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Language acquisition Essay

Psychological principles of SLA form the foundation stones for building a comprehensible understanding of the acquisition of the linguistic system. The studies was centered on the contrasts between the native lang and the target lang (contrastive analysis) and the effect of the native on the target lang (cross linguistic influence). 1-The contrastive analysis Hypothesis It’s the study of two languages in contrast.

Based on the behavioristic and structuralism approaches, it claimed that the principal barrier to SLA is the interference of the FL system with the SL system, and that a scientific, structural analysis of both lang in question would shield a taxonomy of linguistic contrasts between them which in turn would enable the linguist to predict the difficulties a learner could encounter. This would enable the linguist to accurately describe the two langs in question, and to match those two descriptions against each other to determine valid contrasts between them.

Behaviorism contributed to the notion that human behavior is the sum of its smallest parts and components, and therefore that lang learning could be described as the acquisitions of all of those discrete units. Moreover, human learning theories highlighted interfering elements of learning, concluding that where no interference could be predicted, no difficulty would be experienced since one could transfer positively all other items in a lang. (SL basically involved the overcoming of the differences between the two lang systems-the native and target langs) Some rather strong claims were made of the CAH by lang teaching experts and linguists.

A well-known model was offered by stock-well, Bowen and martin who posited what they called a hierarchy of difficulty by which a teacher could make a prediction of the relative difficulty of a given aspect of the target lang. They suggested eight possible phonological degrees of difficulty and they also constructed a hierarchy of difficulty for grammatical structures which included 16 levels of difficulty. Clifford Prator captured the essence of this grammatical hierarchy in six categories of difficulty which was applicable to both grammatical and phonological features of lang. * Level 0: Transfer.

No difference or contrast is present between the 2 langs. The learner can simply transfer positively a sound, structure, or lexical item from the native lang to the target lang. EG: mortal, inteligente, arte, Americanos, etc. *Level 1-coalescence. Two items in the native lang become coalesce into one item in the target one. This requires the learner overlook a distinction they have grown accustomed to. EG: English 3rd person possessives require gender distinction while in Spanish they don’t. *Level 2-underdifferenciation: an item in the native lang is absent in the target lang.

The learner must avoid it. EG: auxiliaries: DO. *Level 3-Reinterpretation: an item that exists in the native lang is given a new shape or distribution. *Level 4-Overdifferentiation: a new item entirely must be learned. English speakers learning Spanish must learn to include determiners in generalized nominal. (Man is mortal/El hombre es mortal); to learn Spanish grammatical gender inherent in nouns. *Level 5-Split:one item in the native lang becomes two or more in the target lang, requiring the learner to make a new distinction.

E. g. an English speaker learning Spanish must learn the distinction between “Ser” o “estar” (TO BE). Prator and Stockwell both claimed that their hierarchy could be applied to virtually any two langs and make it possible to predict SL learner difficulties in any lang with a fair degree of certainty and objectivity. 2-From the CAH to CLI However, The CAH was not accepted for various reasons. First, it was oversimplified because it didn’t account for subtle phonetic, phonological and grammatical distinctions.

Secondly, it was difficult to determine exactly which category a particular contrast fit into. That’s why Ronald Wardhaugh called the attempt to predict difficulty by means of contrastive analysis, the Strong version of the CAH due to the fact that it was quite unrealistic and impracticable and also it was built on sound theory to contrast the forms of langs. Nevertheless, he also noted that CA had intuitive appeal, and that teachers and linguists had successfully used the best linguistic knowledge available in order to account for observed difficulties in SL learning.

He termed such observational use of CA the WEAK version of the CAH which recognizes the significance of interference across langs, the fact that such interference does exist and can explain difficulties and also recognizes that linguistic difficulties can be more profitably explained after the fact. This WEAK version is what now is called CROSS LINGUISTIC INFLUENCE. (implies much more than simply the effect of one’s first lang on a second: the second lang also influences the first).

3-Markedness and universal grammar Fred Eckman proposed a useful method for determining directionality of difficulty. His markedness Differential hypothesis accounted for relative degrees of difficulties by means of principles of universal grammar. It distinguishes members of pair of related forms or structures by assuming that the marked member of a pair contains at least one more feature than the unmarked one. E. g. indefinite articles (a/an), an is the more complex or marked form (it has an additional sound) and a is the unmarked form with the wider distribution.

Eckman showed that marked items in a lang, which are acquired later, will be more difficult to acquire than unmarked In recent years, the attention of some SL researchers has expanded beyond markedness hypothesis alone to broader framework of linguistic universals in gral, some of which focus on the applicability of notions of UG to SLA. Many rules acquired by children learning their FL are presumed to be universal. By extension, rules that are share by all langs comprise this UG. Such rules are a set of limitations or parameters of lang.

Different langs set their parameters differently, thereby creating the characteristic grammar for that lang. The hope is that by discovering innate principles that govern what is possible in human langs, we may be better able to understand and describe contrasts between native and target langs and the difficulties encountered by adult SL learners. However, we do well to remember that describing and predicting difficulties amidst all the variables of human learning is still an elusive process. 4-Learner Language.

The CAH, as we said before, ignores the intralingual effects of learning and other factors. This is the reason why researchers and teachers have come more and more to understand that SL learning is a process of the creative construction of a system in which learners are consciously testing hypothesis about the target lang from a number of possible sources of knowledge. They, in acting upon their environment, construct what to them is a legitimate system of lang on its own right-a structured set of rules that for the time being bring some order to the linguistic chaos that confronts them.

By a gradual process of trial and error and hypothesis testing, learners slowly and tediously succeed in establishing closer and closer approximations to the system used by native speakers of the lang. A number of terms were coined to describe this process: Selinker: interlanguage: refers to the separateness of a SL learner’s system, a system that has a structurally intermediate status between the native and the target langs; Nemser-Approximate system; Corder-Idiosyncratic dialect: refers to the idea that the learner’s lang is unique to a particular individual, that the rules of his lang are particular to the lang of that individual alone.

But we can highlight the importance that SL learners form their own self-contained linguistic systems. The most obvious approach to analyzing interlanguage is to study the speech and writing of learners or also called Learner Language. Production data is publicly observable and is presumably reflective of a learner’s underlying competence. Comprehension of a SL is more difficult to study since it is not directly observable and must be inferred from overt verbal and non-verbal responses, by artificial instruments, or by intuition of the teacher or researcher.

It follows that the study of the speech and writing of learners is largely the study of errors of learners which is known as ERROR ANALYSIS. 5-Error analysis Human learning is fundamentally a process that involves the making of mistakes, by using mistakes to obtain feedback from the environment, and with that feedback to make new attempts that successively approximate desired goals. Lang learning, is in this sense, like any other human learning.

Many of these mistakes are logical in the limited linguistic system within which children operate, but, by carefully processing feedback from others, children slowly but surely learn to produce what is acceptable speech in their native lang. SL learning is a process that is clearly not unlike FL learning in its trial-error nature. Inevitably learners will make mistakes in the process of acquisition, and that process will be impeded if they don’t commit errors and then benefit from various forms of feedback on those errors.

6-Mistakes and Errors. A mistake refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or a slip, in that it’s a failure to utilize a known system correctly. All people make mistakes, in both native and Slang situations. Native speakers are normally capable of recognizing and correcting such lapses or mistakes. (hesitations, slip of the tongue). So mistakes can be self-corrected. An error, a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker, reflects the competence of the learner. An error cannot be self-corrected.

However, the learner’s capacity for self-correction is objectively observable only if the learner actually self-corrects, therefore, if no such self-correction occurs, we are still left with no means to identify error vs mistake. 7-Identifying and describing errors The first step in the process of analysis is the identification and description of errors. Corder provided a model, and according to it, any sentence uttered by the learner and subsequently transcribed can be analyzed for idiosyncrasies. A major distinction is made at the outset between Overt(sentence level) and Covert (discourse level) errors.

Overtly erroneous utterances are unquestionably ungrammatical at the sentence level. E. g. “Does john can sing? ” Covertly erroneous utterances are grammatically well-formed at the sentence level but aren’t interpretable within the context of communication. E. g. “I’m fine, thanks. ” Is grammatically correct at the sentence level, but as a response to “Who are you? ” it is obviously an error. A number of different categories for description of errors have been identified in research on learner lang.

1-errors of addition, omission, substitution, and ordering: eg: in English a do auxiliary might be added (Does john can sing? ), an item substituted (I lost my road). 2-levels of lang: phonology or orthography, lexicon, grammar, and discourse. It’s difficult to distinguish different levels of errors because a word with a faulty pronunciation might hide a syntactic or lexical error. 3-errors may also be viewed as Global or local. The global ones hinder communication: they prevent the hearer from comprehending some aspect of the message.

Local errors don’t prevent the message from being heard, usually because there is always a minor violation of one segment of the sentence, allowing the hearer/reader to make an accurate guess about the intended message. (a scissors). 4-Lennon suggests that two related dimensions of errors, domain and extent, should be considered in any error analysis. Domain is the rank of linguistic unit that must be taken as context in order for that error to become apparent, and extent is the rank of linguistic unit that would have to be deleted, replaced, supplied, or reordered in order to repair the sentence.

(a scissors: the domain is the phrase and the extent is the definite article) 8-Sources of errors It has been identified 4 sources of errors. 1-interlingual transfer: The beginning stages of learning a SL are especially vulnerable to interlingual transfer from native lang or interference. We have all heard English learners say “the book of Jack” instead of “Jack’s book”. These errors are attributable of interlingual transfer because before the system of the SL is familiar, the native lang is the only previous linguistic system upon which the learner can draw.

2-intralingual Transfer: (within the target lang itself) is a major factor in SL learning. As I say before, the early stages of lang learning are characterized by a predominance of interference (interlingual transfer), but once learners have begun to acquired parts of the new system, more and more intralingual transfer(generalizations within the target lang) is manifested. As learners progress in the SL, their previous experience and their existing subsumers begin to include structures within the target lang itself. (eg: the omission of THE: before unique nouns: the sun-sun)

3-Context of learning: context refers, E.g. to the classroom with its teacher and its materials in the case of school learning or the social situation in the case of untutored SL learning. In a classroom context the teacher or the textbook can lead the learner to make faulty hypothesis about the lang. (Richards: false concepts; Stenson: induced errors). Sts often make errors because of a misleading explanation, faulty presentation of a structure, word in a textbook, or even because of a pattern that was rotely memorized in a drill but improperly contextualized.

4-communication strategies: learners obviously use production strategies in order to enhance getting their message across, but at times these techniques can themselves become a source of error. (word coinage: creating a non-existing SL word based on a supposed rule e. g. vegetarianist-vegetarian; circumlocution: describe or exemplify the target object of action: the thing you use to write on the board: chalk; prefabricated patterns: use memorized stock phrases, usually for survival purposes) 9-Stages of learners lang development.

There are many different ways to describe the progression of a learner’s linguistic development as their attempts at production successively approximate the target linguistic system. Based on observations of what the learner does in terms of errors alone, we can say that there 4 stages: 1-random errors: (corder: presystematic) the learner is only vaguely aware that there is some systematic order to a particular class of items. Inconstancies like “She cans sing”, and “she can singing”, all said by the same learner within a short period of time, might indicate a stage of experimentation and inaccurate guessing.

2-Emergent: the learner has begun to discern a system and to internalize certain rules. These rules may not be correct by target lang standards, but they are nevertheless legitimate in the mind of the learner. In gral, the learner is still unable to correct errors when they are pointed out by someone else. (Avoidance of structures and topic are typical) 3-Systematic: the learner is now able to manifest more consistency in producing the SL. While those rules that are sorted out in the learner’s brain are still not well-formed, they are more internally self-consistent and, they more closely approximate the target lang system.

The learner can correct some errors when they are correct by someone else. 4-stabilization: the learner has relatively few errors and has mastered the system to the point that fluency and intended meanings are not problematic. (The learner’s ability to self-correct). At this point learners can stabilize too fast, allowing minor errors to slip by undetected, and thus, manifest fossilization. All the stages, however, don’t describe the learner’s total SL system because they do no account for sociolinguistic, functional, pragmatic or nonverbal strategies of which are important in assessing the total competence of the SL learner.

10-Fossilization It refers to the relatively permanent incorporation of incorrect linguistic forms into a person’s SL competence. It’s a normal and natural stage for many learners, and should not be viewed as some sort of terminal illness, in spite of the forbidding metaphor that suggests and unchangeable situation etched in stone. How do items become fossilized? It could be the result of the presence or absence of internal motivation factors, of seeking interaction with other people, of consciously focusing on forms, and of one’s strategic investment in the learning process.

By using conditioning, reinforcement, need, motivation, self-determination, and others. It takes place by means of the same process as the internalization of correct forms. The latter is referred as learning, but the same elements of input, interaction, and feedback are present. When incorrect forms are produced, feedback that says “I understand you” reinforces those forms. 11-Form-focused instruction. It refers to put emphasis on lang forms and also to any pedagogical effort which is used to draw the learner’s attention to lang from either implicitly or explicitly (Spada). It has been used for many decades.

But its practices (grammatical explanations, rote practice, etc) is clearly nor justified. ministerio. [email protected] com. ar Telefono: (0362) 423637 directo – 453017/16 – 448014 – 53001/02 / Fax: 423637 – 448014 Error treatment and focus on lang forms appear to be more effective when incorporated into a communicative, learner-centered curriculum, and least effective when error correction is a dominant pedagogical feature, occupying the focal attention of sts in the classroom. Another important issue is whether the teacher should interrupt a student in the middle of an attempt to communicate.

The answer is no because it should be after the sts finishes with the e? intended message. 12-Error treatment One of the major issues involved in carrying out FFI is the manner in which teachers deal with sts errors. Should errors be treated? Vigil and Oller proposed a model called The feedback model. The green light of the affective feedback mode allows the sender to continue attempting to get a message across; a red light causes the sender to abort such attempts. The traffic signal of cognitive feedback is the point at which error correction enters.

A green light symbolizes non-corrective feedback that says I understand your message. A red one symbolizes corrective feedback that takes on a myriad of possible forms and causes the learner to make some kind of alteration in production. A yellow one could represent those various shades of colour that are interpreted by the learner as falling somewhere in between the green and the red lights, causing the learner to adjust, to alter, to recycle, to try again in some way. The most useful implication of this model for a theory of error treatment is that cognitive feedback must be optimal in order to be effective.

Too much negative cognitive feedback- a barrage of interruptions, corrections, and overt attention to malformations- often leads learners to shut off their attempts at communication. They perceive that so much is wrong with their production that there is little hope to get anything right. On the other hand, too much positive cognitive feedback,- willingness of the teacher-hearer to let errors go uncorrected, to indicate understanding when it may not have occurred-serves to reinforce the errors of the speaker-learner.

The result is the persistence, and perhaps the eventual fossilization of such errors. The task of the teacher is to discern the optimal tension between positive and negative cognitive feedback: providing enough green lights to encouraged continued communication, but not so many that crucial errors go unnoticed, and providing enough red lights to call attention to those crucial errors, but not so many that the learner is discouraged from attempting to speak at all. Set II: Communicative Competence

The term was coined by Dell Hymes who was convinced that Chomsky’s notions of competence were too limited. Chomsky’s rule-governed creativity that so aptly described a child’s mushrooming grammar at the age of 3 or 4 didn’t account for the social and functional rules of lang. So he referred to communicative competence as that aspect of our competence that enables us to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific contexts.

Savington noted that communicative competence is relative, not absolute, and depends on the cooperation of all participants involved. It’s a dynamic, interpersonal construct that ca be examine only by means of the overt performance of 2 or more individuals in the process of communication. In the 70s, research on CC distinguished between linguistic and communicative competence to highlight the difference between knowledge about lang forms and knowledge that enables a person to communicate functionally and interactively.

James Cummins proposed a distinction between Cognitive/Academic lang proficiency (the dimension of proficiency in which the earner manipulates or reflects upon the surface features of lang outside of the immediate interpersonal context, it is what learners often use in classroom exercises and tests and that focus on forms) and Basic Interpersonal communication skills (is the communicative capacity that all children acquire in order to be able to function in daily interpersonal exchanges.

Later he modified his notions I the form of context-reduced and context-embedded communication considering the context in which lang is used. A good share of classroom, school-oriented lang is context-reduced, while face-to-face communication with people is context-embedded. In Canale and Swain’s definition, 4 different components make up the construct of CC.

The first 2 reflect the use of the linguistic system itself and the last 2 define the functional aspects of communication: A-Grammatical competence: is that aspect of CC that encompasses knowledge of lexical items and of rules of morphology, syntax, sentence grammar semantics, and phonology. (the mastery of the linguistic code of a lang). B-discourse competence: the ability we have to connect sentences in stretches of discourse and to form a meaningful whole out of a series of utterances.

(from simple spoken conversation to lengthy written texts, it has to do with the inter-sentential relationships) C-Strategic competence: the verbal and non-verbal communication strategies that may be called into action to compensate from breakdowns in communication due to performance variables or due to insufficient knowledge (Canale); the strategies that one uses to compensate for imperfect knowledge of rules (Savington); It’s the competence underlying our ability to make repairs, to cope with imperfect knowledge, and to sustain communication through paraphrase, circumlocution, repetition, hesitation, avoidance, and guessing.

However, this model has undergone some other modifications over the years. Backman places grammatical and discourse (textual) comp under one code, which he called organizational competence: all those rules and systems that dictate what we can do with the forms of lang: whether they may be sentence level rules (grammar) or rules that govern how we string sentences together (discourse).

The sociolinguistic competence is now broken down into two separate pragmatic categories: functional aspects of lang (Illocutionary comp, or, pertaining to sending and receiving intended meanings) and sociolinguistic aspects (which deal with such considerations and politeness, formality, metaphor, register, and culturally related aspects of lang). 1-Language Functions They are essentially the purposes that we accomplish with lang, e. g. , stating, requesting, responding, greeting, etc.

They can’t be accomplish without the forms of lang (words, morphemes, grammar rules) because they are the outward manifestation of lang while functions are the realization of those forms. Communication may be regarded as a combination of acts, a series of elements with purpose and intend, it’s functional, purposive, and designed to bring about some effect on the environment of the hearers and speakers. It’s a series of acts or speech acts which are used systematically to accomplish particular purposes. (consequences=perlocutionary force: the effect that utterances achieve).

The functional approach to describing lang is one that has its roots in the traditions of British linguist Firth, who viewed lang as interactive and interpersonal, a way of behaving and making others behave. Michael Halliday used the term to mean the purposive nature of communication and outlined 7 different functions: A-The instrumental function serves to manipulate the environment, to cause certain events to happen (This court finds you guilty, danger: they are communicative acts that have a specific perlocutionary force, they bring about a particular condition. B-The regulatory one is the control of events, e. g.

approval, disapproval, behavior control, setting laws and rules. C- The representational is the use of lang to make statements, convey facts and knowledge, explain and report; to represent reality as one sees it (The sun is hot). D-The interactional serves to ensure social maintenance (Phatic communion-Malinowsky- refers to the communicative contact between and among human beings that simply allows them to establish social contact and to keep channels of communication open and this requires knowledge of slang, jargon, jokes, folklore, cultural mores, politeness, and formality expectations, and other keys to social exchange.

E-The personal allows a speaker to express feelings, emotions, personality. A person’s individuality is usually characterized by his/her use of `personal function of communication. F-The heuristic involves lang used to acquire knowledge, to learn about the environment which are often conveyed in the form of questions, that will lead to answer. (Children’s why questions) G-The imaginative serves to create imaginary systems or ideas (Telling fairy tales, joking, or writing a novel). Through this we are free to go beyond the real world to soar to the heights of the beauty of lang itself, and through that lang to create

impossible dreams if we so desire. 2-Functional syllabuses The functional part of the notional-functional syllabus corresponded to lang functions. Curricula were organized around such function as identifying, reporting, denying, declining an invitation, asking permission, apologizing, etc. 3-Discourse analysis It is the relationship between forms and functions of lang which encompasses the notion that lang is more than a sentence level phenomenon because we string many sentences together in interrelated, cohesive units.

In most oral lang, our discourse is marked by exchanges with another person or several persons in which a few sentences spoken by one participant are followed and built upon by sentences spoken by another. Both the production and comprehension of lang are a factor of our ability to perceive and process stretches of discourse, to formulate representations of meaning not just from a single sentence but from referents in both previous sentences and following sentences. Without the pragmatic contexts of discourse, our communication would be extraordinarily ambiguous. 4-Conversation Analysis.

Conversations are excellent examples of the interactive and interpersonal nature of communication. They are cooperative ventures. What are the rules of our conversations? How do we get someone’s attention?. Very early in life children learn the first and essential rule of conversation: attention getting. If you wish linguistic production to be functional and to accomplish its intended purpose, you must of course have the attention of your audience. The attention getting conversations within each lang-both verbal and nonverbal- need to be carefully assimilated by learners.

Once learners have secured the hearer’s attention, their task becomes one of topic nomination. Rules for nominating topics in conversations which involve both verbal and non-verbal cues, are highly contextually constrained. Once the topic is nominated, participants then embark on topic development, using conventions of turn-taking to accomplish various functions of lang. Aside from turn-taking itself, topic development, or maintenance of a conversation, involves clarification, shifting, avoidance, and interruption.

Topic termination is an art that even native speakers of a lang have difficulty in mastering at times. 5-Pragmatics It constraints on lang comprehension and production may be loosely thought of as the effect of context on string of linguistic events. 6-Lang and GenderThe effect of one’s sex on both production and reception of lang is one of the major factors affecting the acquisition of communicative competence in virtually every lang. Among American English speakers, girls have been found to produce more standards lang than boys, a pattern that continue through adulthood.

Tanner and others have found that males place more value, in a conversational interaction, on status and report talk, competing for the floor, while females value connections and rapport, fulfilling their role as more cooperative and facilitative conversationalists, concerned for their partner’s positive face needs. 7-Styles and Register Another important issue is the way we use lang in different styles depending on the context of a communicative act in terms of subject matter, audience, occasion, shared experience, and purpose of communication.

A style is a variety of lang used for a specific purpose. When you converse informally with a friend, you use a different style than you use in an interview for a job with a prospective employer. Native speakers, as they mature into adulthood, learn to adopt appropriate styles for widely different contexts. Adult 2nd lang learners must acquire this styles in order to be able to encode and decode the discourse around them correctly.

Martin Joos provided one of the most common classifications of speech styles using criterion of formality: there are five levels: 1-An oratorical style is used in public speaking before a large audience; it is planned in advance intonation is somewhat exaggerated and numerous rhetorical devices are appropriate. 2-A deliberative style is also used in addressing audiences to permit effective interchange between speaker and hearers, however, it is not as polished as the previous style: a typical university classroom. 3-A consultative style is typically a dialogue, through formal enough that words are chosen with some care.

E. g. business transactions, doctor patient’s conversations. 4-Casual conversations are between friends or colleagues or sometimes members of family. Words don’t need to be guarded and social barriers are moderately low. 5-an intimate style is one characterized by complete absence of social inhibitions. Talk with family, loved ones, and very close friends. Styles are manifested in both verbal and nonverbal(how you say sth) features. Difference in styles can be conveyed in body lang, gestures, eye contact and they are very difficult aspects of lang for the learners to acquire.

A-Body lang or kinesics: all cultures throughout the history of humankind have relied on kinesics for conveying important messages. However, there is a tremendous variation cross-culturally and cross-linguistically in the specific interpretation of gestures because sometimes a gesture that is appropriate in one culture is obscene or insulting in another. Nodding the head, for example means “yes” among most European lang speakers. But among japan, “Yes” is expressed by bringing the arms to the chest and waving them.

B- Eye contact: the gestures of our eyes are in some instances keys to communication. Eyes can signal interest, boredom, empathy, hostility, attraction, understanding, misunderstandings and other messages. C-proxemics: physical proximity is a meaningful communicative category. Cultures vary widely in acceptable distances for conversation. Sometimes objects- desk, other furniture- serve to maintain certain physical proximity and tend to establish both the overall register and relationship between participants.

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