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Children construct grammars

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Angela Djo

on 25 November 2014

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Transcript of Children construct grammars

Children Construct Grammars
By Yosra Jaoua & Haifa Jammousi
How does a baby acquire language?
Thank you for Your attention :)
When does a child acquire language?
The Stages
"Language learning is not really something that the child does; it is something that happens to the child placed in an appropriate environment, much as the child's body grows and matures in a predetermined way when provided with appropriate nutrition and environmental stimulation"
Noam Chomsky
Pre-Linguistic Stage
Children do not wake up one fine morning with a fully formed grammar in their heads. They rather go through different stages.
Birth - 11 months
In this stage, babies do not speak, but rather use body-language and non-linguistic gestures. There is however, some form of language that is produced with their baby voices.
4 months - 7 months
6 months - 9 months
There is no break between the pre-linguistic and the linguistic stages
Telegraphic Stage
two-word stage
18 - 30 months
Strings of Two words each word has its own single pitch contour
Actual two-word sentences with clear syntactic and semantic relations
intonation over the whole sentence
30+ months
After the two word stage, children begin to speak 3 or more words in one phrase without a break. This stage is the final stage before children embark on language with full sentences and punctuation.
This stage is also when children encounter grammatical morphemes. Their utterance length increases and they learn to use nouns and verbs in the correct order.
Acquisition Of Phonology
Roman Ossipovitch Jakobson
Morphological Development
Acquisition of Pragmatics
Syntactic Development
How do children learn the meanings of words?

How do children extend the use of a specific word to other objects which that word refers to?
E.g: the word 'Dog'
first use --> only to point at a real later --> dog pictures of dogs in books.
learning the meanings of words and differences and connections between different words
learning the meanings of words and differences and connections between different words
Holophrastic Stage
So what accounts for the ease, rapidity and uniformity of language acquisition in the face of impoverished data?
Children are equipped with
an innate template
for language
Universal Grammar
The rules that children construct are
*Is The boy who sleeping dreaming of a new car?
The coordinate structure constraint
WH phrase -> Subject or object NP
#In CS, The WH must stay in its original position.
Bagels and lox
Coordinate NP
Bagels with lox
The innateness hypothesis provides an answer for this problematic which came to be known by Chomsky as ''The logical problem of language acquisition" :
English Children
Asian Children
SVO Language
- They learn that a Subject (S)
comes first and that the verb
(V) precedes the object inside
the VP.
- They must learn that yes-no
questions are learned by moving
constituents. In yes-no questions,
the aux moves from its original
position to the beginning of the
sentences as follows:
- You will come home.
- Will you come home?

SOV Language
- They learn that the Subject (S) comes first and that the object (O) precedes the verb.

- In Mandarin chinese as in many other Asian languages, speakers form questions by leaving the question mark in situ.
- Ni xihuan shei?
i.e. -You like who?
Soundless communication
Use of body language and eye contact to communicate messages.
Birth - 4 months
Crying, whimpering and Cooing
Production of vowel-like sounds, using their tongues and lip shapes.
Speech-like sounds
Babbling --> vocalization
readiness of the human mind to respond to linguistic cues from a very early age.
variation --> mama, gaga, dada
reduplicated babbling[ba] [ba] [ba]
non-reduplicated babbling [ba] [da]
The poverty of stimulus

the data the child receives
Babies hear vowel-like sounds through communication between people around them.
The perception production
speech sounds

sucking rate decreases
adults(#infants): allophones of one phoneme (=)

sucking rate increases
The Innateness Hypothesis
The boy who is sleeping [is] dreaming of a new car.
[Is] the boy who is sleeping dreaming of a new car?
went up the hill.
*Who did Jack and go up the hill?

Jill ate
*What did Jill eat bagels and?
Jack went up the hill
Who did Jack go up the hill with?

Jill ate bagels
What did Jill eat bagels with?
children ---> aspirated stops # unaspirated stops
They can perceive the difference between:

voicing contrasts:

contrasts in place of articulation:

contrasts in manner of articulation:

Japanese infants (#parents) --->
Infants appear to be born with the ability to perceive just those sounds that are phonemic in some language. This partially accounts for the fact that children can actually learn any human language to which they are exposed.

Children begin to learn the sounds of the language of their parents. Before that, they appear to know the sounds of human language in general.
Hearing children
Deaf children
4-7 months old

a restricted set of phonetic forms.
4-7 months old

a restricted set of signs.
Manual gestures Random

Vocalizations Random+non repetitive
Move their fingers + Clench their fists
with little or no repetition of gestures
Use more than a dozen different hand motions (ASL or other sign languages of other countries).
acquisition of small set of sounds common to all languages less common sounds of his own language.
A child's first words show many
of one feature for another or one phoneme for another. (simplification of the adult pronunciation by the child)

The phonological
are rule governed.

Overextension of word's meaning:

extending the meaning of a word from a particular referent to encompass a larger class.
E.g: the word papa or daddy
first use --> his own father
later --> apply to all men
overextensions are usually based on physical attributes:
size - shape - texture..
11 - 18 months
one-word stage
Children begin to produce a small number of isolated, single words. Children's first words are rooted in the here and now of common everyday interactions, and often include words such as 'mama', 'dada' and 'doggie'. This is often extended by using gestures and intonation and pitch
The easiness, rapidity and uniformity of child language acquisition does not come from scratch. According to the innateness hypothesis, children come


with knowledge of Universal Grammar


Structure Dependency


The Coordinate Structure Constraint

among many other principles.
What does [maws] mean?
Like a cat.
Yes, what else?
Nothing else.
It's part of your head.
[touching A's mouth] What's this?
Neil Smith and his 2 year old son Amahl
"Oh you want me to turn on the yight."
"No no, no yight ____ yight!"
Rabbit wabbit
Mouth [mouO] [maws]
Light [lajt] [jajt]

If the first year is devoted to figuring out the phonetic inventory for the target language, the second year involves learning how these sounds are used in the phonology of the language especially which contrasts are phonemic.
Controlled experiments show that children at this stage can perceive or comprehend many phonological contrasts than they can produce.
Many anecdotal reports show the disparity between the child's production and perception at this stage.
Semantic Development
Learning the meanings of words and differences and connection between them
irregular verbs and nouns regular


Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3
Ernie is tickling Bert.
Bert is tickling Ernie.
The child understands the word order rules and their grammatical relations.
Mommy sock
Subject + Object relation
Possessive relation
Sweater chair Subject - locative relation
Multi-word Stage
I saw John and Marry kissing in the park
"He hit me"
The speaker
The listener
Form a part of the context of an utterance
Is there a difference between signed languages and spoken language acquisition?
Given the Universal aspects of Sign and spoken languages, it is not surprising that the language development of deaf children parallels the stages of spoken language acquisition
1) Deaf children babble
2) Deaf children progress to single signs similar to the single words in the holophrastic stage.
3) Deaf children begin to combine signs: a telegraphic stage in which the function signs may be omitted.
Spoken language: hearing children reverse the pronouns "I" & "You".
Sign language reverse the sign for the pronoun "I" & the sign for the pronoun "You".
The boy who is sleeping is dreaming f a new car?
Or uninvertion
of aux
Other common rules:


Dropping of the final consonants
[pun] "spoon"
[peyn] "plane
[tis] "kiss"
[taw] "cow"
[tin] "clean"
[polar] "stroller"
[majtl] "Micheal"
[dajter] "diaper"
[pati] "Papi"
[mani] "Mommy"
[bert] "Bert"
[bert] (big)"Bird"
The abridged lexicon of Micheal (18 months - 21 months)
water [wawa]
Bed [be]
Cake [ke]
a wug
These children applied the regular plural formation
rule to words they have never heard. Their ability to add [z] when the animal's name ended with
a voiced sound
and [s] when there was
a final voiceless consonant
showed that the children were
using rules based on an understanding of natural classes of phonological segments
and not simply imitating words they have previously heard.
Italian verbs must be inflected for number and person to agree with subject.
= English agreement rule "add 's' " the verb for 3rd sng. S
Italian-speaking children (1;10 and 2;4)
Tu leggi il libro
Io vado fuori
Dorme mio dorme
Leggiamo il libro
You (2nd-p.sg) read the book.
I go (1st-p.sg) outside
Sleeps (3rd-p.sg) cat sleeps.
(We) read (1st-p.plural) the book.
Gender and number agreement between the head N and the article and Adj inside the NP.
Italian children (2 years old)
E mia gonna
Questo mio bimbo
Guarda la mela piccolina
Guarda il topo piccolino
It is my (fem.sg) skirt
This is my (mas.sg) baby.
Look at the little (fem.sg;)apple.
Look at the little (mas.sg.) mouse.
Case morphology
Derivational rules
Child utterance
Adult Translation
- You have to scale it

- I broomed it up

- He's keeying the door
- You have to weigh it

- I swept it

- He's opening the door (with a key)
2-year old
--> difficulty with
"the shifting reference"
of these pronouns.

'You want to take a walk'
Children --> Lack of awareness by the way they sometimes use articles.
A boy walked into the class.
He was in the wrong room.
The teacher directed the biy to the right classroom.
Other aspects of pragmatics are acquired very early.
Children in the holophrastic stage use their one-word utterances with different illocutionary force. The utterance 'up' spoken by J.P at 16 months might be a simple statement 'The teddy is up on a shelf' or a request 'Pick me up'.
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