Category Archives: Uncategorized

Native Language Revitalization



ECOLT Pres Notes

Funded by a grant under the Bureau of Indian Education’s 6111 grant to support the development of an Alternate Definition of Adequate Yearly Progress in Choctaw, The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians developed and approved a set of Choctaw Language Learning Standards in 2012.  These are based on the ACTFL “Five Cs” in that they include the three types of communication (Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational) in addition to Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.  The presenters were members of a team developing Choctaw Language Learning Standards, ensuring they are horizontally and vertically aligned and reflect the traditions and cultural heritage of the Tribe.

Following completion of the standards, the presenters assisted in the development of a Choctaw Language Learning Standards-based model oral Choctaw Language Assessment for Grade 2. The process of developing assessments was initiated through workshops with Choctaw Assistant Teachers to identify domains of language use by students, consultation with an Assessment Development Team to identify speaking tasks, and consultation with a graphics artist to develop visual stimuli for the assessment. Development and translation of the administrator training manual and the structure of the pilot test administrator workshop is also discussed.

Pilot testing and subsequent analysis and revision of the standards-based assessment are addressed in this poster. An oral summary will explain the importance of choosing culturally relevant assessment tasks;  aspects of the oral assessment administration; and the role of assessments in native language revitalization programs.


The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, led by Chief Phyliss J. Anderson,  operates the largest unified Reservation school system in the United States. The Choctaw Tribal School System has six elementary schools, one middle school and one boarding high school on the Choctaw Indian Reservation in east central Mississippi. The Choctaw schools are scattered over a four-county area and serve more than 1,700 students.

Culture in the Classroom

You have been assigned to an ESL classroom in Prince George’s County. The students are beginning level ESL and range in age from 14-16. There are 20 students in the classroom. Gender and national origin are as follows: 3 Latino boys, 2 Latino girls, 9 Somali boys, and 6 Somali girls. All of the Latino students are Roman Catholics and all of the Somali students are Muslim. The Latino boys have had interrupted prior education, and 2 of them are barely literate in Spanish. The Latino girls were at or nearly at grade level in their native countries and are fairly literate in Spanish. The Somali boys all went to school in their native country, but represent different levels of achievement in their prior educational experiences. The Somali girls have never been to school before because their families believed that education was for boys and that the role of girls was to stay home and learn skills for cooking, child-rearing, and household management.

  1. Identify 3 areas that you would expect to be culturally sensitive in this classroom. Don’t forget your own cultural biases!
  2. Identify a classroom situation or teaching activity in which cultural differences might clash and describe how you might handle it.
  3. Report on your group’s conclusions to the rest of the class.


Class 5: Cognitive Variations in Language Learning: Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition

Handouts: Miguel & Maria Stories: Cmon_OverIm_the_Teacher 

Activity: What kind of knowledge is called on for school content tasks? See pdf: Declarative_Procedural_Content

Learning Strategies PowerPoint: Helping Struggling Students Become Good Language Learners

Handout: CALLA-FL

Anderson article on Metacognition
source for Anderson article:

List of CALLA Content and Language Learning Strategies

Animals used to teach strategies (CALLA Website)

Foreign Language Animal stories

NCLRC LS List in English Foreign language strategies lists in pdf format
NCLRC site:
Link to foreign language strategies lists
Guides to teaching LS at various levels
Oxford strategy classification (p. 131-132) Discussion of taxonomies

Sample Learning Strategies lessons and so on at Jill’s site

Activity: Identify Your Own Learning Strategies – Class 5 Identify a challenge you have faced in the last two weeks.
Example: I bought a new cell phone and had to learn how to add my phone numbers to it. The strategies I used were:

  • trying the way I used with my old cell phone (that didn’t work)
  • asking my daughter – she said she hadn’t figured it out yet either
  • looking in the user’s manual – the instructions were not in clear English
  • calling the help line – finally I got the answer I needed!

Describe to a partner the strategies you used to meet the challenge. What did you learn about your partner’s strategies?



Self-evaluation of your learning in this lesson: self-evaluation

LSH The Learning Strategies Handbook, which I coauthored, is available at  More on the book

6557 Class 4: Cognitive Variations in Second Language Acquisition

Background Survey:


Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence is not limited to verbal and mathematical ability, but there are 8+ different kinds of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, (possibly existential). Considerable current research on implementing school programs that identify and develop each of these intelligences.
Implications for teaching: Find out what talents your students have, then relate those talents to language learning. Provide language activities that capitalize on the talents of your students (e.g., artistic, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal).]Whereas declarative knowledge or factual information may be acquired quickly, procedural knowledge such as language skill is acquired gradually and only with extensive opportunities for practice. Anderson indicates that language is a complex cognitive process, which requires explicit or implicit knowledge about language as a system and extensive practice in order to reach an autonomous stage. This theoretical distinction is a familiar one to second language teachers, who tend to alternate between teaching language as declarative knowledge (grammar, rules, pronunciation, vocabulary) and language as procedural knowledge (communicative competence, functional proficiency, fluency).
What is most important about Anderson’s theory is that an interplay between declarative and procedural knowledge leads to the refinement of language ability. Anderson discusses ways in which new information is processed in working memory and accessed to long term memory, where it can be retrieved at a later date. Anderson identifies three empirically-derived stages that describe the process by which a complex cognitive skill such as language is acquired: (a) a cognitive stage, in which learning is deliberate, rule-based, and often error-laden; (b) an associative stage, in which actions are executed more rapidly and errors begin to diminish; and (c) an autonomous stage, in which actions are performed more fluently and where the original rule governing the performance may no longer be retained. Thus, as the same procedure is used repeatedly, access to the rules that originally produced the procedure can be lost.
For latest research on this area, see Georgetown’s Michael Ullman (pdf of 2006 presentation)

A complete list of presentations of the conference, The Neurocognition of Second Language is available here.

Aptitude and Intelligence

Activity: Work in groups to discuss this question: Are either or both aptitude and/or intelligence associated with more successful second language acquisition? First, discuss your personal observations and experiences. Then, relate your ideas to your reading on these topics. Relate to what you know about Multiple Intelligences.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence is not limited to verbal and mathematical ability, but there are 8+ different kinds of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, (possibly existential). Considerable current research on implementing school programs that identify and develop each of these intelligences.
Implications for teaching: Find out what talents your students have, then relate those talents to language learning. Provide language activities that capitalize on the talents of your students (e.g., artistic, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal).]

References: Howard Gardner’s Book on Google Books | Howard Gardner’s website | Image of MIs

Activity: complete the surveys on cognitive styles and learning styles.

Cognitive Styles

Definitions: “Stable individual variations in perceiving, organizing, processing, and remembering information.” (Schunk)

  • An individual’s characteristic ways of processing information – not abilities.
  • Styles may affect cognition, affect, and behavior (cognitive, affective, and social domains).
  • Styles are preferences for learning in a certain way, and can change in different contexts.

1. Field Dependence/Independence

(also called global and analytical functioning)
Tests of FD/FI examine the degree to which an individual is affected by the context – can you pick out embedded figures or are you focused on the whole picture? Can you align a tilted luminous rod in an upright position within a tilted luminous frame – in a dark room with no other point of reference? Or – person sits in a tilted chair in a tilted room and tries to align the chair upright. If you can do the alignment tasks, you are field independent. Let’s try to see some embedded figures.

Young children are mostly field dependent (so may learn L2 globally), but FI increases with age (more analytical).

FD learn material with social content better – they are more sensitive to body language and subtle cues. FD learn well from social situations – cooperative learning is natural. FD have more trouble during early stages of reading. FD need praise and encouragement and benefit from well-organized materials.

FI good at tasks involving physical world – can analyze physical objects and see component parts (good for science, math, engineering).  FI often reorganize material to make it easier to learn; they try to impose a structure on situations. FD do well with individualized instruction. They are self-motivated – but need to learn about social cues. FI can also learn material with social content once it is brought to their attention.
Links to studies of FI/D and web-based learning

The relationship of learning, behavior, and cognitive style in hypermedia based instruction: implications for design of HBI.

Student’s Cognitive Styles in Asynchronous Distance Education Courses at a Community College 

Color perception study:

Field Independence —- Field Dependence is a continuum. Some students can be either FI or FD depending on the task.

2. Left/Right Brain Functions

Survey: What was your result? Is this pseudoscience?

Left brain:

  •  more analytical,
  • relies on language to remember information.

Right brain

  • more intuitive,
  • relies more on images.

Both hemispheres work together. In females, the corpus callosum is relatively larger than males. This may affect linguistics processing in the two hemispeheres.

Analysis of Male/Female brain differences

Left/Right dominance “test”

3. Tolerance of Ambiguity

More or less tolerance of unfamiliar things, incomplete understanding of an event or language text. May help SLA.

4. Reflectivity and Impulsivity

(also called cognitive or response tempo)

  • Responding thoughtfully (slowly, carefully, accurately) – or impulsively (quickly, carelessly, inaccurately).
  • Partly developmental, with girls generally becoming more reflective sooner than boys.
  • Reflectives perform better on academic tasks, better readers and spellers, good on multiple choice tests.
  • Teachers can help impulsives by focusing their attention on accuracy rather than speed (penalize errors).
  • Show impulsives how to “talk themselves through it.”
  • Make important details salient.

Question: In language learning, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each response tempo?

Miguel and Maria Stories Corrected Miguel and Maria Text

Im_the_Teacher Cmon_Over

5. Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Styles

Metaphors that reflect perceptual styles

  • the mind’s blackboard,
  • the mental tape recorder
  • learning by feeling (in my hand, in my body).

Remember: Cognitive styles are far less stable than intelligence – can/probably will change over time. Cultural background affects cognitive style.

What did your survey on study abroad tell you about your learning style?

Activity: Work in five groups. Each takes one cognitive style. Discuss:
-    How might this cognitive style be related to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory?
-    How might this cognitive style be related to second language acquisition?
-    What instructional adaptations would you make in teaching ESL/FL to a student with this cognitive style?
Share with class.


People Types and Tiger Stripes: Amazon excerpt | Overview of Myers-Briggs & Explanations


6557 Class 3: Human Learning and Second Language Acquisition

A list of instructional strategies & methods classified by type:

Statistics as a Second Language

Attack Strategies for reading statistical studies:

  1. Use the abstract: is this study worth taking my time to read it?
  2. Use the conventional organization of the paper to help you (skip around
    the sections to evaluate the study)
  3. Find out the statistical reasoning used:
    • descriptive statistics: what are the mean (or average) of the thing
      studied, and standard deviation (spread away from mean)?
    • statistical differences: how much do the statistics represent a larger
      population? Are differences between subject significant (or just accidental)?
      Correlation coefficients are used to express this characteristic
    • probability levels: the threshold of statistical significance is expressed
      by the probability level, or the p value. (If p <.01  the probability of a difference
      being chance is less than 1%.
    • statistical tests:
      • mean comparisons
      • comparisons of frequencies
      • comparing correlation coefficients to zero; using  chi-square test
    • significance vs. meaningfulness (Wikipedia article)

Key terms

Tutorial on statistical terms: Statistics Explained
Internet Glossary of Statistical Terms

Innateness discussion: Sparrows taught to sing backward

Input and Discourse

Parent talk to children tends to be simplified.  In general, parents do not correct children for mistakes in grammar, but limit their corrections to mistakes in accuracy or truth.

Also important is child’s interaction with others, including other children.
This is how children learn the rules of conversation.

Recent research has shown that the child’s linguistic environment is simpler than the adult’s.  Input from the mother consists of shorter sentences, simpler structures, fewer subordinate clauses, fewer adjectives and adverbs than adult speech. It has a higher ratio of content words (vocabulary) to functions (grammatical words such as articles, prepositions, AUX). Also, adults speech to children is slower (about half the speed), pitched higher, exaggerated intonation, pauses between phrases. All of this makes it easier to understand, just as it does for second language learners.

Affective Considerations

Young children are egocentric – they see themselves as the center of the world. As children become older, they begin to establish a self-identity that separates them from others.  Language is part of one’s self-identity. 

Guiora proposed idea of language ego to explain difficulties adults have with SLA.  If one’s self-identify is closely tied to language, then when one tries to use a second language, one is abandoning one’s self-identity. 

Types of Comparison

  1. First and second language acquisition in children.
  2. Second language acquisition in children and adults.
  3. First language acquisition in children/second language acquisition in adults.

Discussion: relate this to the RSLA chapter “Genes & Teens”

Choose a question from page 73 to discuss in a group & share

Bird Songs and Human Learning – NPR Segment

Any comparison of children and adults is problematical because of differences in

  • cognitive development,
  • affective factors, and
  • physical factors.

Critical Period Hypothesis

This hypothesis holds that after puberty second language learning cannot be successful. Reasons: lateralization of the brain and psychomotor development of speech muscles.

Brain lateralization. Certain mental functions are located in the left brain hemisphere (intellectual, logical, analytical), others in the right (emotional, intuitive, social).  Lateralization process begins in very young children – when is it complete? 

  • Lenneberg said at puberty;
  • Krashen said at age 5;
  • Scovel said lateralization emerges at birth, evident at age 5, but not
    complete until puberty.
  • Walsh & Diller explain that lower-order processes such as pronunciation
    depend on early maturing neural circuits in the brain, whereas higher
    language functions depend on neural circuits that mature later

    • use this to explain why young children learn the phonological system of a second language better,
    • and why older students learn the grammatical and vocabulary
      of the second language more effectively.


Skills requiring muscular dexterity in general need to begin their development in childhood (analogies with artists, musicians, athletes). Same is apparently true for SLA. This indicates that there may be a critical period for acquisition of accurate pronunciation in a second language.

Cognitive Considerations

Differences in cognitive developmental stage is major difference between FLA and SLA, except in the case of simultaneous acquisition of 2 languages. 

Piaget’s developmental stages:

  • sensorimotor (0-2);
  • preoperational (2-7);
  • concrete operational (7-11);
  • formal operational (11-16).

Equilibration:  development of organization of knowledge – as basic process of cognitive development.  Consistent with schema theory – development of knowledge frameworks or schemata.

Metacognition is developmental.  Adults more cognitively aware of L2 learning process – but recent research indicates at least some children are metacognitively aware of their own thinking and learning processes.  However, both adults and children learn (that is, encode into long term memory) what is meaningful – so rote learning is useful only for short term memory. 

Linguistic Considerations

Coordinate bilingualism: each language learned in separate contexts. 

Compound bilingualism: each language learned in same context (one meaning system)

Research on Simultaneous Acquisition

  • Children can acquire two languages simultaneously in several ways:
    • one parent-one language;
    • parents’ language-playmates language;
    • parents both speaking both languages;
    • parents’ language-caretaker language.
  • One language probably dominates – language of most exposure.
  • Languages may be linked to domains/individual people.
  • Degrees of bilingualism – remember definition: ability to produce complete
    and meaningful utterances in both languages (McLaughlin, 1984).
  • Dominance can also shift from one language to the other, depending on circumstances.

Simultaneous =
both languages before age 3.

Successive =
second language after age 3.

  • Both can become bilingual; either can lose one of the languages.
  • Most studies of simultaneous acquisition are case studies of individual
    children based on parents’ diaries. Variation in quality: subjectivity of
    observation, especially if own child.  Leopold’s study is classic.
  • Early studies of children were descriptive; if linguistic, based on a corpus
    produced by child; if psychological, based on observed behavior.  Neither
    approach sought to explain mental structures or processes.  Later studies
    have been influenced by the ideas of Chomsky and of cognitive psychology.

Research on Successive Acquisition in Children
- Studies of Grammatical Acquisition

When language no longer was seen as habit-formation (behaviorists), but (Chomsky) as rule-governed behavior, interest started in first language acquisition to see how children developed adult grammars.  Studies were done of acquisition of morphemes (plural, past tense, possessive, questions and negation) – longitudinal (e.g., Brown’s Adam, Eve, and Sarah) – found that these morphemes were acquired in a certain order by young children learning L1.  Methodology adopted to use in second language acquisition studies also. 


Ravem (1968; 1974) studied acquisition of English by son and daughter, 6 1/2 and 3, Norwegian speaking.  Methodology: collected spontaneous instances of translation, and also at regular intervals children had translation tests (e.g., In Norwegian – Go tell your mother that…
- child had to give message in English).
Investigated development of modal do in negations and questions (son) and of
wh- questions in son and daughter.  Both children passed through same stages
as monolingual English children: 

  1. modal do omitted (I not like that.);
  2. modal do omitted in yes/no questions (Like you ice cream?  – Norwegian
    word order).

Milon (1974) studied acquisition of English negation in a 7 yr. old Japanese boy.  Methodology: 20 minutes video at weekly intervals for 7 months – collected and analyzed 244 negative utterances. Child passed through same stages as English speaking children, even though Japanese negative formation is quite different (negative in Japanese formed by attaching morpheme to right of verb stem).

Kessler & Idar (1977) studied a 4 yr. old Vietnamese girl living with an American family (9 weeks).  Morphemes studied followed pattern of English speaking children, though comparison of two languages would predict a different order.

Hakuta (1974; 1976) studied a 5 yr. old Japanese girl learning English.  Morpheme development sequence was not always parallel to English speaking children.  More recent studies have also noted some influence of L1.

Wode (1978) studied his four German-speaking children as they acquired English naturalistically.  Found reflection of German word order in their negative constructions.  Examples:  German word order – I’m steal not the base.  Marilyn like no sleepy.

Keller-Cohen (1979) studied acquisition of English questions by 3 children (Swiss German, Japanese, Finnish).  Only Finnish child did not use rising intonation early (a feature not found in Finnish), whereas other children did (feature found in both other languages).

Chamot (1978) studied acquisition of English by French/Spanish bilingual boy aged 10 over 9 month period.  Methodology:  spontaneous speech samples recorded weekly, error analysis. Errors classified as:

  1. non-mastery (e.g., developmental, same as L1
  2. negative interference (literal translation from Spanish and/or French);
  3. zero interference (new items without French or Spanish parallels).
  4. Overlap between (1), (2), and (3).

Ready for some fun? Try this quiz on the above content

Check out other quizzes on my Quia page

6557 Class 2: First Language Acquisition – Introduction and Overview

Why study first language acquisition?

Activity 1: Communicating without Language; Communicating Concepts

Types of Language Acquisition Research

Early research based on diaries – recording of speech as it emerged.  Since
about 1950 more systematic studies investigating the process of
language acquisition (instead of merely the product). Importance
for foreign language teachers: similarities between first and second
language acquisition have implications for teaching methods.

Theories of L1 Acquisition

General process: From birth (or before), babies react to language
and communicate vocally through crying, gurgling, cooing. First
words by end of first year; 2-word utterances at about 18 months;
by age 3 con communicate outside of family; communicatively competent
by school age, in school refine social functions of language and
learn academic language functions.  Three theories of first
language acquisition: behaviorist; nativist; functional.

Behaviorist Theory

Children are born without any linguistic knowledge, so all language
learning is a result of the environment. Children react to language
stimuli with responses; if their responses are correct, they are
reinforced and then become habitual.  Skinner: verbal behavior
controlled by its consequences – rewarded consequences result in
maintenance and increase/frequency of the behavior.
Behavior is weakened and eventually extinguished when it evokes
either a punishment or is completely ignored.

Behaviorist theory fails to account for the fact that children
construct completely new sentences that are not the result of imitating

Nativist Approach

Belief that language acquisition is innate – humans are born with
a Language Acquisition Device (Chomsky), consisting of (McNeill):

  1. Ability to distinguish speech sounds from others
  2. Ability to organize language into various classes
  3. Knowledge that only one kind of linguistic system is possible
  4. Ability to evaluate linguistic input and make it into the simplest
    possible system (children hear surface structures but are able
    to learn deep structure).
  5. Argued that as children were exposed (input) to fragmented,
    incomplete bits of language (degenerated), the fact that at such
    a young and cognitively limited age children nevertheless were
    able to acquire language fairly quickly indicates that they were
    born with this ability (the opposite view of the behaviorists
    who claimed that the environment was the sole cause of language

Research showed that young children’s developing language is very
Children apply rules to language.
Examples:  Berko’s study of grammatical forms – children given
nonsense words (wug, gling) could apply correct rules for plural,
progressive, past, etc.  Pivot grammar used to describe
children’s 2-word utterances, in which the first word acted as
a pivot to the second word.

Research of Roger Brown in the 1960′s.  Longitudinal studies
of Adam, Eve, & Sarah from about 18 months to about 3 yrs.
Found that all 3 had similar five developmental stages in their
acquisition of grammatical structures. Examples:  plurals
acquired before 3rd person singular; regular past acquired before
irregular and over-generalized; yes/no questions acquired before
Wh- questions.

Universal Grammar (UG) has its roots in Chomsky’s idea of the LAD: What aspects of syntax are universal across languages? Are these universals the
same as the LAD?

Current cognitive models consider parallel distributed processing (PDP) which looks at linguistic performance as an interrelated system that has many
different elements being processed simultaneously (instead of serially).

Functional Approaches

Criticism of pivot grammar by Lois Bloom- same 2-word utterance of child could have several meanings. Therefore, function or how language is used needs to be considered, not just the form. Research began to focus on relationship of cognitive development to language acquisition.  Children need to understand a concept before they can express it linguistically. Slobin has studied first language acquisition in a number of different languages, and in all cases, semantic development depends on the development of cognition.
The role of socialization is also being investigated – that is, the development of communication between the child and its parents or other caregivers.  This requires studying what children say, how they say it, and what they do while engaged in conversation.

Activity 2: Explore grammatical structures and functions in different languages.
Sit in groups with at least one language besides English represented.
Complete the 2 exercises on handout (Comparing Structures and Functions
across Languages). Discuss.

Chronological Sequence of Language Development

Birth to age 1: At a few days, babies respond to the human voice (eyes turning towards the voice. At 2-4 months, respond to different tones of voice. Can discriminate between speech and non-speech sounds. Between about 6 wks. And 3 mos., babies coo, gurgle, shriek with delight (as well as cry when uncomfortable). At about 5 months, babies babble. Many different speech sounds – seem to be from every possible language! Gradually sounds and intonation become more like the language baby hears from parents. Often they sound like they’re talking -–only you can’t figure out what they are saying! This is conversational babble, accompanied by eye contact and gestures. There is also sound play, which is babbling with no apparent intent to communicate. Towards the
end of the first year of life, children make the transition to first words.

Age 1-2: One-word utterances, often with multiple meanings. Acquires about 50 words, generally naming salient things in environment – plus useful words like no, more, dirty, stop, go. Reduplication for many 2-syllable words – say the first syllable twice (baba for bottle, mama, kuku for cookie. At about 1 ½, child begins to put 2 words together to make rudimentary sentences – like no nap, all gone.

Age 2-3: Children produce 3 and 4-word sentences. Telegraphic speechallgone milk; gimme ball. Most function words usually absent. With development of these rudimentary sentences, researchers count Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) as a measure of language complexity and hence development. Use of it, this, that prior to development of personal pronouns. Grammatical morphemes begin to be used, usually in roughly the same sequence, as Roger Brown found: present progressive, plural and/or possessive,
prepositions in, on. Pronunciation improves, but consonant clusters are still a problem (foon story).

Age 3-4: Tremendous progress. Sentences with more than one clause, both conunctive and subordinate. Questions and negatives. At age 3 children have vocabulary of 800-1200 words; by age 4 it is 1500 to 1900 words. Past tense frequently overgeneralized from regular ending (ed) to irregular verbs (eated, goed).

Age 4-6: Continue to develop more vocabulary, complex sentences. Still have difficulty pronouncing some long words – so make substitutions (My daddy is a searching fizzlist).

School age: Children extend their language and begin to learn academic language.

Competence and Performance

Competence = Underlying knowledge (includes both declarative and procedural knowledge).

Performance = Observable behavior: speaking, writing, singing, listening, reading.

Performance is obvious in a child’s speech – but how to infer competence?

Comprehension and Production

Refers specifically to language skills, not to distinction between competence and performance. That is, all four language skills are part of our language performance.
Brown proposes that linguistic competence may have several modes or levels – perhaps one for each language skill.  Another way of distinguishing different aspect of linguistic competence (or any other type of competence) is to consider declarative knowledge competence and procedural knowledge competence.  In other words: (1) our underlying knowledge of information, facts, ideas, sounds, and images; and (2) our underlying knowledge of procedures, processes, complex skills, how to do things.

The story of Litha.

Question:  What examples can you give of children understanding more than what they can say?

Innateness and Universals

Chomsky proposed theoretical LAD. How to prove that an innate mechanism for acquiring language exists in every human?  One approach is to look for linguistic
, or elements common to all human languages.  For example, all languages have ways to ask questions and ways to make a statement negative.

It may be that humans are biologically programmed to go through certain stages of language development, just as they go through stages of physical development, and of
cognitive development. Examples:  Brown’s 5 stages; sequence in English of memorized past tense forms, including irregular forms, then comprehension of rule for past tense formation (v + ed) and overgeneralization, finally learning of regular and irregular

Question:  Brown states that language universals do not imply innateness.  Do you agree or disagree?  Discuss.

Language and Thought

Language is dependent upon cognitive development – thought determines language.

Language determines thought.

Question:  Which (if any) position do you take? Why?

Role of Imitation and Practice

Children attend more to the meaning than the surface form of what they hear, so when they repeat a phrase or sentence, they may not repeat it exactly. Some researchers have used sentence repetition tasks as a way of eliciting children’s level of grammatical development.

While children may not imitate exactly, they do tend to practice language, often to themselves. Frequency of meaningful linguistic input may also play a role in comprehension practice – very frequent meaningful forms are acquired before less
frequent or less meaningful forms.

Input and Discourse

Parent talk to children tends to be simplified.  In general, parents do not correct children for mistakes in grammar, but limit their corrections to mistakes in accuracy or truth.

Also important is child’s interaction with others, including other children.
This is how children learn the rules of conversation.

Recent research
has shown that the child’s linguistic environment is simpler than the adult’s.  Input from the mother consists of shorter sentences, simpler structures, fewer subordinate clauses,
fewer adjectives and adverbs than adult speech. It has a higher ratio of content words (vocabulary) to functions (grammatical words such as articles, prepositions, AUX). Also, adults speech to children is slower (about half the speed), pitched higher, exaggerated intonation, pauses between phrases. All of this makes it easier to understand, just as it does for second language learners.

Work on Case Study Assignments

Go over sample assessment instruments: Needs Assessment (CH), Think-Aloud (Immersion), Interview Questionnaire (PAL), Questionnaires and other suggestions
from LSH, Informal Reading Test (PAL). Suggest Observation Field
Notes; Berko Gleason’s WUG instrument. Others?

Activity 3: Work in case study teams to decide which instruments you will use/adapt and which types of additional instruments you will need for your case study.

Litha story:

One example frequently quoted is in Miller (1963).
He reports: Recently a three year old child told me her name was Litha. I answered: ‘Litha?’ 

No, Litha.’

Oh, Lisa.’

Yes, Litha.’

She was not able to articulate the difference between th and s, but was able to recognize the auditory difference. This shows that children’s acquisition of phonological rules and production of the speech sound do not develop at the same time.

Miller , G. A. 1963. ‘Some effects of grammatical transformations on the recall of English sentences.’ Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 2. 346-351.

6557 Class 1: Introduction and Theoretical Perspectives

Introductions Complete name cards.

Icebreaker: Interview someone you do not know in the class. Find out what languages they speak, how/where learned. Introduce each other to the rest of the class.

Discussion: Scheduling of due dates for presentations (Expert Groups and Case Studies)

1. Importance of studying language acquisition
To be effective language teachers, we need to understand how people learn a second language – otherwise we are guided only by our own personal experience.  By
discovering common factors and individual variations in second language acquisition, we can adjust our teaching so that more of our students can be successful.

We study first language acquisition to understand similarities and differences between first and second language acquisition.  For example, if SLA is
just like FLA, then shouldn’t teachers become more like parents in teaching their children to talk?  But if SLA is somewhat different from FLA, then
shouldn’t teachers do more than provide input and context?  What should they do?  What is the best teaching method – is there one?

Readings for next class:

PLLT Ch.1, (p. 1 – 19; Language, Learning, Teaching)

 Ch 2 (p. 20 - 48; First Language Acquisition)

RSLA Ch. 1 (p. 1 - 35; Statistics as a FL)


Language: Brown’s eight statements:

  1. Language is a system; it is generative/creative.
  2. Language symbols are arbitrary (have no meaning in themselves).
  3. Language symbols start as vocal; can be written down.
  4. Symbols refer to meanings (also arbitrarily); symbols have an arbitrary
    arrangement or structure.
  5. Communication is main purpose of language.
  6. Language has to operate within a culture/group of people.
  7. Language is a specific human characteristic (though simple and limited
    communication is used by some animals).
  8. All people learn language in a similar way; L1 is learned without explicit

Two additional statements:

  1. Language is linked to cognition in complex ways.
  2. There is normal variation between and within languages.


  1. Learning involves acquisition and understanding  of new information and skills through study, experience, or instruction.
  2. To be learned, the information/skill must be remembered, or stored in memory – best remembered if organized.  However, can be forgotten.
  3. Learning is mentally active and conscious.
  4. Learning requires practice and feedback.
  5. Learning involves restructuring prior knowledge, which may in turn cause change in behavior.


  1. Based on the teacher’s mental model of how students learn.
  2. Requires selection of:
    • what is to be taught
    • sequencing of material
    • methods of presentation
    • type of practice
    • form of assessment

Mug & Jug theory vs. Interactive theory

Didactic teaching is where a person presents information to others in lecture or lesson format, which results in learning occurring solely at an intellectual
level. It has been described as being based on the ‘mug and jug’ theory of learning (Roger 1983; Hobbs 1986). Put simply, the recipient of the lecture is like an
empty mug waiting to receive information poured into it from the source of knowledge, the jug. This method of teaching involves a passive form of learning where students
are not required to examine their own feelings, thoughts and understandings in response to the subject material. They are able to remain personally unaware
either of the intensity or the effect of their own emotional response to the subject material on themselves or on other people. From AsiaWorks Training site on experiential learning

Activity 2: Identifying Your Mental Model of Learning – Think-Pair-Share

Find a person you haven’t talked with yet. Draw a diagram of your own model of learning. Compare and discuss.

Why Theory Is Important

McLaughlin’s Three Assumptions:

  1. Research is inseparable from theory. Scientists observe and notice regularities/recurring events. They make hypotheses to explain these events.  They test the
    hypotheses. If established, the hypotheses become facts or laws.  Theory is a system of facts or laws. Good theory is always open – it can change as new facts and laws are discovered. Example: You notice that your students always enjoy a certain type of lesson. Do you have a hypothesis? How would you test it? Possible findings?
  2. There is no one scientific method. There are many ways to test hypotheses, both quantitative and qualitative.  A multi-method approach is best.
  3. There is no single scientific truth. In SLA we do not yet know enough to accept one single theory – perhaps never will.

Brown – Linguistics & Psychology

Parallels in development of theories in linguistics and psychology in the last 50 years: Structural linguistics and behaviorism in psychology. Both rely on observation
of surface behavior to formulate theory of (a) language and (b) learning.  Descriptive linguistics and behavioral psychology are the theory underlying the audiolingual
method of language teaching.

Classroom examples?

Generative-transformational linguistics (Chomsky) and cognitive psychology (from Ausubel to Anderson) represent a paradigm shift, or basic change in theory in
a new direction.  Both are concerned with unobservable mental processes which are inferred through observation and experimentation.

Classroom examples?

Discourse analysis in linguistics and the role of affect and social cognition on human learning in cognitive psychology are today important fields of study.
The result in language teaching is communicative language teaching – using the language meaningfully.

Classroom examples?

Understanding different theories is important because this allows you to choose specific methods for teaching a second language, and even to devise your own
methods designed to meet the unique needs of your students.

Questions and Discussion

May 8 Class: Phonetics

To help with the homework: IPA Onliine Keyboard

Articulatory Phonetics

Let’s Learn IPA!

How we produce sound: mostly through a pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism

Other ways to produce sound:



Dialect Differences BBC English vowels

Compare to American English Vowels

Try transcription with the IPA
Major Classes Here’s a really nice chart showing the “Natural Classes”

Why bother to learn the feature classes?
Categorization is useful. All OBSTRUENTS are [+cons], [-son].

Obstruents can be further divided into [+cont] for fricatives, and [-cont] for stops and affricates.

Fricatives are further divided into [+strident] and [-strident].

Stops and affricates are further distinguished by the feature [del. rel.] which has a positive value only for affricates.

SONORANTS (liquids and nasals) are [+cons],[+son].

In addition sonorants are [+nasal] for nasals or [-nasal] for liquids.

Lateral liquids are further distinguished as [+lat], the other liquids being [-lat].

VOWELS, GLIDES, and APPROXIMANTS are [-cons], [+son].
Suprasegmental Features
These are features length of sound, pitch, or volume
supra – above
Tone and Intonation Tonal languages differentiate by tone changes.

Diacritics: Indicate phonetic differences


May 3 Class: Morphology

Lexicon: mental database of roots, inflectional and derivational morphemes

What does our morphological knowledge consist of?

Morphemes (smallest units of meaning) Morphological Rules (howto combine morphemes)

Types of morphemes:

Free morphemes: can stand alone as a word

Bound morphemes: always appear as part of a word



Infixes  (Roots)  suffixes
none in English


-friggin-  believe  -able none in English

Better example of English infix: Minne-frigging-sota (A. Spokane)

Roots & Stems

Root: a lexical content morpheme that cannot be analyzed into smaller parts

  • May or may not stand alone as a word (see examples ofsuch unpaired words)
  • Bound forms with no meaning in isolation: huckle-, boysen-, luke-
  • Roots which have lost their meaning: -ceive, -mit

Monomorphemic words: words which have only one morpheme

Derivational morphemes: create a new word with a different meaning, such as un- when added to a noun, thus creating the opposite meaning

Derived word: a word that has had a derivational morpheme added to it

Derivation is governed by rules reflecting a hierarchical structure

Tree diagrams for representing a word

Inflectional morphemes: create words with a different grammatical meaning, such as ‘make’ becoming makes’ when the third person singular suffix is added.

Lexical gaps: Not all possible words are formed by a language

*I admire your coolth.

Heard of cranberry morphemes?

Sign Language Morphology

Sign languages have root morphemes, affixes, free and bound morphemes, and morphological rules.

Derivation is accomplished through modification of the hand movement and the space in which the signs are articulated. (Sign uses a rectangular space in front of the body for signing)

Word Coinage

  • new words can enter a language through a derivational process
  • some are created
  • two words can be combined into a compound

Compound words

Right-most word is the head (determines the meaning and grammatical category)


Words derived from initials of several words.

Pronunciation can be based on the letters, sounded out as a word or just sounding out each letter.


Created because of incorrect morphological analysis: pease –> pea


Words abbreviated then the abbreviation becomes lexicalized: facsimile –> Fax;

pianoforte -> piano

Dis (from disrespect) = clipping

Words from Names

Words that came from a person’s name; sandwich, jumbo, paparazzi


Two words are combined and parts deleted; smog, motel, infomercial

Grammatical Morphemes

Function words, such as it or to only have a grammatical meaning

  • function words are free morphemes

Inflectional Morphemes

  • bound morphemes
  • do not change meaning
  • follow derivational morphemes in most cases (except compounds)

Exceptions and Suppletions

Suppletive forms are irregular and are treated differently by the grammar; their inflections may even be “invisible.”

New words, however, come into the language usually with regular inflections, such as geek(s), fax(es). But sometimes borrowed words come in to the language with the plural form of their native grammar; datum/data

So, these words have to be memorized – regular rules don not apply. See lists of irregular plurals in English

Morphology and Syntax

Some languages allow affixes to grammatical relationships, while others rely on word order.

There is often more than one way to express grammatical relations

Fun with Morphological Analysis

The Martian linguist – where does this idea come from? It’s from Chomsky; he uses it this way:

Take language, one of the few distinctive human capacities about which much is known. We have very strong reasons to believe that all possible human languages are very similar; a Martian scientist observing humans might conclude that there is just a single language, with minor variants.(from a 1995 interview with Kevin Doyle)

To this day his only message is: see, think, judge and decide for yourself. This is Chomsky’s own particular talent: he is very good at stepping back and thinking about what it is he’s actually seeing.That’s why he asks questions other people don’t ask. It’s no accident that Martians regularly crop up in everything he writes, whether the topic is language or power. What would Martians see if they could observe us from afar? (from a 2003 interview with Liesbeth Koenen)

More Paku vocabulary can be found here- scroll down to the bottom of page


May 1 Class: Brain & Language

Language and the Brain4 (Student Presentation by Lindsay & Laura)

Neurolinguistics: the study of the biological and neural foundations of language

Cortex: surface of the brain “gray matter

white matter: connecting fibers beneath the cortex


cerebral hemispheres:
left/right halves of the brain

corpus callosum:
network of 2 million
fibers connecting the hemispheres

contralateral brain function: left side
of brain controls functioning of right side of body and right hemisphere of brain controls left side of body.

Modularity of the Brain

First indications came from phrenology – practice of determining personality traits and abilities based on reading the bumps on the skull. Proposed by Franz Joseph Gall in early 1800s. Phrenology has been discarded but Gall’s concept of modularity has been upheld.

Paul Broca – 1864: related language to the left side of the brain, based on autopsies of people who had language deficits and damage to the left frontal lobes of brian. This area came to be called Broca’s area

Broca’s Aphasia:language disorder that results from injury to Broca’s area

Aphasia: any language disorder that results from brain damage caused by disease or trauma

Carl Wernicke
- 1874 –
identified aphasia in patients with damage to the back left portion of brain. (Wernicke’s area)

Wernicke’s aphasia: patients who spoke fluently but had numerous lexical errors; using jargon and nonsense words. Had difficulty in comprehending speech.

Does everyone have language functions in the left side of their brains? How about left-handed people? What’s special about the brain tissue in the left themisphere?

Discussion: is there an evolutionary purpose for lateralization? What do you think could be the reason behind it?

New ways to discover brain functioning:

MRI (Magnetic
Resonance Imaging):  
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is
a noninvasive method which utilizes the properties of magnetism to create
nondestructive, three dimensional, internal images of the soft tissues of
the body, including the brain, spinal cord and muscle. (How MRI works)

PET (Positron Emission Tomography):shows metabolic activity of the brain(How PET works)

Images from PET scans

SPECT  studies combine nuclear medicine (the use
of radioisotopes  in the diagnosis of disease) with computed tomography.   In
this technique, the patient either swallows or is injected with a radioisotope,
which travels to a target
organ.  Concentrating in the target organ, the  radioisotope emits
radiation, which is detected by a gamma  camera that rotates around the
patient.  The  information obtained via the gamma camera is analyzed
by a computer, which creates a cross-sectional image of the  target organ.  SPECT
scans are frequently used to  determine if a specific area of the body
is receiving
adequate blood flow.

Childhood brain lesions

Hemiplegic children: have lesions on one side of the brain; shows differing
cognitive abilities

Split brains

surgical severing of the corpus callosum – no communication between two side
of brain

Dichotic Listening

contralateral stimuli (opposite
side) outweigh ipsilateral stimuli

reason: stimuli don’t have to cross the corpus  callosum

EEG – based evidence: Event-related Brain Potentials

Cognitive neurophysiology is the study of changes in brain function and the relationship of such changes to thought processes. The primary physiological signal that we measure is the electroencephalogram or EEG. The EEG reflects summated potentials generated by the electrochemical signaling processes by which networks of neurons process information. The EEG changes in predictable ways as a function of level of alertness, type and/or intensity of mental activity, and particular forms of brain pathology. We record the EEG by arrays of electrodes attached with conductive gel to many locations across the scalp. Similar sensors are attached
to the face in the region of the eyes to record the electro-oculogram or EOG, that is, the electrical potentials generated by eye movements and blinks. The EOG can also provide useful information about mental state.

(Gevins 1997)

For a more in-depth explanation of ERPs: Coles & Rugg 1995

Other interesting applications of ERPs:

Brain Fingerprinting for Counter-Terrorism

Language Perception & learning strategies

Neural basis of musicality

Historical Evidence for Brain Modularity: Studies
of Aphasia
Carl Linnaeus (1745) studied jargon
, a disease in which the patient substitutes a semantically similar word for the intended word.

Johannes Gesner (1770) attributed language difficulties to specific impairment of language memory. He observed bilingual asymmetry in which an abbot who had brain damage could read Latin but not German.

Broca’s aphasics – agrammatic aphasia: utterances
without function words, problems understanding syntactic structure

Wernicke’s aphasics – may produce fluent
but unintelligible speech, substitute one sound for another (table -> sable)
or one word for another. (chair -> table) Also jargon aphasia.

One way that has been tried to help such patients communicate is to have them write the words they want to communicate. In England a Lightwriter has been used to help aphasic patients communicate. Words can be typed and show up on two screens, one for the writer and one for the person they want to communicate with.

Acquired dyslexics: people who lose the ability to read after brain damage

Genetic Evidence for Language Autonomy

Linguistic savants: individuals who are handicapped
in certain spheres but remarkably talented in others

Specific Language Impairment: Seems to have genetic basis, affect identical twins – support modular view of language facility

FoxP2 is the first identified gene that is specifically involved in speech and language development in humans (not in book)

Language and Brain Development

The Critical Period: period from birth to puberty when language acquisition proceeds easily: evidence

For: “wild” children, Genie, Chelsea.

Against: Statistical studies, Bialystok & Hakuta’s chapter; lack of evidence.

Bird Songs: some species learn calls, like these:

Male Chaffinch:  Female Chaffinch: 

But the other’s calls, like that of the
cuckoo, seem to be biologically determined.

Origins of Human Language

Problem: spoken language existed long before written records are preserved.

Beliefs cloud the topic: monogenetic – belief that all langauges originated from a single source (Tower of Babel story)


1.  Roger Sperry

Eccles biography

Fun with electrodes! Probe
the brain


for your reference in doing papers that use online sources: see the APA’s guide to online source citation

Coles, M.G.H., Rugg, M.D. (1995). Event-related brain potentials:
An introduction. In M. Rugg, M. Coles (Eds.), Electrophysiology of Mind. Oxford
University Press: Oxford, U.K. (PDF) Accessed February 6, 2005 at

Gevins, A. (1997) Neural Signals of Cognition During Computer
Use. Accessed February 6, 2005 at