Acquiring the Human Language-Playing the Language Game

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Video Viewing Guide for
“Acquiring the Human Language-Playing the Language Game” (in the Human Language Series)

(Preview these questions before you watch the film. Take notes as you watch the film, then answer on a separate paper.)

1.What arguments in support of language as an innate ability are brought up in the film?

This video is about a great mystery; how do children acquire language without seeming to learn it and how do they do so many things with so little life experience.

2.Explain the ambiguity of the question asked by Jill de Villiers to both children and graduate students: “When did the boy say he hurt himself?”
Why is this question ambiguous and why is it interesting to note that this question is ambiguous?

Question was “When did the boy say he hurt himself?” and there are 2 answers to this question. If focus on When said, the answer is “in the bathtub.” However when it focus on When fallen, the answer is “climbing the tree” And it is very interesting because they found that children will give only 1 answer when given unambiguous sentence “When did the boy say HOW he hurt himself”, “in the bathtub.” By this experiment, we can conclude that a child must have some kind of knowledge of syntactic structure because nobody had ever taught the child about this.

3.List some of the fundamental questions regarding language learning/language acquisition that are discussed in the film and explain how are linguists trying to answer these questions. (What questions do linguists ask and what kind of evidence do they look for to answer them?) The original theory on how languages are learned was it is learned by imitation. However, linguists found that child not only imitate adult but produces brand-new sentences. And the fundamental questions were raised, if we don’t learn by imitation, how do we learn? So linguists try to prove that acquiring language is different from learning other things by some experiments.

4.Mention some of...
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