First Language Acquisition

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Developmental Sequences
y Grammatical morphemes (Brown, 1973)
y Present progressive ing (Mommy running)
y Plural s (two books)
y Irregular past forms (Baby went)
y Possessive 's (Daddy s hat)
y Copula (Annie is happy)
y Articles the and a
y Regular past ed (She walked)
y Third person singular simple present s (She runs)
y Auxiliary be (He is coming)
y A child who mastered the grammatical morphemes at the
bottom of the list was sure to have mastered those at the
top, but the reverse was not true.

Developmental Sequences
y Negation (Bloom, 1991)
y Stage 1
y

Usually expressed by the word no, either alone or as the first word in the utterance
y No. No cookie. No comb hair.

y Stage 2
y
y
y

Utterances grow longer , and subject may be included
Negative word appears just before verb
Sentences expressing rejection or prohibition often use don t y Daddy no comb hair.
y Don t touch that!

Developmental Sequences
y Negation
y Stage 3
y
y

Negative element inserted into more complex sentences
May add other forms of the negative ( can t, don t )
y I can t do it. He don t want it.

y Stage 4
y

Begin to attach the negative element to the correct form of
auxiliary verbs
y You didn t have supper. She doesn t want it.
y I don t have no more candles.

Developmental Sequences
y Questions (Bloom, 1991)
y Wh- questions
y
y
y
y

what
where and who
why
how and when

Developmental Sequences
y Questions
y Word order
y

y

Stage 1
y Single words or simple two- or three-word sentences with
rising intonation
y Cookie? Mommy book?
Stage 2
y Word order of declarative sentence, with rising intonation y You like this? I have some?

Developmental Sequences
y Questions
y Word order
y

Stage 3
y Gradually notice that the structure of questions is different y Use fronting (questions are formed by putting something at the front of a sentence)
y Can I go? Are you happy?
y Is the teddy is tired? Do I can have a cookie?
y Why you don t have one? Why you catched it?

Developmental Sequences
y Questions
y Word order
y

Stage 4
y

y

y

Stage 5
y
y

y

y

Use subject-auxiliary inversion
y Are you going to play with me?
Can add do
y Do dogs like ice cream?
Wh- and yes/no questions formed correctly
Negative questions may be difficult
y Why the teddy bear can t go outside?
May overgeneralize inverted forms
y Ask him why can t he go out.

Stage 6
y

Correctly form all question types

The Pre-school Years
y Generally, by age four, children have mastered the

basic structures of the language or languages spoken to
them.
y Much of the language acquisition effort in the late preschool years is spent in developing their ability to use language in a widening social environment.
y They develop metalinguistic awareness, the ability to
treat language as an object separate from the meaning
it conveys.

The School Years
y Learning to read boosts metalinguistic awareness.
y Language has form as well as meaning.
y Vocabulary growth
y Vocabulary grows at a rate between several hundred and more than a thousand word a year (Nagy et al., 1985).
y Acquisition of different language registers
y written language vs. spoken language
y speaking to the principal vs. speaking on the playground
y science report vs. narrative
y Some children come to school speaking an ethnic or regional

variety of the school language that is different from the one used by the teacher (Piper, 1998).
y Other children arrive at school speaking a different language altogether.

Explaining First Language Acquisition
y Behaviorist perspective
y Innatist perspective
y Interactionist/Developmental perspectives

Behaviorism
y B. F. Skinner (1957)
y When children imitate the language produced around

them, their attempts to reproduce what they heard
receive positive reinforcement.
y Imitation and practice are the primary processes in
language...
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