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Language Acquisition

The Role of the Environment: Semantic - Cognitive Model


Lisa Bloom (1970) used two words to develop a new language acquisition theory: "Mommy, sock!" Through these two words the child was expressing two different meanings, possessive and regressive. Children develop syntax because they want to talk, not necessarily because they know grammar.

Fillmore (1986) came up with an observation of how children acquire sentence structuring. A child tends to learn the meaning and structure of a sentence before placing words in it. For example, providing a child with the sentence: A _____ ran away. Automatically the child would think of a noun to fit the sentence. This theory, known as case grammar, made linguistics study to change their thought on syntax and semantics.

A Swiss cognitive psychologist, Jean Piaget, became interested in the relationship between cognition and language. He sees language development as a stage secondary to cognitive learning and growth. After Piaget's theory was introduced, others such as Fillmore altered their thoughts. Through more observations, they came up with the semantic-cognitive theory of language acquisition. This theorizes that children must familiarize themselves with what they see and experience to attach meaning. After recognizing and associating objects, children are able to relate language with their experiences. As people acquire the ability to express things, they begin to use and experiment with language more.

Like the other theories, there are some critiques about this theory as well. First, it doesn't emphasize the role of input language. There is no definite role of teaching language through this theory. Piaget's theory doesn't consider the inability to develop language skills. Some children have plenty of experiences to talk about, however, they don't have the ability to express them.

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Page Last Updated on 11/3/04