Child Language, Fall 1999

Reading Questions


Chapter 5
Explaining the development of communicative competence

(NOTE: P.133, last paragraph, "Chapter 7"= chapter 1)(p.185 --good summary of chapter)

  1. What are nature and nurture?
Part 1 Components of explanations


  1. What does the behaviorist position say about knowledge of language?
  2. What does the Piagetian approach say about a special mechanism for language acquisition?
  3. What does the Chomskyan approach say about a special mechanism for language acquisition?
  4. Instead of innate linguistic knowledge, what does the Slobin approach say about how children acquire language?
  5. What is caretaker speech like?
  6. What are some possible reasons for caretaker speech?
  7. How might caretaker speech be useful for acquisition?
  8. Why can't caretaker speech be necessary for acquisition?
  9. To what extent does language development seem to depend on cognitive development?
Part 2 Explaining the acquisition of morphology


  1. What does a child have to learn about morphemes?
  2. What is the "segmentation probem"?
  3. How might children segment the speech stream?
  4. What is the gestalt/analytic difference?
  5. How may languages help a child with segmentation?
  6. What are Peters' three operating principles for feedback on segmentation?
  7. What are the two main arguments about the development of grammaticalcategories? About the development of relational notions?
  8. Does input determine the order of acquisition of bound morphemes?
  9. What are Slobin's two types of Operating Principles?
  10. What's the difference between acquisition strategies and actual (innate) knowledge of morphology?

Part 3 Explaining early syntactic development


  1. What factors may trigger the move from the one-word stage to the two-word stage?
  2. What are perceptual saliency and informational saliency?
  3. What was pivot-open grammar?
  4. What important idea came out of Bloom's account of child grammar?
  5. What are two possible explainations for the frequent omission of subjects in Two-word utterances?
  6. What does word order at the two-word stage seem to depend on?

Part 4 Explaining lexical development

  1. What is the Semantic Feature Hypothesis and what are the three main problems with it?
  2. What are thw two basic principles of the Lexical Contrast Theory?
  3. What is the role of lexical gaps in lexical acquisition?
  4. How is the notion of prototype relevant to lexical acquisition?
  5. What is the role of semantic complexity?
  6. What kind of exposure is necessary for children to figure out what words mean? How do children get this exposure?
  7. Are words learned only through attention to semantics?
Part 5 Explaining later syntactic acquisition


  1. Are the reasons clear why children's sentences get more complex?
  2. How do Basic Child Grammar and Universal Grammar (UG) differ?
  3. What is the main tenet of the Chomskyan approach?
  4. What are the three main arguments about how input data is insufficient to account for language acquisition?
  5. What two kinds of knowledge are thought to be in UG?
  6. Do we understand how simple sentences are axquired?
  7. What factors seem to be involved in the acquisition of interrogatives?
  8. How are cognition and complex syntax related?
  9. How are input and complex syntax related?
  10. What is the argument about strategies and structural knowledge with regard to relative clauses?
  11. What sort of feedback to children receive for grammatically "incorrect" utterances?
  12. How strong are the arguments against the presence of suntax in early grammar?

Part 6 Explaining pragmatic development


  1. How may adults help children learn conversational skills?
  2. Is the development of children's abilities to talk about abstract topics dependent in their cognitive development or on adult input?
  3. What three kinds of social knowledge are required to become sociolinguistically competent?
  4. Does the role of explicit teaching for learning prgmatics and for learning grammar appear to be the same?

Part 7 A model of communication competence

  1. Try to redraw Figure 20 to better represent the explanation of the model on p. 186, paragraph 4.
  2. Try to summarize the example of how the model works with possessive constructions.