, is not this the most sure and solid guarantee of a good pronunciation?

4. The listener, feeling himself safe in this repetition of subjects and complements, turns the principal effort of his attention quite naturally upon the verb. But the verb, which is the soul of the phrase, the most important and precious element of the sentence, is at the same time the most difficult to conquer and to keep. It is important, therefore, that the attention should be fixed entirely upon this term. Now, by means of the before-mentioned evolution, all the visual rays of the intelligence are verily concentrated upon a solitary fact, the action -- upon a solitary word, the verb.  After this enthusiastic introduction, we come to the exercise itself:

The maid chops a log of wood.  
The maid goes and seeks her hatchet.
The maid takes a log of wood.
The maid draws near to the chopping-block.
The maid kneels down near this block.
The maid places the log of wood upright upon this block.
draws near
kneels down
The maid raises her hatchet.
The maid brings down her hatchet.
The hatchet cleaves the air.
The blade strikes the wood.
The blade buries itself in the wood.
The blade cleaves the wood.
The two pieces fall to the ground.
brings down
buries itself
The maid picks up these pieces.
The maid chops them again and again to the size desired.
The maid stands up again.
The maid carries back the hatchet to its place.
picks up
chops again
stands up
carries back

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Goethe and Schiller

by UKT

François Gouin who spoke French had mastered the written German language and could translate the works in German by writers such as Goethe and Schiller, to French. Yet he could not converse (speak) in German with the native Germans. My view is that the written language and the spoken language are almost totally different as means of communication. Thus the teaching the two should follow different lines. For a Myanmar who would remain in Myanmar and who need to know English to exchange ideas ideas exclusively, the written English language would be more important than the spoken. Teaching ESL to him should be different from teaching ESL to a Myanmar immigrant in the United States. The following is from AHTD:

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. (1749-1832)  1. German writer and scientist. A master of poetry, drama, and the novel, he spent 50 years on his two-part dramatic poem Faust (published 1808 and 1832). He also conducted scientific research in various fields, notably botany, and held several governmental positions. -- AHTD  

Schiller , Johann Christoph Friedrich von. (1759-1805) 1. German writer. A leading romanticist, he is best known for his historical plays, such as Don Carlos (1787) and Wallenstein (1798-1799), and for his long, didactic poems. -- AHTD

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James Jenkins

From: T. Nicholson, How do children learn to read? The debate of the 1990s: Academics taking a stand.  www.arts.auckland.ac.nz/edu/School/TomN/inauguar.htm

     "James Jenkins, a psycholinguist, who had been through the linguistic debates of the 1950s between B.F. Skinner and Noam Chomsky. Jenkins did many studies to validate the behavioural view of language acquisition but one day realised that the theory must be wrong. So he converted to Chomsky's cognitive view that language acquisition can't be taught, and is an ability that is built into us by evolution, just like the ability to walk. ... "

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Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

• Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget 080218
• xrefer.com. Piaget Jean 1896 1980 -- not accessible 080218

From Wikipedia

Jean Piaget [ʒɑ̃ pjaʒɛ] (Aug 9, 1896 – Sep 16, 1980) was a Swiss philosopher, natural scientist and developmental psychologist, well known for his work studying children, his theory of cognitive development and for his epistemological view called " genetic epistemology". He created in 1955 the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva and directed it until 1980. According to Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget is "the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing"

From www.xrefer.com

Swiss psychologist noted for his studies of thought processes in children and widely regarded as one of the most important psychologists of the twentieth century. His descriptions of the development of perception, reason, and logic changed the current views of children's intelligence and greatly influenced methods of child education, particularly in the USA.
   Piaget began to observe behaviour patterns at an early age, publishing his observations of an albino sparrow when he was ten years old. At fifteen his writings on molluscs were known internationally and at twenty-two he obtained his doctorate from the University of Neuchâtel. After two years at the Sorbonne he was appointed director of the Institut J.-J. Rousseau in Geneva and in 1929 became the professor of psychology at the University of Geneva; in 1955 he was made director of the International Centre of Genetic Epistemology, Geneva.
   Piaget had intended to study the development of thought processes in children in order to elucidate the inherent mental structures of humans. His earliest research, which focused on why children fail reasoning tests, led to the long-term study of child intelligence. He suggested that mental growth was determined by interplay of both developing innate structures and environmental influences, an interaction he termed 'equilibration'. Equilibration supposes that when a new experience is assimilated into a child's concept of the world, the concept becomes inadequate and a new, more complex, concept must be invented to accommodate the new information. Equilibrium is then maintained until further experiences require another change of concept. Such a precept requires the existence of logic from early infancy, with intelligence being developed by progressive refinement of cognitive ability by a flexible process of trial and error. Piaget defined the development of children's thinking as a four-stage process, beginning with the sensorimotor stage in infants, who learn from experience by connecting new with older experiences. In the preoperational stage (two to seven years), a child can use words and manipulate them mentally. From seven to twelve years a child begins to think logically and can compare and differentiate, and from twelve to adulthood begins to experiment with formal logic and can think flexibly.
   In his later work, Piaget attempted to describe the interactions of cognitive and emotional factors within his four-stage framework. He was a prolific writer, publishing many articles and over thirty books, including The Origin of Intelligence in Children (1954) and The Early Growth of Logic in the Child(1964).
     Who's Who in the Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press, © Market House Books Ltd 1999

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Jerome Bruner

From Wikepedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Bruner 080223

Jerome Seymour Bruner (born Oct1 1915) is an American psychologist who has contributed to cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology and to the general philosophy of education. Bruner is currently a senior research fellow at the New York University School of Law. Bruner's ideas are based on categorization. "To perceive is to categorize, to conceptualize is to categorize, to learn is to form categories, to make decisions is to categorize." Bruner maintains people interpret the world in terms of its similarities and differences. Like Bloom's Taxonomy, Bruner suggests a system of coding in which people form a hierarchical arrangement of related categories. Each successively higher level of categories becomes more specific, echoing Benjamin Bloom's understanding of knowledge acquisition as well as the related idea of instructional scaffolding.

He has also suggested that there are two primary modes of thought: the narrative mode and the paradigmatic mode. In narrative thinking, the mind engages in sequential, action-oriented, detail-driven thought. In paradigmatic thinking, the mind transcends particularities to achieve systematic, categorical cognition. In the former case, thinking takes the form of stories and "gripping drama." In the latter, thinking is structured as propositions linked by logical operators.

In his research on the development of children (1966), Bruner proposed three modes of representation: enactive representation (action-based), iconic representation (image-based), and symbolic representation (language-based). Rather than neatly delineated stages, the modes of representation are integrated and only loosely sequential as they "translate" into each other. Symbolic representation remains the ultimate mode, for it "is clearly the most mysterious of the three." Bruner's theory suggests it is efficacious when faced with new material to follow a progression from enactive to iconic to symbolic representation; this holds true even for adult learners. A true instructional designer, Bruner's work also suggests that a learner (even of a very young age) is capable of learning any material so long as the instruction is organized appropriately, in sharp contrast to the beliefs of Piaget and other stage theorists.

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"jury is still out"

A figurative speech from a court of law referring to a jury deliberating on the evidence presented to it -- how to pronounce the verdict. Here the sentence means the issue is still being debated.

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Kenneth MacCorquodale

• Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_MacCorquodale 080223
• Humbolt and the Cartesian tradition, Chapter 3. http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-books/chomsky/3/2.htm
   -- no longer accessible 080223
   -- See http://cognet.mit.edu/library/books/chomsky/chomsky/3/6.html 080223

From  Wikipedia

Kenneth MacCorquodale was an American psychologist who played a major role in developing scientifically-validated operant conditioning methods. He was a student of B. F. Skinner at the University of Minnesota and became prominent in his field.
   See: • MacCorquodale's On Chomsky's review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior.

From Humbolt and the Cartesian tradition

Kenneth MacCorquodale published a counterattack called "On Chomsky's Review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior" in a 1970 issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. He fails, however, to address the issues raised by Chomsky relating to language and verbal behavior: "The hypothesis of Verbal Behavior is simply that the facts of verbal behavior are in the domain of the facts from which the system has been constructed. Skinner's stratagem is to find plausible referents in the speech episode for the laws and terms in his explanatory system: stimulus, response, reinforcement, and motivation. The relevance of these laws and their component variables for the verbal events is hypothesized only; it is not dogmatically claimed" (185). Chomsky himself replied in the journal Cognition that "MacCorquodale assumes that I was attempting to disprove Skinner's theses, and he points out that I present no data to disprove them. But my point, rather, was to demonstrate that when Skinner's assertions are taken literally, they are wrong on the face of it . . . or else quite vacuous" ("Psychology" 11).

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LAD (Language Acquisition Device)

• Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_acquisition_device 080223
• "Is there a Device for Language Acquisition?" by John Woodsworth http://kanadacha.ca/academic/device.html 080223

From Wikipedia

The Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is a postulated "organ" of the brain that is supposed to function as a congenital device for learning symbolic language (i.e., language acquisition). First proposed by Noam Chomsky, the LAD concept is a component of the nativist theory of language which dominates contemporary formal linguistics, which asserts that humans are born with the instinct or "innate facility" for acquiring language.
   Chomsky motivated the LAD hypothesis by what he perceived as intractable complexity of language acquisition, citing the notion of " infinite use of finite means" proposed by Wilhelm von Humboldt. At the time it was conceived (1957–1965), the LAD concept was in strict contrast to B.F. Skinner's behavioral psychology which emphasized principles of learning theory such as classical and operant conditioning and imitation over biological predisposition. The interactionist theory of Jerome Bruner and Jean Piaget later emphasized the importance of the interaction between biological and social (nature and nurture) aspects of language acquisition.
   Chomsky (1965) set out an innate language schema which provides the basis for the child’s acquisition of a language. The acquisition process takes place despite the limited nature of the primary linguistic data (PLD, the input signals received) and the degenerate nature (frequent incorrect usage, utterances of partial sentences) of that data. Given this poverty of the stimulus, a language acquisition model requires a number of components. Firstly, the child must have a technique for representing input signals and, secondly, a way of representing structural information about them. Thirdly, there must be some initial delimitation of the class of possible language structure hypotheses. Fourthly, the child requires a method for determining what each of these hypotheses implies with respect to each sentence. Finally, an additional method is needed by which the child can select which hypothesis is compatible with the PLD.
   Equipped with this endowment, L1 learning is explained as performed by a LAD progressing through the following stages:
   1. The device searches the class of language structure hypotheses and selects those compatible with input signals and structural information drawn from the PLD.
   2. The device then tests the compatibility using the knowledge of implications of each hypothesis for the sentences.
   3. One hypothesis or ‘grammar’ is selected as being compatible with the PLD.
   4. This grammar provides the device with a method of interpreting sentences (by virtue of its capacity for internally representing structural information and applying the grammar to sentences).
   Through this process the device constructs a theory of the language of which the PLD are a sample. Chomsky argues that in this way, the child comes to know a great deal more than she has ‘learned’, acquiring a knowledge of language, which "goes far beyond the presented primary linguistic data and is in no sense an 'inductive generalization' from these data."
   In some views of language acquisition, the LAD is thought to become unavailable after a certain age — the critical period hypothesis (i.e., is subject to maturational constraints).
   Chomsky has gradually abandoned the LAD in favour of a parameter-setting model of language acquisition (principles and parameters).

From: John Woodsworth

The aim of this paper is to question some of the assumptions underlying recent psycholinguistic thought about L1 acquisition, as exemplified in David McNeill's paper "Developmental psycholinguistics" presented at a conference in the United States in 1966 on "Language development in children".  We also intend to examine some other ideas on language structure with a view to presenting some alternative proposals to those of McNeill.  We shall begin with a brief summary of McNeill's position.

Summary of McNeill's paper
Acknowledging the now generally held view that children's language reflects the development of their own grammatical system rather than a poor imitation of adult grammar (cf. also Smith 1971: 51-55), McNeill categorises the components of infants' first two-word utterances as members of a pivot and open class respectively [{see Pivot Grammar in my notes}], and cites sample utterance-components recorded in three studies (Braine, Brown, Ervin) to illustrate his proposed classification.  According to another study (Brown & Bellugi) cited by McNeill, the 'pivot' class (which, unlike the 'open' class, could not alone comprise an utterance) is subsequently differentiated -- first to distinguish articles and demonstratives, then adjectives and possessive pronouns.
   In the absence of any other satisfactory explanation, McNeill takes the pivot/open class distinction as the child's attempt at a "generic classification of adult grammatical categories" (1966: 31), and relates it to the notion of 'semi-grammaticality' described by Noam Chomsky (see McNeill 1966: 32-35) in terms of category hierarchy.  Proceeding to the analysis of three-word utterances, he formulates two hierarchical rules, which, while they "do not generate well-formed sentences according to adult grammar" (1966: 44), at least generate the major constituents of such sentences ('NP' and 'PredP').
   McNeill rejects the notion that these rules, categories and hierarchy could be derived through imitation of or inference from adult speech, or even on the basis of distributional evidence in adult speech (in which the hierarchy is completely unmarked), and feels obliged to work from the hypothesis that the 'basic grammatical relations' manifest in the child's initial structures "are part of the innate linguistic capacity" (1966: 45) He further represents them as "substantive universals", part of the 'Language Acquisition Device' proposed by Chomsky and Katz as the mechanism innate in every human being for developing linguistic competence (see, for example, Chomsky 1965: 52-58).

McNeill: discussion & criticism
It is worth noting that these 'basic grammatical relations', allocated by Chomskyan transformational theory to the level of 'deep structure' (or semantic interpretation -- cf. Chomsky 1965: 136), are still derived from surface structure and continue to owe their existence as relations to the external structure of human language.  They are linguistic, and not psychological concepts.  (What could be the meaning of main verb, for example, outside the context of actual language?)  Yet the implication of McNeill's theory is that children begin constructing utterances from these innate 'basic grammatical relations', with meaning somehow being plugged into them along the way.
   Frank Smith's recently published study on the reading process (1971) includes some useful insights on the nature of language development in children.  The following paragaph gives an interesting contrast to the order of learning implied by McNeill (Smith 1971: 52): "Contrary to popular ... belief, the child is not learning words and then finding meanings for them.  Instead he is acquiring or inventing words ... to meet his own particular requirements and represent meanings which he needs to express."  Would not this relative order of learning extend to all aspects of surface structure, including the 'basic grammatical relations'?
   Charles Fillmore apparently thinks so.  In his discussion and rejection of "earlier approaches to the study of [grammatical] case" he criticises Redden's analysis of Walapai on the grounds that the meaning or 'functions' of cases "are not taken as primary terms in the description" but merely fitted into the framework of already identified surface-structure forms (Fillmore 1968: 9).  He further finds "reasons for questioning the deep-structure validity of the traditional division between subject and predicate, a division which is assumed by some to underlie the basic form of all sentences in all languages" (1968: 17). 4
    Another attack on the use of surface structure as a starting-point for probing the language-thought relationship has come from psychologist Norman Segalowitz, who argues as follows (1970: 14):

The error which I think linguists have made is this.  They have focussed on the wrong property of language to base their theory on.  So far, the main concern of linguistics has been to show how sentences are related to each other through their internal structures.  The structures which emerged in these theories are always subordinated to the task of relating one type of surface structure to another.  The psychologist on the other hand is interested not so much how surface structures are related ... but in the very nature of the internal structure itself.

It is our view that any serious consideration of the acquisition of language in the young child, inasmuch as it parallels the development of the child's thinking processes, cannot afford to neglect the nature of this 'internal structure' -- the thought component in the language-thought relationship.  And yet the answer cannot lie entirely in the realm of psychology either, for the language component is equally important.  What is needed is a theory of linguistic development that will take fuller account of the link between the two.

Some other ideas on language structure
We believe that the basis of such a theory is to be found in Fillmore's own approach to transformational grammar, as set forth in his 1968 article "The case for case".  While it is true that his study deals largely with what has been termed "case grammar" and is applied primarily to adult language, the fact that his whole treatment of grammatical theory (and case in particular 5) is rooted in his concept of a fundamental relationship between language and thought -- an "underlying syntactic-semantic relationship" as he puts it (21) -- makes his model a most interesting source of enlightenment on the subject of child-language acquisition.
   On the language side, Fillmore sees basic sentence structure as consisting "of a verb and one or more noun phrases, each associated with the verb in a particular case relationship"; the sum of these constitutes the proposition of the sentence as distinct from the modality (features affecting the sentence as a whole -- negation, tense etc.).  These 'case categories', however, in contrast to the Walapai study mentioned above, are not treated as the primary units of analysis but are related to a 'conceptual framework' of relationship categories which are presumably non-linguistic in origin and form part of one's innate cognitive structure.6  As examples of these categories he lists Agentive, Instrumental, Dative, Factitive, Locative and Objective -- the latter "not to be confused with the notion of direct object, nor with the name of the surface case synonymous with accusative" (1968: 25).
   Fillmore then proceeds to classify sentences according to which of these conceptual categories they express, illustrating his classification with a 'case frame': e.g., the verb run could take the frame [___A], give [___ O + D + A] etc. (initial letters refer to the case categories given above).  Another point of departure from Chomskyan theory is that adjectives are treated as verbs, e.g., sad [___ D].
   While all case categories (including the Agentive) are given following the verb, Fillmore has stated that no linear ordering of deep structure is implied.  In surface structure, however, one of the categories is 'subjectivalised' and moved to the beginning of the sentence.  For example, the sentence John opened the door has as its underlying proposition the structure V + O + A, with A becoming the subject in surface structure.  The proposition underlying The door opened, on the other hand, is V + O, and O becomes the subject.  This supports Fillmore's basic assumption that the notion of 'subject' and other components of syntactic relations are aspects of surface structure, not deep structure (see p. 17).

Agentive, adj. Of or relating to a linguistic form or construction that indicates an agent or agency, as the suffix -er in singer. n. An agentive form or construction -- http://www.thefreedictionary.com/agentive 080223

Fillmore: discussion & criticism
It is interesting to note that Segalowitz also sees in Fillmore's grammar the possibility of a closer union between linguistics and psychology in regard to the understanding of the language-thought relationship.  His criticism of Fillmore's approach is that, radical though it is in using "explicitly psychological aspects of language", it doesn't go far enough -- it is "still subordinated to the task of relating surface structures to each other (Segalowitz 1970: 15).
   Indeed, Fillmore devotes comparatively little attention to the non-linguistic analysis of his case categories, concentrating rather on their relationship to surface structure.  Even the definitions of these categories are all predicated on something called the verb, which for some reason is left undefined in terms of cognitive structure.  The definitions, moreover, leave something to be desired in terms of their relationship to the overall cognitive structure.  One category that appears to be missing entirely is that expressed in the initial component of 'copula' sentences (John is a teacher, That is my brother) -- a category that might possibly be termed, for want of a better expression, the Referential.  Another discrepancy is that determiners are introduced into the deep-structure phrase markers without any statement as to their origin or semantic correspondence.  All of which means in effect that Fillmore's theory as stated is not fully satisfactory as a model for language acquisition.
   Segalowitz (ibid.) focuses on the concept of action-object relationship inherent in Fillmore's grammar as a "specific property of language" that could be significant to the relation of language to thought.  In the matter of action-object relationships, an interesting comparison may be found in a discussion of primordial development of thought and language in the human species by the Russian psychologist-anthropologist A. A. Leont'ev (1963).  In Leont'ev's view, the very first step in the development of thought beyond the level of the pre-human ape was the "separation of action from object" [otdelenie dejstvija ot ob"ekta] (1963: 50).  We might also speak of the separation of the object from the situation.  Another major step in this development described by Leont'ev was the subsequent separation of a generalised concept of an object from its individual manifestation (1963: 119-21).  We believe that these two primary mental processes Leont'ev proposes may contribute toward an alternative theory to McNeill's regarding language acquisition in the young child.

Toward an alternative theory of language acquisition
Let us look for a moment at McNeill's analysis of the two-word utterances which he divides into pivot- and open-class components (1966: 22).  Braine's study is especially interesting, since his list, unlike the other two, reportedly represents the very first two-word combinations ever produced by his subjects.
   We may first of all note that the second component of each utterance (ascribed by Braine and McNeill to the 'open' class) is a noun denoting some object, 8 while first-component 'pivot'-class words, none of them nouns, comprise adjectives, verbs and other expressions relating to the following noun: big, pretty, more, my, see, allgone, byebye, nightnight, hi.  Remembering Fillmore's treatment of adjectival expressions as verbs, we might classify these initial constructions as V + O -- i.e., a verb followed by a noun in the Objective case category.
   The only difficulty in this manner of approach is that we are still talking about language-bound concepts.  Fillmore's Objective category, it will be recalled, was predicated on the 'verb', and just what this 'verb' might mean to an adult, let alone a child, is as yet unexplained.  We still need something to tie in Fillmore's categories more closely with the child's basic cognitive structure.
   Let us look at Braine's list in a different way.  We have said that all the second-component words denote objects, whereas none of the first-component words do.  The latter, however, all may be considered to have a strong semantic correspondence with situations relating to the objects denoted by the second component -- situations which, like the objects, form part of the child's non-linguistic cognitive experience -- e.g., disappearance of an object (allgone, byebye), its physical features (pretty, big), a desire for an object (more) etc.  Seen in this light, do not these first combinations point to what might be a prior or simultaneous first step in the development of the child's thinking processes, a first step not unlike the one proposed by Leont'ev for the original evolution of human thought?  Do not utterances like allgone shoe, big boat, more milk etc. express the first mental separation of an object from the situation in which the object appears? 9  Therefore, instead of introducing language-bound, psychologically meaningless classifications such as 'pivot' and 'open' classes -- or even psychologically vague ones such as 'verb' and an 'Objective' predicated on the verb, could we not rather formulate the child's first grammatical rule in terms of the cognitive dichotomy of object and situation, possibly: Utt > (Sit) + Obj ? 10
   Looking at the list compiled from Brown's study (McNeill 1966: 22), however, we find a couple of items which do not appear to have any semantic correspondence at all, let alone a correspondence to a 'situation' -- namely, the articles a and the.  How are these to be accounted for in terms of our postulated rule?
   The answer appears to lie in the fact that the children in Brown's study were somewhat older (in terms of linguistic development) than those examined by Braine; it is reported (1966: 20), in fact, that they were already producing three- and four-word utterances even before the study began.  If Brown & Fraser's study (1964: 63) may serve as an analogy, these children were probably producing utterances such as See a boot, There the man, in which the above-formulated rule could very well have given see, there, as situations and a boot, the man, as objects.  The latter expression could have been obtained alone simply through the non-inclusion of the optional situation component (as provided for in the rule); they almost certainly represent a very different grammatical structure.  Such is the danger of treating all two-word utterances alike at a time when their utterers have progressed beyond the two-word stage and must of necessity have expanded their hierarchy of rules.
   How then might their hierarchy have been expanded to account for constructions with a or the as first component?  They appear to be very similar to the determiner-plus-noun constructions of adult grammar, which Fillmore introduces as a sub-classification of his case categories, but even he is unable to provide any psychological correspondence for them; they simply appear in his deep-structure phrase-markers without explanation.
   Again we turn to Leont'ev's analysis of thought-development in the human species.  It will be recalled that a second major development was cited -- that of separation of a generalised concept of an object from its individual manifestation.  Now, could not the articles, both definite and indefinite, be taken to mark (at least at this stage of the child's linguistic development) recognition of an individual manifestation of a particular object in contrast to the generalised concept of it?  This distinction might give rise to the following rule: Obj > (Ind) + Obj -- where Ind would signify individualisation).
   The fact that Ervin's list includes adjectives and verbs as second components of two-word utterances suggests (a) that her subjects were even more linguistically advanced than those studied by Brown, and (b) that more information about their longer utterances is needed before an attempt is made at analysis on the basis of the rules given above.

Further implications
The two grammatical rules we have now formulated on the basis of presumed mental processes have, in our view, definite implications for the subsequent development of language acquisition all the way into adult speech.  We can already foresee specific expansions of the rule hierarchy to account for the three-word utterances analysed by McNeill (1966: 40ff), as well as for those studied by Brown & Fraser (1964: 62ff).  We believe we are also capable at this point of explaining the initial negations and questions dicussed by McNeill (54ff).
   As to a model for still later linguistic development, we are not absolutely convinced as to the greater validity of Fillmore's grammar over Chomsky's, although at this point it has the advantage of being an attempted closer approximation to the non-linguistic cognitive structure in which human language is rooted.11  We certainly do not see the involvement, however, of anything like a 'Language Acquisition Device' containing innate 'basic grammatical relations'.  Rather, we see the above-formulated rules as pointing the way toward a more mentally-oriented theory of grammatical structure which might supply the missing psychological relationship for either Chomsky's or Fillmore's grammar, or suggest the development of an entirely new grammatical system.
   For example, we might explore the relationship of the concept of situation suggested by Leont'ev's study to Fillmore's 'verb' (or even some of his case categories), or alternatively to Chomsky's notion of 'predicate'.  Does Leont'ev's 'object' develop into Fillmore's 'Objective' or any of his other categories, or is it the forerunner of Chomsky's 'NP'?  Could it be that the process of individualisation mentioned above underlies the whole concept of determiner in linguistic structure?  The exact nature of these relationships is beyond the scope of the present paper but is definitely recommended for future explanation.

The major thrust of our present paper, as we see it, has been to examine what we might call the whole 'surface-structure approach' to language acquisition, as seen in the McNeill presentation discussed above.  Specifically, we have questioned these two basic assumptions: (1) the validity of the 'pivot-open' classification of children's first two-word utterances; (2) the existence of a 'Language Acquisition Device' separate from the rest of one's cognitive structure and the correlative hypothesis that 'basic grammatical relations' are to be treated as innate universals.
   Two points have been made in regard to the first assumption: (a) the classification has been erroneously applied to utterances of children who have already progressed beyond two-word utterances and beyond a single grammatical rule; (b) the classification is meaningless as a description of the real 'deep structure' -- the mental processes -- underlying these initial two-word utterances.  Instead, an alternative formulation has been proposed which attempts to take account of this internal structure.
   In regard to the second assumption, it has been shown that no separate device is necessary.  Language acquisiton can be handled by the same processes that govern the non-linguistic aspects of cognitive structure, and the same rules can, at least in the initial stages of acquisition, account for the development of both thought and language.
© John Woodsworth, 1972.

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Maximilian Berlitz (1852-1921)

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilien_Berlitz 080220

Maximilian Delphinius Berlitz (1852-1921) was the founder of the Berlitz Language Schools in 1878, in Providence, Rhode Island.

He was born an orphan with his sister in Württemberg, Germany in 1852 and grew up in a family of educators in the Black Forest. He later moved to France and then to the United States.

Berlitz started as a teacher at Warner Polytechnic College as a teacher of French and German and took over the school when the owner of the school, Mr Warner, disappeared with all the prepaid tuition money.

When Berlitz became ill, and was unable to teach a French class, he quickly hired Nicholas Joly to replace him and take over the class. Since he had always corresponded with Joly in French, he did not realize that Joly did not speak any English until after he had hired him. Joly taught the class entirely in French (with no translations) by using gestures, pointing to objects and using tone of voice and facial expressions to convey meaning. Berlitz returned to the class six weeks later to find that his students, who had spoken little to no French before Joly began teaching, were conversing semi-fluently in French. Their pronunciation and grammar were also very good. Berlitz used this experience to develop the Berlitz Method, in which only the target language is spoken from the first day of class. Students rely on the same techniques Joly used, rather than translation, to gather meaning and learn grammar and vocabulary.

The linguist and author Charles Berlitz was his grandson.

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme 080225

A meme is any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity. A meme is self-propagating and can move through a "culture" in a manner similar to a virus. A meme is a unit of cultural evolution having a resemblance to the gene. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene, is credited with coining the term meme to describe how Darwinian principles might be extended to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. He gave as examples tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches.
   Meme-theorists contend that memes evolve by natural selection (similarly to Darwinian biological evolution) through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influencing an individual entity's reproductive success. So with memes, some ideas will propagate less successfully and become extinct, while others will survive, spread, and, for better or for worse, mutate. "Memeticists argue that the memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes that replicate the most effectively spread best, which allows for the possibility that successful memes may prove detrimental to their hosts." [

Origins and concepts
The word meme, first came into popular use with the publication of Dawkin's book The Selfish Gene in 1976. Dawkins based the word on a shortening of the Greek "mimeme" (something imitated), making it sound similar to "gene". Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesised that people could view many cultural entities as replicators, generally replicating through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient (though not perfect) copiers of information and behaviour. Memes do not always get copied perfectly, and might indeed become refined, combined or otherwise modified with other ideas, resulting in new memes. These memes may themselves prove more (or less) efficient replicators than their predecessors, thus providing a framework for a hypothesis of cultural evolution, analogous to the theory of biological evolution based on genes.

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Noam Chomsky (1928 - )

From:  www.xrefer.com

 American linguist and philosopher whose pioneering work on language, Syntactic Structures (1957), and devasting  'Review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behaviour' (in Language (1959)) led to the cognitive revolution, and the demise of behaviourism, in psychology.
     Languages are largely identified by their structure, so, for Chomsky, linguistics is the study of the structure of human languages. He also argues that the theory of language is the theory of a speaker's knowledge of language -- knowledge represented in the mind of the individual. So linguistic theory becomes the study of those linguistic structures represented in the minds of speakers which constitute their knowledge of language. Thus linguistics is a branch of cognitive psychology which studies the mental structures responsible for linguistic competence. Linguistic competence is just one of the interacting components which contribute to the production of linguistic behaviour, so the latter can provide only a rough guide to the speaker's linguistic knowledge. A theory of competence aims to factor it out from the performance data of language use by eliciting judgements from speakers about which strings of words belong to their language (i.e. which strings they find grammatical), then constructing a grammar that generates all and only those grammatical strings.
     Chomsky uses the term 'grammar' to mean both the theory formulated by the linguist and an internal component of the speaker-hearer's mind. This is legitimate so long as the grammar provides a model of the speaker-hearer's competence: a finite means for generating the potential infinity of linguistic forms a speaker-hearer can produce or recognize. Part of the task in explaining what the speaker knows is to account for this creativity: that by the age of 4 most children can produce and recognize a huge range of sentences they have never heard before, by rearranging familiar words into new but legitimate configurations. The best available hypothesis is that they have mastered a system of grammatical knowledge which it is the task of the linguist to describe. Because the grammatical rules or principles are not consciously known and cannot be explicitly stated by the speaker-hearer, Chomsky infers that they must be unconsciously, or tacitly, known. This mentalist hypothesis serves to explain why speaker-hearers conform to complex generalizations that go beyond what could be picked up from the available linguistic evidence.
     The philosopher Quine has criticized Chomsky's position claiming that all we have to go on is behavioural dispositions of speakers, and that these do not discriminate between different descriptively adequate grammars speakers could be using to assign structure to sentences they recognize as belonging to their language. But although the evidence is behavioural, the theoretical constructs posited to explain it do not have to be. By postulating the grammars that underlie linguistic behaviour, Chomsky can formulate generalizations which explain speakers' linguistic judgements and use, including the gaps we find in the data.
     Another task is to explain how children with such different cultural backgrounds, intelligence, and experience learn, without explicit training, and at much the same age, to speak their native language. How do speakers acquire knowledge of language? In Chomsky's view, a large part of this knowledge is innate, a matter of a biological endowment specific to humans. Speakers move from an initial state of the language faculty, which they share, to an attained state, which they develop on exposure to the primary linguistic data. The initial state is characterized by the principles of universal grammar: a finite set of interactive principles which allow for parametric variation within a certain range. The variety of human languages is explained by the different vocabularies and parameter settings of the universal principles which characterize the attained states of the language faculty in different speakers. Chomsky distinguishes E-language -- the common notion of languages like Dutch, English, German  -- which is hopelessly vague, and I-language -- the internal language of an individual speaker-hearer -- which is the proper object of scientific study.
     In addition to his work in linguistics, Chomsky has been an active critic on the left of the political spectrum and has published far-reaching criticisms of US domestic and foreign policy.

N. Chomsky, Deterring Democracy (London, 1992).
N. Chomsky, Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin and Use (New York, 1986).
A. George (ed.), Reflections on Chomsky (Oxford, 1989).
W. V. Quine, 'Methodological Reflections on Current Linguistic Theory', in D. Davidson and G. Harman (eds.), Semantics of Natural Language (Dordrecht, 1972).
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, © Oxford University Press 1995

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operant conditioning

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning 080221

Operant conditioning is the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behavior. Operant conditioning is distinguished from classical conditioning (also called respondent conditioning, or Pavlovian conditioning) in that operant conditioning deals with the modification of "voluntary behavior" or operant behavior. Operant behavior "operates" on the environment and is maintained by its consequences, while classical conditioning deals with the conditioning of respondent behaviors which are elicited by antecedent conditions. Behaviors conditioned via a classical conditioning procedure are not maintained by consequences.[

Reinforcement, punishment, and extinction
Reinforcement and punishment, the core tools of operant conditioning, are either positive (delivered following a response), or negative (withdrawn following a response). This creates a total of four basic consequences, with the addition of a fifth procedure known as extinction (i.e. no change in consequences following a response).
   It's important to note that organisms are not spoken of as being reinforced, punished, or extinguished; it is the response that is reinforced, punished, or extinguished. Additionally, reinforcement, punishment, and extinction are not terms whose use are restricted to the laboratory. Naturally occurring consequences can also be said to reinforce, punish, or extinguish behavior and are not always delivered by people.
Reinforcement is a consequence that causes a behavior to occur with greater frequency.
Punishment is a consequence that causes a behavior to occur with less frequency.
Extinction is the lack of any consequence following a response. When a response is inconsequential, producing neither favorable nor unfavorable consequences, it will occur with less frequency.

Four contexts of operant conditioning:
Here the terms "positive" and "negative" are not used in their popular sense, but rather: "positive" refers to addition, and "negative" refers to subtraction. What is added or subtracted may be either reinforcement or punishment. Hence positive punishment is sometimes a confusing term, as it denotes the addition of punishment (such as spanking or an electric shock), a context that may seem very negative in the lay sense. The four procedures are:
1. Positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by a favorable stimulus (commonly seen as pleasant) that increases the frequency of that behavior. In the Skinner box experiment, a stimulus such as food or sugar solution can be delivered when the rat engages in a target behavior, such as pressing a lever.
2. Negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus (commonly seen as unpleasant) thereby increasing that behavior's frequency. In the Skinner box experiment, negative reinforcement can be a loud noise continuously sounding inside the rat's cage until it engages in the target behavior, such as pressing a lever, upon which the loud noise is removed.
3. Positive punishment (also called "Punishment by contingent stimulation") occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by an aversive stimulus, such as introducing a shock or loud noise, resulting in a decrease in that behavior.
4. Negative punishment (also called "Punishment by contingent withdrawal") occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of a favorable stimulus, such as taking away a child's toy following an undesired behavior, resulting in a decrease in that behavior.

• Avoidance learning is a type of learning in which a certain behavior results in the cessation of an aversive stimulus. For example, performing the behavior of shielding one's eyes when in the sunlight (or going indoors) will help avoid the punishment of having light in one's eyes.
• Extinction occurs when a behavior (response) that had previously been reinforced is no longer effective. In the Skinner box experiment, this is the rat pushing the lever and being rewarded with a food pellet several times, and then pushing the lever again and never receiving a food pellet again. Eventually the rat would cease pushing the lever.
• Noncontingent reinforcement refers to response-independent delivery of stimuli identified serve as reinforcers for some behaviors of that organism. However, this typically entails time-based delivery of stimuli identified as maintaining aberrant behavior, which serves to decrease the rate of the target behavior. As no measured behavior is identified as being strengthened, there is controversy surrounding the use of the term noncontingent "reinforcement".

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Pivot Grammar


I've reformatted the table as:

Pivot word     Open word


"Sentence"  —>  Pivot word + Open word  would generate:

   My cap        My horsie       My milk       My sock
   That cap      That horsie     That milk     That sock
   All gone cap  All gone horsie All gone milk All gone sock
   Mommy cap     Mommy horsie    Mommy milk    Mommy sock

   My Mommy      That Mommy      All gone Mommy

On the following is from Braine, M.D.S. The ontogeny of English phrase structure, the first phrase. Language 39, 1-13, 1963, cited in A.McEnery and P.Baker Language Acquisition, www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/monkey/ihe/lingusitics

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Pop Go Weasel

by UKT based on:
• 1. Terry Kluytmans, http://www.kididdles.com/lyrics/p009.html 080218
• Pop goes the Weasel, Rhyme Lyrics, Origins and History,
http://www.rhymes.org.uk/a116a-pop-goes-the-weasel.htm 080218

Brown is referring to the fact that children live in a world of their own similar to the 17th to 19th century Cockneys of England. Probably, 'Pop go weasel' originated as a secret language used by the Cockneys to protect themselves from the police whom they hated even to this day.

From source 1: 
There are many versions of this rhyme. I have visited this site a couple of times since about 2003, and version (6) was from the first visit.

'Round and 'round the cobbler's bench
The monkey chased the weasel,
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun
Pop! Goes the weasel. (1)
A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel. (3)
A half a pound of tupenny rice,
A half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! Goes the weasel. (5)
Up and down the London road,
In and out of the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel. (2)
I've no time to plead and pine,
I've no time to wheedle,
Kiss me quick and then I'm gone
Pop! Goes the weasel. (4)
Johnny's got the whooping cough and
Mary's got the measles
That's the way the money goes
Pop -- goes the weasel! (6)


From source 2:
The nursery rhyme, 'Pop goes the weasel' sounds quite incomprehensible in day an age! The origins of the rhyme are believed to date back to the 1700's.

Pop and Weasel?
These words are derived from Cockney Rhyming slang which originated in London. Cockneys were a close community and had a suspicion of strangers and a dislike of the Police (they still do!). Cockneys developed a language of their own based roughly on a rhyming slang -- it was difficult for strangers to understand as invariably the second noun would always be dropped. Apples and Pears (meaning stairs) would be abbreviated to just 'apples', for instance, "watch your step on the apples". To "Pop" is the slang for "Pawn". Weasel is derived from "weasel and stoat" meaning coat. It was traditional for even poor people to own a suit, which they wore as their 'Sunday Best'. When times were hard they would pawn their suit, or coat, on a Monday and claim it back before Sunday. Hence the term "Pop goes the Weasel".

In and out the Eagle?
The words to the Rhyme are "Up and down the City road, in and out the Eagle - That's the way the money goes - Pop! goes the weasel". The Eagle refers to the 'Eagle Tavern' a pub which is located on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk in Hackney, North London. The Eagle was an old pub which was rebuilt as a music hall in 1825. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was known to frequent the Music Hall. It was purchased by the Salvation Army in 1883 (they were totally opposed to drinking and Music Halls). The hall was later demolished and was rebuilt as a public house in 1901.

"A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle" -- this version has led to a 'weasel' being interpreted as a shuttle or bobbin, as used by silk weavers. The 'weasel' is also interpreted as a type of iron used by tailors.  These were the tools of trade being pawned in a similar way as the suits or jackets owned by the Cockneys. A 'monkey' is Cockney rhyming slang for £500.

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Round and round the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey stopped to pull up his socks
And Pop goes the weasel. (3)
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That's the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.
Every night when I go out
The monkey's on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop goes the weasel. (2)
I've no time to plead and pine
I've no time to wheedle
Kiss me quick, and then I'm gone
Pop! Goes the weasel. (4)

UKT: Secret languages known as {sa.ka: lain} are quite common in Myanmar especially in the central part known as {a.Ña}. They were developed to be used within a community, and messages are passed on between its members unknown to strangers. Even an unliterate of such a community, usually poor and being socially-persecuted, by knowing the code of the {sa.ka: lain} could protect him- or herself by being warned of the impending danger by its use. Dr. Htin Aung, writing about the Burmese alchemists {ag~gi.rût þa.ma:} and Traditional Medical practistioners {baim~dau: hsa.ra}:

From: Maung Htin Aung, Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism, Religious Affairs Dept. Press, Rangoon, 1981, p48-49

"The Burmese physician and craftsman are often accused of being very selfish persons who consider their knowledge and their experience to be 'trade secrets' and who therefore will not communicate their discoveries to others. The Burmese alchemist is also accused of the same fault. But the accusation is unfair. As in the case of the medieval European Trade Guilds, the Burmese physician, the Burmese alchemist and the Burmese craftsman will keep their 'art' secret from outsiders, but they will freely circulate their 'secrets' within their own professions.

"With regard to the Burmese alchemist, there is a considerable body of literature on the subject of alchemy, but these writings are in code. Alchemists were never persecuted, as were the Ari monks {a.ræÑ: kri:}, but the practice of alchemy was frowned upon by the new Buddhism of Anawrahta, and the alchemist became a social outcast. Therefore, after the eleventh century, the Burmese alchemists conducted their experiments in secret, but they communicated with each other regarding their experiments and discoveries. Many secret formulae were passed from hand to hand. Unfortunately, the alchemists could not organize themselves into a nation-wide group, and instead grouped themselves into different schools. Each school wrote down its discoveries in its own code. The code was a simple one, and the metals and metal compounds were given nicknames or secret names such as 'the lion', 'the tiger', 'the wife with many children', 'the wife with no children', 'the wife with many husbands', 'the mouse', 'the white cat'. The nicknames were used by all schools but applied to different metals. Thus, whereas one school would refer to gold as 'the big eagle', another would refer to it as 'the lion'. Therefore, by the fifteenth or sixteenth century, much of the energy of the Burmese alchemist was wasted in attempting to decipher the secret alchemic formulae."

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Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (SWH)

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapir-Whorf_hypothesis

In linguistics, the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (SWH) states that there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it. Although it has come to be known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, it rather was an axiom underlying the work of linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir and his colleague and student Benjamin Whorf. (UKT: Whorf was a chemical engineer by training.)

UKT: This is in accordance with the Buddhist search for Truth and Final Liberation: {a.swè:a:loän: mha. king:lwat hkying:}. Gautama Buddha, before he became a Buddha (not "god", but an "enlightened commoner" {ma.ha tha-ma.na.tha.}), struggled for six long years to find the "Truth", by following the doctrines of various faiths. Realizing the futility of the tenets of all these doctrines, he set them (such as the idea of a Creator or God) aside, and started to find an unfailing natural law. He discovered that "no sentient being is free from suffering" which became the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. Starting from that universal law, he arrived at three more, and then at the Principle of Anatta (or the futility of finding a permanent unchanging entity commonly known as Atta.). He then realized that he had become a Buddha -- {zi.na.}. Any sane and logical human being can be liberated from "Suffering" if she or he could be free from all "ideas" which could not be proven -- {a.swè:a:loän: mha. king:lwat hkying:}. However, all those who has achieved that goal following the teachings of the Buddha are known as Arahant {ra.han~ta} -- not {zi.na.}.

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Sentence 2 rendered into Burmese-Myanmar

shup a. ne wut pre: gna. a. ko bay: mha rap nay tei. kaugn lay: ka. baw loan: ko kan leik tei //

Word by word "translation":

shirt red worn and my brother's side standing boy ball kick

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tabula rasa

UKT: 'tabula rasa' is an idiom literally meaning is 'clean slate'. It refers to the day when 'slates' were used for writing

tabula rasa n. pl. tabulae rasae 1. a. The mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience. b. The unformed, featureless mind in the philosophy of John Locke. 2. A need or an opportunity to start from the beginning. [Medieval Latin tabula rāsa Latin tabula tablet Latin rāsa, feminine of rāsuserased] -- AHTD

a clean slate
If you are given a clean slate, you can start something again, and all of the problems caused by you or other people in the past will be forgotten.
   The company's debts have been paid so that the new manager can start with a clean slate. -- http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/clean+slate 080221

wipe the slate clean
To make it possible to start something again, without any of the mistakes or problems of the past.
   The time he spent in prison should have wiped the slate clean.
-- http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/slate 080221

{þing-poan: hkyé} - v. 1. prepare a wooden tablet for writing by cleaning and coating with a mixture of {hta.ming:ræÑ} and soot. 2. figurative  remit all debts; forgive mistakes; make a clean slate (fig.) -- MEDict509
UKT note: MEDict uses the word "congee" which is not well known in the West. The closest term they would know is a coined word "cream of rice" or thin rice gruel. The actual ingredient I had used as a child was {hta.ming:ré}, the water decanted half-way during preparing 'boiled rice' (what we eat every day in place of bread. -- 080221

UKT: When I was attending a monastic school as a child, wooden slates were in use only in very remote areas. Talc pencils were used to write on these plates. What I had used was a shale slate known as {kyauk-þing-poan:} on which we wrote with shale-slate pencils.

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From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telegraphese 080221
UKT: In today's time of e-mail, no one would know what an electric telegraph is, and so the term 'telegaphese' would look strange. This was not the case during the prime of my life. -- 080221.

Telegraphese is a linguistic term for an elliptical style of writing, such as that used to write newspaper headlines or article titles. Related but distinct, is the historical practice of using abbreviations and code words to compress the meaning of phrases into a small set of characters for ease of transmission over a telegraph, a device for transmitting electrical impulses used for communications, introduced from 1839 onwards. A related term, "cablese", described the style of press messages sent uncoded, but highly condensed, in a Hemingway-style of writing, over submarine cables.

Telegraphic coded expressions
Though the history of telegraphy, very many dictionaries of telegraphese, codes or ciphers were developed, each serving to minimise the number of characters which needed to be transmitted in order to impart a message; the drivers for this economy were, for telegraph operators, the resource cost and limited bandwidth of the system; and for the consumer, the cost of sending messages.

Examples of telegraphic coded expressions, taken from The Adams Cable Codex, Tenth Edition, 1896 are:
• Emolument - Think you had better not wait
• Emotion - Think you had better wait until -
• Emotional - Think you had better wait and sail -
• Empaled - Think well of party mentioned
• Empanel - This is a matter of great importance.

and from The A.B.C. Universal Commercial Electric Telegraphic Code
• Nalezing - Do only what is absolutely necessary
• Nalime - Will only do what is absolutely necessary
• Nallary - It is not absolutely necessary, but it would be an advantage
• Naloopen - It is not absolutely necessary, but well worth the outlay

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Theories of language acquisition

Mario Vaneechoutte and John R. Skoyles, 1998; The memetic origin of language: modern humans as musical primates. Journal of Memetics -- Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1998/vol2/vaneechoutte_m&skoyles_jr.html © JoM-EMIT 1998
• Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_acquisition 080218

Language consists of four distinct skills, 1. listening, 2. speaking, 3. reading, and, 4. writing. Listening and speaking (audiolingual skills) are acquired differently from reading and writing (graphic linguistic skills). Most of the theories are concerned with acquisition of audiolingual skills. However, none has suggested the memetic origin of language and that the acquisition of audiolingual skills may be based upon the ability of the humans to sing -- an ability not shared by any of the large apes.

From Wikipedia

Language acquisition is the process by which the language capability develops in a human. L1 acquisition concerns the development of language in children, while second language acquisition focuses on language development in adults as well. Historically, theorists are often divided between emphasising either nature or nurture (see Nature versus nurture) as the most important explanatory factor for acquisition.

One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes language-specific capacities, often described as universal grammar. For fifty years, linguists Noam Chomsky and Eric Lenneberg (1921 - 1975) argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning.

Other researchers, including Elizabeth Bates, Catherine Snow, and Michael Tomasello, have hypothesized that language learning results only from general cognitive abilities and the interaction between learners and their surrounding communities. Recent work by William O'Grady proposes that complex syntactic phenomena result from an efficiency-driven, linear computational system. O'Grady describes his work as "nativism without Universal Grammar." One of the most important advances in the study of language acquisition was the creation of the CHILDES database by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow.

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scientific method

UKT: My comment

Whenever I heard the term "scientific method" used by non-physical scientists I'm a little concerned. I've a feeling that some in the non-scientific community tend to use this word to give credence to what they are saying without really knowing what the scientific method is. What follows is from: Yogesh Malhotra (1994). On Science, Scientific Method And Evolution Of Scientific Thought: A Philosophy Of Science Perspective Of Quasi-Experimentation http://www.brint.com/papers/science.htm
     "The word science has its origins in the Latin verb scire, meaning "to know." Although, one can "know" through tenacity, authority, faith, intuition, or science, the method of science [or the "scientific method"] is distinct in its notion of intersubjective certification. In other words, it should be possible for other investigators to ascertain the truth content of scientific explanation(s). "Scientific knowledge thus rests on the bedrock of empirical testability" (Hunt, 1991: p. 197). Empirical replication depends on a comparison of "objective" observations of different researchers studying the phenomenon."

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Voici la table.

by UKT

This French sentence is probably one of the first sentences that would be taught to an English speaker learning French. It literally means 'Here the table." Note there is no "is" or "was". If you are to "read aloud" as you would read an English sentence, no French-speaking person would understand you. In French it sounds like {wa-si la taabl}.

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Werner Leopold

From Early Language Development in Full-Term and Premature Infants by P. Menyuk, J.W. Liebergott, and M.C. Schultz (1995). ISBN 0-8058-1773-5. www.writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ

     Elementary ESL teachers can gain insights into how their students acquire their second language by looking at research into how children acquire their L1, because the process of second language acquisition in young children is very similar to that of L1 acquisition. There is a great deal of information available about L1 acquisition, ranging from Leopold's (1939, 1947, 1949a, 1949b) monumental four-volume description of his daughter's bilingual language acquisition to basic textbooks (Menyuk, 1988; Ingram, 1989; Bloom, 1994, Owens, 1996) and recent "state-of-the-art" reviews (Perera, 1994). In spite of all the information available, many areas of controversy remain. One of them concerns the relative influence of nature vs. nurture in L1 acquisition. Although the results of the study reported in Early Language Development in Full-Term and Premature Infants will not resolve the theoretical arguments between nativists and social interactionists, they do provide a solid contribution to our knowledge of how biological, cognitive and input factors affect L1 development.
• Leopold, W. (1939). Speech development of a bilingual child: A linguist's record. Vol I. Vocabulary growth in the first two years. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. [-3-]
• Leopold, W. (1947). Speech development of a bilingual child: A linguist's record. Vol II. Sound learning in the first two years. Evanston, IL : Northwestern University Press.
• Leopold, W. (1949a). Speech development of a bilingual child: A linguist's record. Vol III. Grammar and general problems. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
• Leopold, W. (1949b). Speech development of a bilingual child: A linguist's record. Vol IV. Diary from age two. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

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End of TIL file