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9 Cards in this Set

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Lenneberg (1967)

Critical Period

suggested that language development involved a sensitive (or ‘critical’) period.

Claims based on studies of brain damage, feral children and second language learning.

During a sensitive period exposure to relevant stimuli is essential.




proposed that the human capacity for language was innate.


Behaviourist Approach

environmental principles

behaviour reinforcements

correct utterances are postively reinforced

three assumptions:

Syntax is too complex to be acquired from the input alone (poverty of the stimulus argument)

Children are not corrected on their grammatical errors (no-negative evidence problem)

The speed at which children acquire language is so fast that some elements of the system must be pre-given.


Generativist Proposal - Continuity View

Children have access to same mental representations of grammar from birth as adults - Innate Universal Grammar (UG) (contains all the grammatical info needed to combine categories into phrases)

However some continuity accounts involve an aspect of learning (e.g. of complementisers and relativisers).


Borer and Wexler (1987)

Maturational View - Subject-drop Parameter

not available until a particular point in development, and that before this point the input will have no effect on the acquisition of grammatical structure.

Radford (1990)

Maturational Approach - 3 Stages

takes a maturational approach and suggests that children go through three stages of development:

Pre-grammatical (any term used cannot be categorised as a noun/verb)

Lexical: increase in vocabulary size and emergence of word combinations

X + Complement – open door

Modifier + X – nice book

Functional stage: emergence of functional categories such as determiners, complementisers, and inflections.

Curtiss (1988)


Language processing and acquisition is uses different machinery from other aspects of cognition – language is encapsulated

Mervis (1999)

Williams Syndrome

Some researchers have suggested the individuals with Williams syndrome provide evidence for the encapsulation of language

impaired syntactic ability but spared vocabulary development and general cognition

However later research presented a more complicated set of features (e.g. Karmiloff-Smith, et al., 1998)

Akhtar (1999)

Verbs - limited creativity/conservative learners

Children begin as conservative learners using structures based closely on the input.

Display limited creativity of, for example verb use.

Use verbs in the way they are presented in the input up until around three years of age.

presented children with novel verbs: Ernie meeking the car Ernie the car meeking ‘What happened?’ Meeking Ernie the car

At 2;8 only 1 out of 12 children corrected the word order but at 4;4 8/12 children did.

Only by the age of three that children display more abstract knowledge of language.