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Understanding Child LanguageAcquisitionTaking an accessible and cross-linguistic approach, Understanding Child LanguageAcquisition introduces readers to the most important research on child language acquisitionover the last fifty years, as well as to some of the most influential theories in the field. Ratherthan just describing what children can do at different ages, Rowland explains why theseresearch findings are important and what they tell us about how children acquire language.Key features include: Cross-linguistic analysis of how language acquisition differs between languages A chapter on how multilingual children acquire several languages at once Exercises to test comprehension Chapters organised around key questions that discuss the critical issues posed byresearchers in the field, with summaries at the end Further reading suggestions to broaden understanding of the subjectWith its particular focus on outlining key similarities and differences across languagesand what this cross-linguistic variation means for our ideas about language acquisition,Understanding Child Language Acquisition forms a comprehensive introduction to thesubject for students of linguistics, psychology, and speech and language pathology.Students and instructors will benefit from the comprehensive companion website(www.routledge.com/cw/rowland) that includes a students’ section featuring interactivecomprehension exercises, extension activities, chapter recaps and answers to the exerciseswithin the book. Material for instructors includes sample essay questions, answers to theextension activities for students and PowerPoint slides including all the figures from thebook.Caroline Rowland is Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Liverpool.Her research focuses on how children acquire language, with a particular interest ingrammar and in assessing how the child’s environment promotes and shapes languagegrowth. She is a series editor for the Trends in Language Acquisition (TiLAR) book seriesand an associate editor for the Journal of Child Language.

Understanding Language seriesSeries editors:Bernard Comrie, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, GermanyGreville Corbett, Surrey Morphology Group, University of Surrey, UKThe Understanding Language series provides approachable, yet authoritative, introductionsto major topics in linguistics. Ideal for students with little or no prior knowledge of linguistics,each book carefully explains the basics, emphasising understanding of the essential notionsrather than arguing for a particular theoretical position.Other titles in the series:Understanding Language TestingDan DouglasUnderstanding Morphology, Second EditionMartin HaspelmathAndrea D. SimsUnderstanding PhoneticsPatricia AshbyUnderstanding Phonology, Third EditionCarlos GussenhovenHaike JacobsUnderstanding PragmaticsJef VerschuerenUnderstanding Second Language LearningLourdes OrtegaUnderstanding Syntax, Third EditionMaggie TallermanUnderstanding Semantics, Second EditionSebastian LöbnerFor more information on any of these titles, or to order, go to www.routledge.com/linguistics

UnderstandingChild LanguageAcquisitionCaroline RowlandRoutledge Taylor & Francis GroupL O N D O N A N D NEW YO RK

First published 2014by Routledge2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RNSimultaneously published in the USA and Canadaby Routledge711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business 2014 Caroline RowlandThe right of Caroline Rowland to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordancewith sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by anyelectronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying andrecording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used onlyfor identification and explanation without intent to infringe.British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British LibraryLibrary of Congress Cataloging in Publication DataRowland, Caroline, 1971Understanding child language acquisition / Caroline Rowland.pages cm. -- (Understanding Language Series)Includes bibliographical references and index.1. Language acquisition. 2. Language awareness in children. I. Title.P118.R69 2013401’.93--dc232013008620ISBN: 978-0-415-82713-3 (hbk)ISBN: 978-1-4441-5265-4 (pbk)ISBN: 978-0-203-77602-5 (ebk)Typeset in 11 on 12pt Minion by Phoenix Photosetting, Chatham, Kent

For George, Lauren and Amy

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ContentsList of figures and tablesAcknowledgementsPreface1 Introduction to language acquisition1.11.21.31.41.51.61.71.81.9The issueWhat is language?Humans and other animalsGetting the conditions rightChapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Useful websitesComprehension check2 The sounds of language2.12.22.32.42.52.62.72.8The issueSpeech perception: identifying the meaningful sounds of our languageHow do we learn to segment the speech stream?Speech production: learning to produce the meaningful sounds of ourlanguageChapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Comprehension check3 Learning the meaning of words3.13.23.33.43.53.63.73.83.93.10The issueConstraints theory part I: the role of innate constraintsConstraints theory part II: the developmental lexical principles frameworkOther routes to word learningThe role of syntax: the syntactic bootstrapping accountThe integration: the emergentist coalition model (ECM)Chapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Comprehension 9555860687377787879

Contentsviii4 Acquiring syntax4.14.24.34.44.54.64.74.8The issueNativist theories of syntax acquisitionConstructivist theories of syntactic developmentHow do children learn to constrain their productivity?Chapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Comprehension check5 Acquiring morphology5.15.25.35.45.55.65.75.85.95.105.11The issueWhat is inflectional morphology?How do children learn their language’s inflectional system?Nativist accounts I: maturational theoriesNativist accounts II: probabilistic parameter settingConstructivist theoriesHow do we store and produce inflections?Chapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Comprehension check6 Learning to communicate6.16.26.36.46.56.66.76.8The issueCommunication without wordsCommunicating with languageCommunicative impairmentsChapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Comprehension check7 Multilingual language acquisition7.17.27.37.47.57.67.77.8The issueOne system or two?Predictors of successful bilingualismEffect of bilingualism on cognitive developmentChapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Comprehension check8 Explaining individual variation8.1 The 189197200201201202203203

Contents8.28.38.48.58.68.78.88.9Individual variationExtraordinary language acquisitionThe relationship between language and cognitive impairmentChapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Useful websitesComprehension check9 The search for language universals9.19.29.39.49.59.69.79.89.9The issueLanguage variation and language universalsChomsky’s Universal GrammarThe nature of the language learning mechanismChapter summarySuggested readingSuggested reading (advanced level)Useful websitesComprehension 33233234245256257257258258260296

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Figures and .19.1Proposed relations between brain regions and symptoms of aphasiaThe difference between [ba] and [pa] is Voice Onset TimeBimodal vs. unimodal distributions of [da]–[ta] stimuli duringfamiliarisationCategorisation of some object placements in English and KoreanA simplified phrase structure tree for the sentence Colourlessgreen ideas sleep furiouslyRepresentation of the difference between a nominative–accusativeand an ergative–absolutive languageSchematic representation of constructivist-style learningA hypothetical U-shaped learning curveSchematic representation of the dual route modelThe basic structure of the single route modelDiagnostic criteria for autistic disorderEnglish vocabulary scores for monolingually developing childrentogether with (a) English and Spanish vocabulary scores for bilinguallydeveloping children and (b) total vocabulary scores (English Spanish)for bilingually developing children at 1;10, 2;1 and 2;6Victor’s portrait from the front cover of Itard (1802)The Nicaraguan Sign Language signs (a) ‘see’ and (b) ‘pay’ producedin a neutral direction and spatially modulated to the signer’s .13.14.15.17.1Hockett’s design features of languageStages of vocal sound acquisitionWords produced by Lara aged 1;1Examples of the three longest utterances produced bytwo-year-old English and Italian childrenErrors and correct sentences produced by Lara aged 2;5Types of language mixing5405181120178

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AcknowledgementsThe author and publishers would like to thank the following copyright holders forpermission to reproduce the following material:Figure 1.1, “Proposed relations between brain regions and symptoms of aphasia”.Reproduced from Figure 19.13, p. 506 of Chapter 18, ‘Memory’ in Kolb, B. & Whishaw,I. Q. (2003). Fundamentals of Human NeuroPsychology. New York: Worth Publishers.Figure 2.2, “Bimodal vs. unimodal distributions of [da]–[ta] stimuli duringfamiliarisation”. Reproduced from Figure 1, p. B104, Maye, J., Werker, J. F. & Gerken,L. (2002). Infant sensitivity to distributional information can affect phoneticperception. Cognition, 82, B101–B111.Figure 3.1, “Categorisation of some object placements in English and Korean”.Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press from Figure 16.1,p. 482, of Bowerman, M. & Choi, S. (2001). Shaping meanings for language: Universaland language-specific in the acquisition of semantic categories. In M. Bowerman &S. C. Levinson (Eds), Language acquisition and conceptual development. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.Figure 5.4,“The basic structure of the single route model”. Reprinted with permissionfrom Figure 1, p. 222, Rumelhart, D. E. & McClelland, J. L. (1986). On learning the pasttenses of English verbs. In J. L. McClelland, D. E. Rumelhart & the PDP ResearchGroup (Eds), Parallel Distributed Processing: Vol 2 (pp. 216–227). Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.Figure 6.1, “Diagnostic criteria for autistic disorder”. Reprinted with permissionfrom Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed, Text Revision)Copyright 2000. American Psychiatric Association.Figure 7.1, “English vocabulary scores for monolingually developing childrentogether with a) English and Spanish vocabulary scores for bilingually developingchildren and b) total vocabulary scores (English Spanish) for bilingually developingchildren at 1;10, 2;1 and 2;6”. Reproduced with permission from Figure 1 (p. 7) andFigure 2 (p. 8) in Hoff, E., Core, C., Place, S., Rumiche, R., Señor, M. & Parra, M. (2011).Dual language exposure and early bilingual development. Journal of Child Language,39(1), 1–27.

xivAcknowledgementsFigure 9.1, “The Nicaraguan Sign Language signs (a) ‘see’ and (b) ‘pay’ produced ina neutral direction and spatially modulated to the signer’s left”. Reproduced withpermission from Figure 1, p. 324, of Senghas, A. & Coppola, M. (2001). Childrencreating language: How Nicaraguan Sign Language acquired a spatial grammar.Psychological Sciences, 12(4), 323–328.While the publishers have made every effort to contact copyright holders of materialused in this volume, they would be grateful to hear from any that were unavailable.

PrefaceThe goal of this book is to introduce the reader to child language acquisition. Here,the reader will find a discussion of the most exciting findings to emerge over thelast 50 years or so, as well as some of the most influential theories of languageacquisition. Rather than just describing what children can do at different ages, theaim is to explain why the research findings are important and what they tell us abouthow children acquire language. There is a particular emphasis on outlining keysimilarities and differences across languages and what this cross-linguistic variationmeans for our ideas about language acquisition.The chapters are organised around key questions that summarise the critical issuesposed by researchers in the field. Each chapter begins with a section that explainswhat the issues are, followed by a discussion of the theories and research evidencerelevant to each key question. Each chapter closes with a summary that reviewsthe current ‘state of play’ in regard to each key question and makes suggestions forfurther reading.Readers will not need a background in linguistics or psychology or, indeed, anyprior knowledge of research in language acquisition. However, the book is alsosuitable as a first-base textbook for more advanced readers looking for a summaryof the debates and evidence in the field. For these readers, the textbook can be usedin conjunction with the discussion articles available online and the suggestions forfurther reading given at the end of each chapter.Online resources for teachers and students accompany this book on the companionwebsite, www.routledge.com/cw/rowland. These include PowerPoint slides of theillustrations, summaries of each chapter, a list of key articles together with questionsto stimulate discussion, practical exercises that provide the reader with first-handexperience of analysing data, and suggested essay titles. These activities can becompleted independently or used as discussion points for small group debates. Theycould also be used as the basis for verbal presentations if required.Many people have given up their time to help with the writing of this book.Grateful thanks are due to Anna Theakston, Ben Ambridge, Eileen Graf, Elena Lieven,Evan Kidd, Julian Pine, Ludovica Serratrice, Marilyn Vihman, Nameera Akhtar andTamar Keren-Portnoy who gave invaluable comments, corrected mistakes, suggestedadditional references and, generally, checked that I had not misinterpreted their workor that of their colleagues. Extremely grateful thanks go to the series editors, GrevilleCorbett and Bernard Comrie, as well as John Hadwin and Mildred Hadwin, who readand commented on every single chapter. This book would never have been writtenwithout the help of these lovely people.

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1Introduction to child language acquisition1.1 THE ISSUEIn the first volume of his autobiography, My Family and other Animals, thenaturalist Gerald Durrell tells of his idyllic childhood in Corfu and how it inspiredhis love of the natural world. In his book, Durrell applies his gentle, good-humouredobservational power to both the people of the island and its wildlife. The behaviourof the people around him is discussed in the same affectionate but dispassionateterms as the hunting behaviour of a spider or the maternal instincts of an earwig.The humour in the book comes, of course, from the incongruity of applying thesame narrative formula to humans and to other animals. The people of Corfu arevery different from its wildlife, not least because they are capable of reading, andpresumably protesting against, Durrell’s descriptions of them. In essence, humanshave language and other animals do not.Researchers have spent many years arguing about how to characterise thedifferences between human and animal communication. However, all agree thathuman language is more complex, more sophisticated and more powerful thanany other animal communication system. Not even dolphins or chimpanzees comeclose. Yet human children seem to acquire this system without any apparent effort.It has become a trite phrase, but it is no less true for that: human children acquirethe most complex communication system known to man before they learn to tietheir shoelaces.How do children do this? How do children acquire language? The short answeris we do not know. We are not even close to an answer. So the aim of this book isnot to answer this question for you but to try to convince you that the journey ofdiscovery itself is a fascinating one. Here you will find the big questions that intriguethose of us who listen to children talk and marvel at their achievements. We willcover as many of the great debates as we can. How do children learn to produce thesounds of their language? How do they learn to associate words with meanings? Howdo they acquire the rules of grammar? Why do children differ in the speed of theirlanguage acquisition? Is there a critical period for language acquisition? What innateknowledge do children bring to the task? How do children fare who acquire twolanguages at once? For each of the big questions we will discover the theories thathave been devised and we will debate the evidence that supports or discredits them.By the end of this book, you will not have an indisputable answer to the question

2Understanding Child Language Acquisitionof how children acquire language, I’m afraid. However, you should have a betterunderstanding of the possibilities and, hopefully, will have developed some theoriesand solutions of your own.1.2 WHAT IS LANGUAGE?The phrase ‘acquiring a language’ implies that language is a unitary thing. Theimplication is that we simply have to master one thing – language – and we aredone. However, this trivialises the task. In fact, language has many facets, so whenwe talk about acquiring a language we are actually talking about learning a wholerange of different skills and acquiring many different types of knowledge. Thus, inorder to understand what it means to ‘acquire a language’, the first key question wemust consider is this:Key question: what skills and knowledge do children have to master in order toacquire a language?The short answer is that a number of skills and abilities are required. First childrenhave to learn to distinguish speech sounds from other noises so that they knowwhich sounds to pay attention to. So they need to distinguish, for example, betweenhuman speech and birdsong and between human speech and other human soundssuch as whistling or humming. Then, once they have learnt to recognise thesespeech sounds, they have to learn to produce them by manipulating the passage ofair through their vocal tract and mouth using precise sequences of lips, tongue andvocal cord movements.That is just the start of the process though. Children then have to learn how tocombine speech sounds into meaningful words. This is trickier than you mightthink. When a child hears her mother cry look, rabbit! how does the child know whather mother is referring to? She may be referring to the animal she just saw scurryingby, but the word could equally as easily mean animal, mammal, grass, beautifulsunset or even dinner. So matching words to referents is not an easy matter andtakes children quite a while.However, even that is not the end of the process. Once children have discoveredthe meaning of words, they need to work out how words fit together into sentences.They have to learn that changes in meaning may be signalled by sequencing wordsin different ways: man bites dog is newsworthy, dog bites man is not. They have tolearn that adding certain endings to words changes their meaning in precise butsubtl

Understanding Child Language Acquisition Taking an accessible and cross-linguistic approach, Understanding Child Language Acquisition introduces readers to the most important research on child language acquisition over the last fifty years, as well as to some of the most influential theories in the field. Rather than just describing what children can do at different ages, Rowland explains .

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