FIRST LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
This paper will discuss why behavioral theories can account sufficiently well for the earliest utterances of the child, not for utterances at the sentence and discourse level. The writer uses a comparation between behavioral and nativist approaches as the tools for accounting it. This paper will dicuss outline issues in first language learning as a foundation to build an understanding of principles of second language learning. An understanding of the first language acquisition and a discussion of some of its key issues are particularly significant for an understanding of second language acquisition.
Almost every child succeeds in learning language. As a result, people often tend to take the process of language learning for granted. Language seems like a basic instinct, as simple as breathing. The fact language is not that simple. It is the most complex skill that a human being will ever master. As Brown (2007:26) stated:
“An extrem behaviorist position would claim that children come into the world with a tabula rasa, a clean slate bearing no preconceived nations about the world or abou language, and what these children are then shaped by their environment and slowly conditioned trough various schedules through various schedules of reinforcement. At the other constructivist extreme is the position that makes not only the cognitivist claim that children come into this world with very specific innate knowledge, predispositions, and biological timetables, but that children learn to function in a language chiefly through interaction and discourse.”
Nearly all people succeed in learning this complex skill demonstrates how well language has adapted to human nature. In a very real sense, language is the complete expression of what it means to be human.
1. Behavioral Approaches
Brown (2007:26) explain that Language is a important part of total human behavior, and behavioral psychologists analyzed it as such and sought to formulate consistent theories of first language acquisition. The behavioral approach focused on the immediately perceptible aspects of linguistic behavior-the publicly observable responses-and the relationships or associations between those responses and events in the world surrounding them.
Brown (2007) elaborate language as behavior adapted from B. F. Skinner'S classic, Verbal Behavior (1957). Skinner was commonly known for his experiments with animal behavior, but he also gained recognition for his contributions to education through teaching machines and programmed learning (Skinner, 1968). Skinner's theory of verbal behavior was an extension of his general theory of learning by operant conditioning. Operant conditioning refers to conditioning in which the an individu emits a response,or operant (a sentence or utterance), without necessarily observable stimuli; that operant is maintained by reinforcement in its practice (for example, a positive verbal or nonverbal response from another person).
Brown (2007) also explain that Skinner's theories above gain some critics, not the least among them Noam Chomsky (1959), who penned a highly critical review of Verbal Behavior. Some years later, a reply to Chomsky's review in which he eloquently defended Skinner's points of view. And so the controversy raged on. Today virtually no one would agree that Skinner'S model of verbal behavior adequately accounts for the capacity to acquire language, for language development itself, for the abstract nature of language, or for a theory of meaning.
Linguists in the tradition of Noam Chomsky tend to think of language as having a universal core from which individual languages select out a particular configuration of features, parameters, and settings. As a result, they see language as an instinct that is driven by specifically human evolutionary adaptations. In their view, language resides in a unique mental organ that has been given as a "special gift" to the human species. This mental organ contains rules, constraints, and other structures that can be specified by linguistic analysis.
Psychologists and those linguists who reject the Chomskyan approach often view language learning from a very different perspective. To the psychologist, language acquisition is a window on the operation of the human mind. The patterns of language emerge not from a unique instinct but from the operation of general processes of evolution and cognition. For researchers who accept this emergentist approach, the goal of language acquisition studies is to understand how regularities in linguistic form emerge from the operation of low-level physical, neural, and social processes. Before considering the current state of the dialog between the view of language as a hard-wired instinct and the view of language as an emergent process, it will be useful to review a few basic facts about the shape of language acquisition and some of the methods that are used to study it.
Brown (2007: 27) conclude that A theory based on conditioning and reinforcement is hard-pressed to explain the fact that every sentence you speak or write-with a few trivial exceptions-is novel , never before uttered either by you or by anyone else! These novel utterances are nevertheless created by very young children as they literally "play" with language, and that same creativity continues on into adulthood and throughout one's life.
Human language involves both receptive and productive use. Receptive language use occurs during the comprehension or understanding of words and sentences. Productive language use involves idea generation and the articulation of words in speech. Receptive is synonims of Competence. The writer’s statement is straightened with this Brown’s argument (2007:35):
“Competence refers to one’s underlying knowledge system, event, or fact. It is the nonobservable ability to do something, to perform something. Performance is the overtly observable and concreate manifestation or realization of competance”
The methods used to study language development are mostly quite straightforward. The primary method involves simply recording and transcribing what children say. This method can be applied even from birth. Tape recordings become particularly interesting, however, when the child begins systematic babbling and the first productions of words. Using videotape, researchers can link up the child's use of verbal means with their use of gesture and nonlinguistic cries to draw attention to their desires and interests.
Methods for studying comprehension are a bit more complicated. During the first year, researchers can habituate the infant to some pattern of sounds and then suddenly change that pattern to see if the infant notices the difference. From about nine months onward, children can be shown pictures of toys along with their names, and then researchers can measure whether the children prefer these pictures to some unnamed distracter pictures. Later on, children can be asked to answer questions, repeat sentences, or make judgments about grammar.
Children language is can be observed by asking their parents to report about them. Parents can record the times when their children first use a given sound or word or first make some basic types of child errors. Each of these methods has different goals, and each also has unique possibilities and pitfalls associated with it. Having obtained a set of data from children or their parents, researchers next need to group these data into measures of particular types of language skills, such as vocabulary, sentences, concepts, or conversational abilities.
Having briefly covered the methods used to study language acquisition and the basic phases in development, it is now possible to return to this question: Is language development best characterized as the use of a "special gift" or as an emergent result of various cognitive, neural, physiological, and social pressures? There are good arguments in favor of each position.
The special gift position views language as an instinct. People are often overpowered by the "urge to speak." Young children must feel this urge when they interact with others and have not yet learned how to use words correctly. It is important to recognize, however, that crickets, birds, snakes, and many other species can be possessed by a similar urge to produce audible chirps, songs, and rattling. In themselves, these urges do not amount to a special gift for language learning. Better evidence for the special gift comes from the study of children who have been cut off from communication by cruel parents, ancient Pharaohs, or accidents of nature.
The special gift position holds that, if the special gift for language is not exercised by some early age, perhaps six or seven, it will be lost forever. None of the isolation experiments that have been conducted, however, can be viewed as providing good evidence for this claim. In many cases, the children are isolated because they are brain-injured. In other cases, the isolation itself produces brain injury. In a few cases, children as old as six to eight years of age have successfully acquired language even after isolation. Thus, the most that can be concluded from these experiments is that it is unlikely that the special gift expires before age eight.
The second form of evidence in favor of the notion of a special gift comes from the observation that children are able to learn some grammatical structures without apparent guidance from the input. The argumentation involved here is sometimes rather subtle. For example, Chomsky noted that children would never produce "Is the boy who next in line is tall?" as a question deriving from the sentence "The boy who is next in line is tall." Instead, they will inevitably produce the question as, "Is the boy who is next in line tall?" That children always know which of the forms of the verb is to move to the front of the sentence, even without ever having heard such a sentence from their parents, indicates to Chomsky that language must be a special gift.
Although the details of Chomsky's argument are controversial, his basic insight here seems solid. There are some aspects of language that seem so fundamental that humans hardly need to learn them. Nevertheless, the specific structures examined by linguistic theory involve only a small set of core grammatical features. When looking more generally at the full shape of the systems of lexicon, phonology, pragmatics, and discourse, much greater individual variation in terms of overall language proficiency appears.
To explain these differences, it is necessary to view language learning as emerging from multiple sources of support. One source of support is the universal concept all humans have about what language can be. A second source of support is input from parents and peers. This input is most effective when it directly elaborates or expands on things the child has already said. For example, if the child says "Mommy go store," the parent can expand the child's production by saying "Yes, Mommy is going to the store." From expansions of this type, children can learn a wide variety of grammatical and lexical patterns. A third source of support is the brain itself.
Through elaborate connections among auditory, vocal, relational, and memory areas, humans are able to store linguistic patterns and experiences for later processing. A fourth source of support are the generalizations that people produce when they systematize and extend language patterns. Recognizing that English verbs tend to produce their past tense by adding the suffix -ed, children can produce over-generalizations such as "goed" or "runned." Although these overgeneralizations are errors, they represent the productive use of linguistic creativity.
Individual children will vary markedly in the extent to which they can rely on these additional sources of support. Children of immigrant families will be forced to acquire the language of the new country not from their parents, but from others. Children with hearing impairments or the temporary impairments brought on by otitis media (ear infections) will have relatively less support for language learning from clear auditory input.
Because language is based on such a wide variety of alternative cognitive skills, children can often compensate for deficits in one area by emphasing their skills in another area. In this way, even when some of the normal supports are removed, children can still learn language. The basic uses of language are heavily over detrmined by this rich system of multiple supports. As a child moves away from the basic uses of languager into the more refined areas of literacy and specific genres, progress can slow. In these later periods, language is still supported by multiple sources, but each of the supports grows weaker, and progress toward the full competency required in the modern workplace is less inevitable.
2. Nativist Approach
The term nativist is derived from the fundamental assertion that language acquisition is innately determined, that we are born with a genetic capacity that predisposes us to a systematic perception of language around us, resulting in the construction of an internalized system of language.
Brown (2007:28) takes Chomsky’s statement (1965) as similarly claimed the existence of innate properties of language to explain the child's mastery of a native language in such a short time despite the highly abstract nature of the rules of language. This innate knowledge was embodied in a metaphorical "little black box" in the brain, a language acquisition device (LAD). Brown (2007:28) also quotes McNeill (1966) described the LAD as consisting of four innate linguistic properties:
1. The ability to distinguish speech sounds from other sounds in the
2. The ability to organize linguistic data into various classes that can later be
3. Knowledge that only a certain kind of linguistic system is possible and that
other kinds are not
4. The ability to engage in constant evaluation of the developing linguistic
system so as to construct the simplest possible system out of the available
Furthermore, Brown (2007:31-32) explains: McNeill and other researchers in the Chomskyan tradition composed eloquent arguments for the appropriateness of the LAD proposition, especially in contrast to behavioral which was so limited in accounting for the creativity present in child language. The linguistical orientation innate predispositions fits pertectly with generative theories of language: children were presumed to use innate abilities to generate a potentially infinite number of utterances. Aspects of meaning, abstractness, and creativity were accounted for more adequately. Even though LAD was considered as not literally a cluster of brain cells which would be isolated and neurologically located, such inquiry on the cognitive side of the linguistic-psychological continuum stimulated a great deal of fruitful research.
One of the more practical contributions of nativist theories is evident if you look at the kinds of discoveries that have been made about how the system of child language works. Research has shown that the child's language, at any given point, is a legitimate system in its own right. The child's linguistic development is not a process of developing fewer and fewer "incorrect" structures-not a language in which earlier stages have more "mistakes" than later stages.
Nativist studies of child language acquisition were free to construct hypothetical grammars (that is, descriptions of linguistic systems) of child language, although such grammars were still solidly based on empirical data. These grammars were largely formal representations of the deep strucmre-the abstract rules underlying surlace output, the stmcture not overtly manifest in speech. Linguists began to examine child language from early one-, two-, and three,word forms of "telegraphese" (like "allgone milk " and "baby go boom" mentioned earlier) to the complex language of five- to ten-year-olds. Based on behavioral paradigms, they approached the data with few preconceived notions about what the child's language ought to be, and probed the data for internally consistent systems, in much the same way that a linguist describes a language in the "field."
Brown (2007) quotes that closely related to the PDP concept is a branch of psycholinguistic inquiry called connectionism (Rumelhart & McClelland, 1986), in which neurons in the brain are said to form multiple connections: each of the 100 billion nerve cells in the brain may be linked to as many as 10,000 of its counterparts. In this approach, experience leads to learning by strengthening particular connections-sometimes at the expense of weakening others. For example, the first language acquisition of English regular past tense forms by children may proceed as a series of connections.
First, a child may confidently connect the form went with the verb go. Then, children will often perceive another connection, the regular oed suffix attached to a verb, and start using the word goed. Finally, with more complex connections, children will perceive goed as incorrect, and maintain both connections, the oed form connected to most verbs, and the went form as a special connection. "According to such accounts, there are no 'niles' of grammar. Instead, the systematicities of syntax emerge from the set of learned associations between language functions and base and past tense forms , with novel responses generated by 'online' generalizations from stored examples" (N. Ellis, 2003, p. 88).
Approaches from within the nativist framework-as well as the challenges just outlined above-have made several important contributions to our understanding of the first language acquisition process:
1. Freedom from the restrictions of the so-called "SCientific method" to explore the unseen, unobservable, underlying, abstract linguistic structures being developed in the child
2. The constnlction of a number of potential properties of Universal Grammar, through which we can better understand not just language acquisition but the nature of human languages in general
3. Systematic description of the child's linguistic repertoire as either nllegoverned, or operating out of parallel distributed processing capacities, or the result of experiential establishment of connections
3. First Language Acquisition Contribution Gain Second Language Acquisition
The previous way of learning second language is consentrate on reading comprehension so the writer experience practicing language trough translatiing. Based on Behavioral and Nativist approach, teacher can adopt the theory how children gain his first language acquisition on teaching the second language. Although there are still a gap between how the first and second language aquicitate e.g. the diffrence on grammar, culture, etc.
Much of Second Language Learning centers around issues of the nature of learnability. Whereas it is understood that first language acquisition is somewhat a mystery and relies mostly on innate universal principles of constraints and assumptions, second language learning seems to rely more on cognitive mechanism in order to fashion general problem solving learning strategies to cope with the material. This difference between First Language ‘Acquisition’ vs. Second Language ‘Learning’ has been recently articulated as a Fundamental Difference Hypothesis. It goes without saying that children naturally acquire their first language. Adults (post-critical period) do not naturally acquire their second language, as a number of fundamental differences appear in their rationale towards learning. Attempts to juxtapose what we do know about first language development, parameter settings, syntactic-categorical developmen, etc. and comparing and contrasting these