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The critical period hypothesis in language acquisition – …

It is often argued that experience, rather than innate capacity to handle information in certain specific ways, must be the factor of overwhelming dominance in determining the specific character of language acquisition, since a child speaks the language of the group in which he lives. But this is a superficial argument. As long as we are speculating, we may consider the possibility that the brain has evolved to the point where, given an input of observed Chinese sentences, it produces (by an induction of apparently fantastic complexity and suddenness) the rules of Chinese grammar, and given an input of observed English sentences, it produces (by, perhaps, exactly the same process of induction) the rules of English grammar; or that given an observed application of a term to certain instances, it automatically predicts the extension to a class of complexly related instances. If clearly recognized as such, this speculation is neither unreasonable nor fantastic; nor, for that matter, is it beyond the bounds of possible study. There is of course no known neural structure capable of performing this task in the specific ways that observation of the resulting behavior might lead us to postulate; but for that matter, the structures capable of accounting for even the simplest kinds of learning have similarly defied detection.33 Summarizing this brief discussion, it seems that there is neither empirical evidence nor any known argument to support any specific claim about the relative importance of “feedback” from the environment and the “independent contribution of the organism” in the process of language acquisition.

The pointlessness of these claims becomes clear when we consider the well-known difficulties in determining to what extent inborn structure, maturation, and learning are responsible for the particular form of a skilled or complex performance.31 To take just one example,32 the gaping response of a nestling thrush is at first released by jarring of the nest, and, at a later stage, by a moving object of specific size, shape, and position relative to the nestling. At this later stage the response is directed toward the part of the stimulus object corresponding to the parent’s head, and characterized by a complex configuration of stimuli that can be precisely described. Knowing just this, it would be possible to construct a speculative, learning-theoretic account of how this sequence of behavior patterns might have developed through a process of differential reinforcement, and it would no doubt be possible to train rats to do something similar. However, there appears to be good evidence that these responses to fairly complex “sign stimuli” are genetically determined and mature without learning. Clearly, the possibility cannot be discounted. Consider now the comparable case of a child imitating new words. At an early stage we may find rather gross correspondences. At a later stage, we find that repetition is of course far from exact (i.e., it is not mimicry, a fact which itself is interesting), but that it reproduces the highly complex configuration of sound features that constitute the phonological structure of the language in question. Again, we can propose a speculative account of how this result might have been obtained through elaborate arrangement of reinforcing contingencies. Here too, however, it is possible that ability to select out of the complex auditory input those features that are phonologically relevant may develop largely independently of reinforcement, through genetically determined maturation. To the extent that this is true, an account of the development and causation of behavior that fails to consider the structure of the organism will provide no understanding of the real processes involved.

Therefore, language acquisition basically means the learning or the gaining of a language.

The critical period hypothesis in language acquisition

Eric Lenneberg, linguist and neurologist, came up with a theory for second language acquisition called the  (CPH).

According to the research timeline conducted by Myles (2010), the theories of second language acquisition date back to 1957 when Skinner (i.e., the representative of modern behaviorism) proposes stimulus-operant-response (S-O-R) theory emphasizing imitation and habit-formation, which is then intensely critiqued by Chomsky asserting that children are born with ability to acquire language and they can create new sentences besides imitation....

There is a variety of other kinds of evidence that has been offered to challenge the view that drive reduction is necessary for learning. Results on sensory-sensory conditioning have been interpreted as demonstrating learning without drive reduction.25 Olds has reported reinforcement by direct stimulation of the brain, from which he concludes that reward need not satisfy a physiological need or withdraw a drive stimulus.26 The phenomenon of imprinting, long observed by zoologists, is of particular interest in this connection. Some of the most complex patterns of behavior of birds, in particular, are directed towards objects and animals of the type to which they have been exposed at certain critical early periods of life.27 Imprinting is the most striking evidence for the innate disposition of the animal to learn in a certain direction and to react appropriately to patterns and objects of certain restricted types, often only long after the original learning has taken place. It is, consequently, unrewarded learning, though the resulting patterns of behavior may be refined through reinforcement. Acquisition of the typical songs of song birds is, in some cases, a type of imprinting. Thorpe reports studies that show “that some characteristics of the normal song have been learned in the earliest youth, before the bird itself is able to produce any kind of full song.”28 The phenomenon of imprinting has recently been investigated under laboratory conditions and controls with positive results.29

Is there a Critical Period for Language Learning

Through examining Genie’s diagnosed mental retardation and dichotic testing, we can draw conclusions from her physical abuse and social isolation as it pertains to language development during the critical period....

The Critical Period Hypothesis proposes that the human brain is only malleable, in terms of language, for a limited time.

In this area of study, Johnson and Newport (1989) is among the most prominent and leading studies which tries to seek evidence to test the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) in second language (L2) acquisition.

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The critical Period for language acquisition and ..


psychoflanguage - Critical Period Hypothesis

There is a debate over whether or not ID speech helps infants acquire language or is a hindrance in their language acquisition process Several experiments have been performed to test the effect of ID speech on infants’ language learning....

Lenneberg 1967 critical period hypothesis

If language acquisition does not occur by puberty, some aspects of language can be learnt but full mastery cannot be achieved.” Lenneberg also stressed that in the case of bilingual individuals, the critical period is broken into phases....

the existence of a critical phase for first language acquisition

In his initial discovery of the “critical period hypothesis,” Lenneberg stated: “there are maturational constraints on the time a first language can be acquired.

Critical Periods In Language Acquisition And Language Chevers

We are “incited and inclined” but not “compelled,” in Cartesian terminology. These are not matters restricted to language, by any means. The issue is put graphically by two leading neuroscientists who study voluntary motion, Emilio Bizzi and Robert Ajemian. Reviewing the current state of the art, they observe that we are beginning to understand something about the puppet and the strings, but the puppeteer remains a total mystery. Because of its centrality to our lives, and its critical role in constructing, expressing and interpreting thought, the normal use of language illustrates these mysterious capacities in a particularly dramatic and compelling way. That is why normal language use, for Descartes, was a primary distinction between humans and any animal or machine, and a basis for his mind-body dualism – which, contrary to what is often believed, was a legitimate and sensible scientific hypothesis in his day, with an interesting fate.

Free language acquisition Essays and Papers - 123HelpMe

As far as acquisition of language is concerned, it seems clear that reinforcement, casual observation, and natural inquisitiveness (coupled with a strong tendency to imitate) are important factors, as is the remarkable capacity of the child to generalize, hypothesize, and “process information” in a variety of very special and apparently highly complex ways which we cannot yet describe or begin to understand, and which may be largely innate, or may develop through some sort of learning or through maturation of the nervous system. The manner in which such factors operate and interact in language acquisition is completely unknown. It is clear that what is necessary in such a case is research, not dogmatic and perfectly arbitrary claims, based on analogies to that small part of the experimental literature in which one happens to be interested.

Free language acquisition papers, essays, and research papers.

Noam Chomsky: Not just me, by any means. Quite a few people. One of the real pioneers was the late Eric Lenneberg, a close friend from the early 1950s when these ideas were brewing. His book, Biological Foundations of Language, is an enduring classic.

Skinner’s Verbal Behavior Noam Chomsky In Leon A

What the Critical Period Hypothesis does tell us is that it’s unlikely we’ll ever speak a second language free from accents and the occasional grammatical slip-up. This should be of comfort to any student of a foreign language; it’s not realistic to try to speak perfect French, German, Italian, whatever. What matters is that your subject understands your message.

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