language acquisition

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language acquisition,

the process of learning a native or a second language. The acquisition of native languages is studied primarily by developmental psychologists and psycholinguists. Although how children learn to speak is not perfectly understood, most explanations involve both the observation that children copy what they hear and the inference that human beings have a natural aptitude for understanding grammar. While children usually learn the sounds and vocabulary of their native language through imitation, grammar is seldom taught to them explicitly; that they nonetheless rapidly acquire the ability to speak grammatically supports the theory advanced by Noam ChomskyChomsky, Noam
, 1928–, educator and linguist, b. Philadelphia. Chomsky, who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, developed a theory of transformational (sometimes called generative or transformational-generative) grammar that revolutionized
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 and other proponents of transformational grammar. According to this view, children are able to learn the "superficial" grammar of a particular language because all intelligible languages are founded on a "deep structure" of grammatical rules that are universal and that correspond to an innate capacity of the human brain. Stages in the acquisition of a native language can be measured by the increasing complexity and originality of a child's utterances. Children at first may overgeneralize grammatical rules and say, for example, goed (meaning went), a form they are unlikely to have heard, suggesting that they have intuited or deduced complex grammatical rules (here, how to conjugate regular verbs) and failed only to learn exceptions that cannot be predicted from a knowledge of the grammar alone. The acquisition of second or foreign languages is studied primarily by applied linguists. People learning a second language pass through some of the same stages, including overgeneralization, as do children learning their native language. However, people rarely become as fluent in a second language as in their native tongue. Some linguists see the earliest years of childhood as a critical period, after which the brain loses much of its facility for assimilating new languages. Most traditional methods for learning a second language involve some systematic approach to the analysis and comprehension of grammar as well as to the memorization of vocabulary. The cognitive approach, increasingly favored by experts in language acquisition, emphasizes extemporaneous conversation, immersion, and other techniques intended to simulate the environment in which most people acquire their native language as children.


See J. C. Richards, Error Analysis: Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition (1974); R. Andersen, ed., New Dimensions in Second Language Acquisition Research (1981); D. W. Carroll, Psychology of Language (1986); A. Radford, Syntactic Theory and the Acquisition of English Syntax (1990).

References in periodicals archive ?
In addition to helping children practice speaking and thinking in foreign languages, this app encourages communication between children and their parents," explained UNITEPLUG CEO Ryu, Seong Bum.
I have seen much miscommunication and lack of communication between children and their parents'' in Myanmar families, said Ma Hay Mar.
One of the primary effects of incarceration on children is the decrease of communication between children and their parents.
Called CASA-START (Striving Together to Achieve Rewarding Tomorrows), the intervention promotes communication between children and their families, and collaboration among key community stakeholders.
In contrast, Piaget found the process to be much more systematic and complex, and included major differences in perception and communication between children and adults.
This teaches direct communication between children that helps them know what role they may have had in the situation.
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Carers often open up a line of communication between children and their families.
Benefits of family mealtimes include better communication between children and parents, and it gives you a chance to teach your children about proper nutrition and a place for youngsters to practice their manners, she says.
Officials at DeVos note benefits such as communication between children and their physicians that might not have happened in the office.
com/AnheuserBuschFamilyTalkAboutDrinking) to provide resources and encourage open, honest communication between children and parents about alcohol responsibility.

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