Language acquisition is one of the central topics in cognitive science. Every theory of cognition has tried to explain it; probably no other topic has aroused such controversy. Possessing a language is the quintessentially human trait: all normal humans speak, no non human animal does. Language is the main vehicle by which we know about other people's thoughts, and the two must be intimately related. Every time we speak we are revealing something about language, so the facts of language structure are easy to come by; these data hint at a system of extraordinary complexity. Nonetheless, learning a first language is something every child does successfully, in a matter of a few years and without the need for formal lessons. With language so close to the core of what it means to be human, it is not surprising that children's acquisition of language has received so much attention. Anyone with strong views about the human mind would like to show that children's first few steps are steps in the right direction.
Acquisition is the cognitive process of acquiring skill or knowledge. Whereas language acquisition is the process how language is acquired or learned. First language refers to the first language which is heard by infant. In this case, children try to express their mother tongue into ungrammatical rules because they still hear from people say and imitate them. First language acquisition is always collateral with second language acquisition. It means that first language acquisition study about mother tongue or native language whereas second language acquisition study about additional language. For example, people who born in Java. First language, Javanese, which they heard is first language and Indonesian as second language.
The stages of language acquisition
There are four stages, how infants develop their first language acquisition. First stage is word goo-goo- gaa-gaa. Those are the first languages which are expressed by baby. In this stage, baby try to express what they want but baby only can speak goo-goo-gaa-gaa to express anything. Whether baby is happy or hungry, baby always speak those words. The second stage appears when children begin to say simple word such as mama and water. In this stage, children have memorized some word in their mind. They also try to imitate what is other people around them say. Then they say in simple word to express something. Third stage, children try to the real communication. In this stage children start to say in a short sentence into ungrammatical such as “give milk” means that they want milk and daddy home means that their father has returned. Forth stage, children start to develop more and more complex word in a grammatical concept or rule. In the age four and five, they can indentify word whether its word plural or singular such as book and books. Actually in this stage, children still have some errors in grammatical rules but, it is not commonly taught in American schools until children are twelve or older.
Beginning of language development
· Has been scientifically proven that a baby Music can develop a baby’s brain.
· can recognise the mothers voice.
· Before the child is born it can recognize words.
Stage 1: Basic Biological Noise Stage (0-8 Weeks)
· Child expresses itself through crying.
· They show reflexive responses and not conscious responses.
· Child starts with vowel ‘A’ sounds.
· They learn to control their air stream mechanism.
Stage 2: Cooing & Laughing Stage (8-20 Weeks)
· Make different cooing noises – e.g. ‘coo’, ‘goo’ ‘ga-ga’
· Recognise parents faces and speech.
· Towards the end of the stage they begin to string cooing noises.
· They recognise language has a structure.
· Learn to express themselves through laughing and chuckling.
· Have control over their tongue.
Stage 3: Vocal Play (20-30 Weeks)
· Begin to use consonant and vowel sounds.
· Able to adjust pitch.
· playing and experimenting’
Stage 4: Babbling Stage (25-50 Weeks)
· 2 types of babbling sounds-
· Re-Duplicating- Repeat Sounds (E.G. Woof Woof)
· Varigated- use different sound patterns and put them together.
· The words have no meaning to the child as they think they are just making sounds.
Stage 5: Melodic Utterance Stage (10-13 Months)
· A variation in rhythm, melody and tone is shown
· The child begins to see some meaning to what they say.
· Proto words used- when the child doesn’t say words it recognizes but realizes that words are parts of a sound.
Age 12-18 Months
· Developments occur rapidly.
· Intonations used to show feelings and purpose.
· Children begin to develop at different levels.
· Single word utterances – concrete nouns
· Holophrastic phrases – couple of words put together which have no grammatical concept
· Child learns about 10-20 words each month.
· Over extension – when child uses one word to describe lots of things.
· no concept of differentiating
· e.g. 4 legged object = dog
· Under extension - have yet to acquire the knowledge that there are many numbers of the same thing in the world ( e.g. lots of cars in world)
· have yet to acquire the concept of concrete nouns.
· Mismatch – get the name of something wrong (e.g. car = doll)
· Begin to use modifiers so add extra words in front of another word (e.g. go sleep)
Age 18-24 Months
· Have a vocabulary of 200 words – shows how quickly they are learning.
· Pronunciation - some syllables dropped (e.g. tomato = mato)
· Consonant clusters avoided i.e. sky - guy
· Re-duplicate sounds- e.g. baby = baybay
· no consistency of speaking
Expressive Language Learning to Speak, and to Use Language
Newborn babies make sounds that let others know that they are experiencing pleasure or pain.
- 0-3 Months
Your baby smiles at you when you come into view. He or she repeats the same sound a lot and "coos and goos" when content. Cries "differentiate". That means, the baby uses a different cry for different situations. For example, one cry says "I'm hungry" and another says "I have a pain".
- 4-6 months
Gurgling sounds or "vocal play" occur while you are playing with your baby or when they are occupying themselves happily. Babbling really gets going in this age range, and your baby will sometimes sound as though he or she is "talking". This "speech-like" babbling includes many sounds including the bilabial (two lip) sounds "p", "b" and "m". The baby can tell you, using sounds or gestures that they want something, or want you to do something. They can make very "urgent" noises to prompt you into action.
- 7-12 months
The sound of your baby's babbling changes. This is because it now includes more consonants, as well as long and short vowels. He or she uses speech or other sounds (i.e., other than crying) in order to get your attention and hold on to it. And your baby's first words (probably not spoken very clearly) have appeared! ("MaMa", "Doggie", "Night Night", "Bye Bye")
- 1-2 years
Now your baby is accumulating more words as each month passes. he or she will even ask 2-word questions like "Where ball?" "What's that?" "More chippies?" "What that?", and combine two words in other ways to make the Stage 1 Sentence Types ("Birdie go", "No doggie", "More push"). Words are becoming clearer as more initial consonants are used in words.
- 2-3 years
Your two or three year old's vocabulary is exploding! He or she seems to have a word for almost everything. Utterances are usually one, two or three words long and family members can usually understand them. Your toddler may ask for, or draw your attention to something by naming it ("Elephant") or one of its attributes ("Big!") or by commenting ("Wow!").
- 3-4 years
Sentences are becoming longer as your child can combine four or more words. They talk about things that have happened away from home, and are interested in talking about pre-school, friends, outings and interesting experiences. Speech is usually fluent and clear and "other people" can understand what your child is saying most of the time. If stuttering occurs, see a speech-language pathologist. Stuttering is not a normal part of learning to talk, and neither is persistent hoarseness.
- 4-5 years
Your child speaks clearly and fluently in an easy-to-listen-to voice. He or she can construct long and detailed sentences ("We went to the zoo but we had to come home early because Josie wasn't feeling well"). He or she can tell a long and involved story sticking to the topic, and using "adult-like" grammar. Most sounds are pronounced correctly, though he or she may be lisping as a four year old, or, at five, still have difficulty with "r", "v" and "th". Your child can communicate easily with familiar adults and with other children. They may tell fantastic "tall stories" and engage strangers in conversation when you are out together.
Theories of Language Acquisition
Over the last fifty years, several theories have been put forward to explain the process by which children learn to understand and speak a language. They can be summarized as follows:
Individual most often
associated with theory
Children imitate adults. Their correct utterances are reinforced when they get what they want or are praised.
A child's brain contains special language-learning mechanisms at birth.
Language is just one aspect of a child's overall intellectual development.
This theory emphasizes the interaction between children and their care-givers.
The behaviorist psychologists developed their theories while carrying out a series of experiments on animals. For example rats or birds, they could be taught to perform various tasks by encouraging habit-forming. It also will happen to the children or infant, if they do some activities continuosly and they get motivation to do that, it can form their habit. Moreover, by looking at the adults behavior the children can imitate adults behavior, because they have ability to remember and imitate what they looking at.
Then the behaviorist B. F. Skinner proposed this theory as an explanation for language acquisition in humans. In Verbal Behavior (1957), he stated:
"The basic processes and relations which give verbal behavior its special characteristics are now fairly well understood. Much of the experimental work responsible for this advance has been carried out on other species, but the results have proved to be surprisingly free of species restrictions. Recent work has shown that the methods can be extended to human behavior without serious modifications." (Cited in Lowe and Graham, 1998, p68)
Skinner suggested that a child imitates the language of its parents or carers. Successful attempts are rewarded because an adult who recognizes a word spoken by a child will praise the child and/or give it what it is asking for. Successful utterances are therefore reinforced while unsuccessful ones are forgotten.
Limitations of Behaviourism
Beside there some truth in Skinner's explanation, but there are many objections to it, such as:
· Language is based on a set of structures or rules.
· The vast majority of children go through the same stages of language acquisition.
· Children are often unable to repeat what an adult says
· Few children receive much explicit grammatical correction.
Noam Chomsky published a criticism of the behaviourist theory in 1957. In addition to some of the arguments listed above, he focused particularly on the impoverished language input children receive. Adults do not typically speak in grammatically complete sentences. In addition, what the child hears is only a small sample of language.
Chomsky concluded that children must have an inborn faculty for language acquisition. According to this theory, the process is biologically determined - the human species has evolved a brain whose neural circuits contain linguistic information at birth. The child's natural predisposition to learn language is triggered by hearing speech and the child's brain is able to interpret what s/he hears according to the underlying principles or structures it already contains. This natural faculty has become known as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). This ability enable the human to learn any language in this world.
For example, the LAD already contains the concept of verb tense. By listening to such forms as "worked", "played" and "patted", the child will form the hypothesis that the past tense of verbs is formed by adding the sound /d/, /t/ or /id/ to the base form. This, in turn, will lead to the "virtuous errors" mentioned above. It hardly needs saying that the process is unconscious.
3. The Cognitive Theory
The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget placed acquisition of language in the context of a child's mental or cognitive development. He argued that a child has to understand a concept before she/he can acquire the particular language form which expresses that concept.
A good example of this is seriation. There will be a point in a child's intellectual development when s/he can compare objects with respect to size. This means that if you gave the child a number of sticks, s/he could arrange them in order of size. Piaget suggested that a child who had not yet reached this stage would not be able to learn and use comparative adjectives like "bigger" or "smaller".
Object permanence is another phenomenon often cited in relation to the cognitive theory. During the first year of life, children seem unaware of the existence of objects they cannot see. An object which moves out of sight ceases to exist. By the time they reach the age of 18 months, children have realized that objects have an existence independently of their perception. The cognitive theory draws attention to the large increase in children's vocabulary at around this age, suggesting a link between object permanence and the learning of labels for objects.
4. Input or Interactionist Theories
In contrast to the work of Chomsky, more recent theorists have stressed the importance of the language input children receive from their care-givers. Language exists for the purpose of communication and can only be learned in the context of interaction with people who want to communicate. Interactionists such as Jerome Bruner suggest that the language behavior of adults when talking to children (known by several names by most easily referred to as child-directed speech or CDS) is specially adapted to support the acquisition process. This support is often described to as scaffolding for the child's language learning. Bruner also coined the term Language Acquisition Support System or LASS in response to Chomsky's LAD. Colwyn Trevarthen studied the interaction between parents and babies who were too young to speak. He concluded that the turn-taking structure of conversation is developed through games and non-verbal communication long before actual words are uttered.
Scaffolding Theory was first introduced in the late 1950s by Jerome Bruner, a cognitive psychologist. He used the term to describe young children's oral language acquisition. Helped by their parents when they first start learning to speak, young children are provided with instinctive structures to learn a language, for example are bed-time stories and read aloud. Scaffolding represents the helpful interactions between adult and child that enable the child to do something beyond his or her independent efforts. The construction of a scaffold occurs at a time where the child may not be able to articulate or explore learning independently. The scaffolds provided by the tutor do not change the nature or difficulty level of the task; instead, the scaffolds provided allow the student to successfully complete the task.
The functions of children’ language
There are some of the functions of children’ language, namely:
1. Instrumental function
Child uses language to express needs and get what they want.
E.g. want drink
2. Regulatory function
In this function that language is used to tell others what to do and child realizes language is a useful tool as by using language they can get what they want.
E.g. go away
3. Interactional function
Language which is used to communicate with other people and make a relationship.
E.g. love you, daddy, thank you.
4. Personal function
- When the child used language to express feelings and opinions
- Realise language is more than demanding and get praised for using language.
E.g. me good girl,
Those functions help the child to satisfy its physical, emotional and social needs.
5. Heuristic funtion
Language is used to get info about the environment or world. Child uses language to ask questions about everything and he/she is always seeking an answer.
E.g. what that tractor doing?
6. Imaginative function
- Language is used to tell stories and to create an imaginary situation.
- Child is able to recognize an object can be called many things.
E.g. creating an imaginary friend.
These functions help the child come to make interaction with the environment around them.
7. Informative function
- Child begins to use language to talk about kinds of new things.
- They learn to represent themselves using language.
E.g. telling a story about what happened to them.
This function is representational stage where the child uses language to convey facts and information.
Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive, produce and use words to understand and communicate. First language acquisition is the ability of human to acquire their mother tongue from their early age. There are four theories to describe the process of children in understanding and practicing their first language, behaviorist/imitation, innateness, cognitive, interaction.
The significance of first language acquisition for children are to express needs and get what they want, used to tell others what to do, and tell stories and to create an imaginary situation.