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Study of Language Acquisition

By ashleywang518 Sep 03, 2013 1070 Words
Study of language acquisition
Psycholinguistics is an interdisciplinary field. Hence, it is studied by researchers from a variety of different backgrounds, such as psychology, cognitive science, speech and language pathology and linguistics. Psycholinguistics study many different topics, but these topics can mainly be divided into answering the following questions: (1) how do children acquire language? ; (2) how do people process and comprehend language? ; (3) how do people produce language? ; (4) how do adults acquire a new language? I am going to first expound the subject of how do children acquire language, which is called the question of language acquisition, and the subject of how do adults acquire a new language. There are essentially two schools of thought as to how children acquire language, but there are still lots of disagreements on which theory is the correct one. The first theory states that language must be learned by children. The second view states that the abstract system of language cannot be learned, but humans possess an innate language faculty, or an access to what has been called universal grammar. Chomsky put forward a theory that the question of how children acquire mother language can only be explained as children possess an innate language acquisition device. The device includes a large amount of basic grammar conception, such as the subject and predicate of a sentence, the noun and modifier of a nominal group, the predicate and object of a verbal phrase. Children acquire a language by the device not by imitation. Scholars in favor of language acquisition is innate do have some insightful views, but they ignore the influence of the objective environment on language acquisition. A Swiss psychologist Jean?Piaget raised an idea that the faculty children born with is not the language faculty but the more wide cognitive competence, which enables children perceive various conception from objective world, and sort them out into several series. That is language faculty. I agree with Jean?Piaget’s point of view. Different languages have different grammar systems, while children are not born with any ability to know a particular language, including grammar system. Only through contacting to outside world and classify the conception they receive by the competence of cognition can the children acquire a language. With the technological development, there have some new ideas. For example, the view holds the human ability to use language (specially the ability to use recursion) is qualitatively different from any sort of animal ability. This ability may result from a favorable mutation or from an adaptation of skills evolved for other purposes. This view challenges the innate view as scientifically unfalsifiable. With the amount of computer power increasing since the 1980’s, researchers have been able to simulate language acquisition using neural network models. These models provide evidence that there may be sufficient information contained in the input to learn language, even syntax. If this is true, then an innate mechanism is no longer necessary to explain language acquisition. Since it is difficult to research directly by talking to children about how they learn language, this kind research is lacking in raw material. Though some wolf boy or aphasiac may provide some opportunities to practical research, it cannot exactly be the same condition as the acquiring process of normal children. Therefore, the correct answer of how do children acquire language is still in debate. The second subject I would expound is how adults acquire a new language. Krashen’s Monitor model has an important status in the theory of second language acquisition. This model includes five hypothesizes: Acquisition-learning hypothesis, monitor hypothesis, natural order hypothesis, input hypothesis and the affective filter hypothesis. Acquisition comes from the meaningful communication in natural environment. The speakers concentrated on the express of meaning rather than whether the grammar is correct. In comparison, during the process of language acquisition, finding and correcting mistakes are an important part. Krashen holds the view that the extent of language acquisition and language learning depends on how familiar is the learner with the rule, not the speaking environment. For example, in the natural language environment, language knowledge can be learned from asking friend about the grammar. In the same way, in the classroom that is not a natural environment, language can be learned from conversations, role plays and discussions. Monitor hypothesis means speech is produced by acquisition system. Leaning only has one function that is monitoring or editing, which is used to correct the grammar mistakes happens in speech. Monitor hypothesis has a significant meaning for second language teaching. Krashen thinks that the development of monitor model depends on the teaching of formal grammar in class, and speech is learned unconsciously during communication. The consciously cognition about grammar cannot promote the acquisition, but can help the learner to polish the content learned in communication. Therefore, we should pay more attention to the communication activity rather than learning of grammar. Natural order hypothesis points out that people learn language following a certain order. Learners master some rules quickly and some slowly, but this order is not decided by the complexity of rules, even if in the class where teacher teaches grammar. By input hypothesis, Krashen emphasizes that people only can learn language through understanding information or accepting understandable input. We start from i(i stands for our now available language ability), and move to i+1. 1 stands for the new input content, there, through understanding i+1, we can reach a higher level. This hypothesis also has meaning for second language teaching. It reminds teacher to be careful about the current level of students’ language ability. Krashen thinks that in order to make language acquisition successful, the affective factor is as important as the four hypothesizes above. If there is affective obstacle in acquisition, there is no need to input appropriate information. If the affective filter value is low, input will reach LAD (Language Acquisition Device), which enables learner to enhance language ability, and vice versa. By saying the affective filter value is high, Krashen refers to that the learner has a weak motivation, lack of confidence, and that the affective filter value is low refers to the learner is concentrated on learning, having no psychological burden. Krashen thinks that affective filter is a main reason of the diversity in second acquisition among individuals. Krashen’s theory has great influence on the study of second language acquisition, but what is the truth of it is still in debate.

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