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 English language acquisition, motivation is elaborated with respect to Gardner's (1985) Second Language Acquisition Model in socio-psychology, which stated that integrativeness and attitude are two variables that influence the learners' motivational orientations (Conttia, 2007; Qashoa, 2006).
What matters for the present discussion is that the discovery of ordered sequences in first and second language acquisition is a significant contribution to the theory of language development.
third language acquisition refers to the acquisition of a non-native language by learners who have previously acquired or are acquiring two other languages.
Approaching language acquisition developmentally encourages learners to use their implicit knowledge to judge what is and is not grammatical.
The English Language Acquisition Program provides funds to assist students in grades four through eight to learn English as efficiently and as quickly as possible, as well as progress academically to meet grade-level standards, promotion, and graduation requirements.
Topics and commentaries on each include an overview of age and second language acquisition and processing; development of the human cortex and the concept of "critical" or "sensitive" periods; convergence, degeneracy and control; executive control in bilingual language processing; novice learners, longitudinal designs and event-related potentials as means for exploring the neurorecognition of second language processing; second language processing in the miniature language model; meta-analysis of hemodynamic studies on first and second language processing as to which suggested differences can trust and what they mean; and a summary of the themes in the cognitive neurosciences of second language acquisition.
Part 1 of the present volume is further divided into three chapters which deal with third language acquisition, pragmatic competence, and the sociolinguistic context of the study conducted, respectively.
In this paper we discuss the relationship between language acquisition and the process of thinking within the symbolic worldview of bilingual children.
Jonathan Leather and Jet van Dam, editors: Ecology of Language Acquisition.
The concerns of newly arrived immigrant students include the need for English language acquisition, the lack of social support networks and of social acceptance, racial labeling and categorization, acquiring new learning styles, post-traumatic stress syndrome, different cultural scripts, and the typical development issues that all students face.
The objective is to establish English fluency as quickly as possible, since language acquisition is easiest at young ages.

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