THE CHILD AND THE WORLD: How Children acquire Language

Allott, Robin (2005) THE CHILD AND THE WORLD: How Children acquire Language. [Book Chapter]

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HOW CHILDREN ACQUIRE LANGUAGE Over the last few decades research into child language acquisition has been revolutionized by the use of ingenious new techniques which allow one to investigate what in fact infants (that is children not yet able to speak) can perceive when exposed to a stream of speech sound, the discriminations they can make between different speech sounds, differentspeech sound sequences and different words. However on the central features of the mystery, the extraordinarily rapid acquisition of lexicon and complex syntactic structures, little solid progress has been made. The questions being researched are how infants acquire and produce the speech sounds (phonemes) of the community language; how infants find words in the stream of speech; and how they link words to perceived objects or action, that is, discover meanings. In a recent general review in Nature of children's language acquisition, Patricia Kuhl also asked why we do not learn new languages as easily at 50 as at 5 and why computers have not cracked the human linguistic code. The motor theory of language function and origin makes possible a plausible account of child language acquisition generally from which answers can be derived also to these further questions. Why computers so far have been unable to 'crack' the language problem becomes apparent in the light of the motor theory account: computers can have no natural relation between words and their meanings; they have no conceptual store to which the network of words is linked nor do they have the innate aspects of language functioning - represented by function words; computers have no direct links between speech sounds and movement patterns and they do not have the instantly integrated neural patterning underlying thought - they necessarily operate serially and hierarchically. Adults find the acquisition of a new language much more difficult than children do because they are already neurally committed to the link between the words of their first language and the elements in their conceptual store. A second language being acquired by an adult is in direct competition for neural space with the network structures established for the first language.

Item Type:Book Chapter
Keywords:Motor theory, language acquisition, vision and thought, function words, sentence structure, articulatory gesture, Kant's categories
Subjects:Neuroscience > Neurolinguistics
Biology > Evolution
Linguistics > Comparative Linguistics
ID Code:4823
Deposited By:Allott, R M
Deposited On:08 Apr 2006
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:56

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