Monday, 28 September 2009

Theorists List



Noam Chomsky stated that children are born with an innate knowledge of language when they are born and learning of their native language is at high speed when hearing it from others (Plato believed it too).
This links to children over regularising and putting grammar into utterances when they are not needed. Chomsky is one of the most famous theorists on child language acquisition and his theories were based on his own intuitions about English and not actually studied on real children.
Chomsky created the LAD - Language Acquisition Device
1. Baby already knows about linguistic rules, as they are born with an innate knowledge of language.
2. Baby hears examples of his/ her native language
3. The linguistic rules help Baby make estimations and presumptions about the language it is hearing.
4. From these estimations and presumption Baby works out grammatical sets of rules. As more language is heard the grammar becomes more and more like adults.


B.F. Skinner bases his theory of children acquiring language through behaviourism. Skinner states that all behaviour is conditioned through:
Positive Reinforcement – Rewards, repetitions, following through of requests and demands
Negative Reinforcement – Punishment, ignoring, denial of wants
This happens again and again until the behaviour is learned and becomes natural and automatic. So, babies imitate their parents/carers and are either reprimanded or praised according to their accuracy. Skinner believes that biology plays almost no part in the way children learn language.


Piaget's theory on children learning language is mainly focused around “cognitive development,” meaning language is controlled by the development of thinking. If a baby can use sentences involving phrases such as, "more than", "less than" it is obvious that the concepts of "more than" must have been grasped, before the child uses the phrase in an utterance.
Put simply, until the child thinks of a concept, they cannot vocalise it and the higher their thinking the more they vocalise.


Bruner created and argued for the Language Acquisition Support System (LASS). Bruner states through LASS that parents often use books and images to develop their child’s naming abilities and their ability to get involved in conversation.
1- Gaining attention- drawing the babies attention to a picture
2- Query- asking the baby to identify the picture
3- Label- telling the baby what the object is
4- Feedback- responding to the babies utterances
This is also called SCAFFOLDING, where the child is supported in their learning of language by carers and once they have learnt it, the support is taken away.

Other Theorists

• John Macnamara - said that rather than having an in-built language device, children have an innate capacity to read meaning into social situations. It is this capacity that makes them capable of understanding and learning language, not the LAD.
• Bard and Sachs Studied a boy called 'Jim', who was son of two deaf parents. Although he was exposed to TV and radio, his speech development was severely retarded until he attended sessions with a speech therapist, implying that human interaction is necessary to develop speech.
• Berko and Brown found that a child who referred to a plastic inflatable fish as a ‘fis’ substituting the ‘s’ sound for the ‘sh’ sound, couldn’t link an adult saying ‘fis’ as the same object (only responded to adult saying ‘fish’).
• Cruttenden had adults and children to predict football results from the intonation used by the announcers. Children found it more difficult.
• Jean Aitchison came up with stages of lexical development
1- Labelling – Linking words to objects to which they refer, understanding labels
2- Packaging – Exploring labels and where they can apply, over/underextension occurs in order to gain meanings.
3- Network-building – Making connections between words, understanding similarities and opposites in meaning. They start with a HYPERNYM (a general word that can have more specific words under it) and explore HYPONYMS (words that fall under a hypernym’s category)
• Katherine Nelson - found that 60% of children's early word phrases contained nouns, then verbs, pre-modifiers and phatic. She also said that the nouns were more commonly things that surrounded the children i.e ball, mum, cat. Nelson also said that in Re-casts (e.g. Ben: "me ball" Mum: "pass me the ball") children whose sentences were re-cast performed better at imitating sentences.
• Bellugi explored negatives and negation and identified three stages:
(1) Uses ‘no’ or ‘not’ at the beginning of end of the sentence – “No shoes!”
(2) Puts ‘no’ or ‘not’ inside the sentence –“I no wear shoes!”
(3) Attaches negatives to auxiliary verbs and to the copula verb “be” - “I won’t wear shoes!”
• Bellugi also explored children’s pronoun use and found three stages
(1) Uses their own name – “Katherine play.”
(2) Recognises I/me pronouns – “I play”, “Me up”
(3) Uses pronouns according to whether they are the subject or object position – “I play with the toy.”/ “Give it to me.”
• Brown found that morphemes were acquired in an order: -ing, in/on, -s, past tense irregular, possessive ‘s, is/was, the/a, past tense regular, 3rd person regular, 3rd person irregular, uncontractible auxiliary verb (were), contractibles (she’s), contractible auxiliary (she’s running).
• Berko found that children gradually developed pluralisations through the “wug” test
• Brown and Levinson suggested that politeness in children centred around two aspects of ‘face’
o Positive – where the individual desires social approval and being included.
o Negative – where the individual asserts their need to be independent and make their own decisions
• Catherine Garvey found that in play, children adopt roles and identities, acting out storylines and inventing objects and settings.
• Halliday is just the functions of child language. The most commonly used is instrumental and regulatory, which are learnt, along with interactional and personal, at a young age. Representational is used by 6-8+ year olds.
o Representational - "I've got something to show you" - language showing how they feel, declarative
o Regulatory - "Do as I tell you" - requesting/asking for things
o Instrumental - "I want"- expressing needs/wants
o Interactional - "Me and you" - speaking to other, establishing personal contact
o Imaginative - "Let's pretend" - imaginative language, used with play, to create imaginary world. Crystal talks of 'phonological' function as playing with sound.
o Personal - "Here I come"- child expresses their feelings/expressing personal preferences
o Heuristic - "Tell me why"- uses language to explore environment/ seeking information
• John Dore also describes language functions that focuses more on individual utterances
o Labelling – Naming a person, object or thing.
o Repeating – Repeating an adult word or utterance
o Answering – Responding to an utterance of another speaker
o Requesting Action – Asking for something to be done for them
o Calling – Getting someone’s attention
o Greeting – Greeting someone
o Protesting – Objecting to requests from others
o Practising – Using language when no adult is present.


Flic said...

I find these blog posts very helpful for my A2 English Language studies.
There is also another Language Acquisition theorist by the name of Lev Vygotsky which you may be interested in including, some information on him can be found here:

Ware Sisters (Laura and Amy) said...

Amazing blog

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