PROPOSITIONS ON THE ACQUISITION OF INFLECTIONAL MORPHOLOGY

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CHAPTER THREE: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND  METHODOLOGY PREAMBLE

The preceding chapters introduced the area of research and reviewed the relevant literature. This set the basis for the research in terms of delimiting the area of investigation and zeroing in on the specific elements to be investigated. The literature review reveals that this study is not exploring a new area. The review paves the way in terms of the direction in child language studies and the aspects related to morphosyntax in Shona in general and CLA in particular. The set objectives for the study as stated in Chapter One are worth repeating here. These are to:

  • investigate the development of child Shona inflectional morphology
  • explore how child Shona inflectional morphology interacts with syntax
  • identify the constraints that operate on the process of Shona language development
  • account for the development of child Shona morphosyntax using linguistic theories

In order to achieve these set objectives it is necessary to apply a theoretical framework that is envisaged to allow the researcher to have insights in relation to the child Shona data. There are various accounts of the course of CLA. These can be traced back to the basic nature versus nurture debate on how children acquire knowledge of language, the “Meno” dialogue by Plato being the forerunner to the discussions or theories on the issue of the gap between experience and knowledge. A number of theories are generated from the nature-nurture debate on how knowledge is acquired not only within language development but in any cognitive domain for that matter. The origins of language acquisition theories have been discussed prior to the other theoretical frameworks in this study, since they lay the dichotomous approach that is within language acquisition theories. The prosodic constraints theory developed by Demuth (1995, 1996) and Demuth and Fee (1995) is referred to in this study since it postulates constraints as possible explanations for the development of child language. The theory postulates that the early omission of grammatical morphology in children is due to rhythmic production constraints. Besides the prosodic constraints theory, the principles and parameter theory by Lasnik (1991) and the optimality theory by Prince and Smolensky (2004) are used. It is envisaged that these theories will assist the researcher in the process of data analysis, and the interpretation and discussion of the findings. The methods that are used to source data are also described in this chapter.

LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AND THEORIES

A theory is some kind of tested and established truth against which research can be tested. According to Crain and Thornton (1998) three factors that models of language acquisition must address inter alia are (i) the knowledge children accrue (ii) the input children receive (primary linguistic data) and (iii) nonlinguistic capacities of children to form and test generalizations based on the input. The theories that are discussed here take into cognisance these fundamental factors in an attempt to explain the gap between knowledge and experience. The nurture approach (also known as behaviourism, experience-dependent, usage-based) propounded by Skinner 1957 and nature approach (also known as nativism, generative)33 by Chomsky 1959, form the basic dichotomies within language acquisition theories. The usage-based approach is linked to construction grammar (see Tomasello 2003) while the nativist approach anchors on the principle assumptions of generative grammar (Chomsky 1972). The usage-based and generative The terms usage-based and generative are preferred for this study. approaches are discussed as a prelude to the theoretical frameworks that are adopted for the current study.
Chomsky‟s theory for formal syntax gave birth to the generative account of CLA. The generative approach attempts to account for language acquisition. The basic assumption of the generative approach is that children‟s grammar is constrained by an innate system. This system is the universal grammar34. It is found in all children regardless of the language they are exposed to. According to Sugisaki and Snyder (2006), the properties of UG constrain the course of language acquisition from the very beginning of life (cf. Crain & Thornton 1998). The properties of UG work in all human languages, that is, child and adult language. Pinker‟s (1984) continuity assumption also holds these assumptions. The continuity assumption suggests similarities in the form of principles and constraints between child and adult language (Pinker 1984:7).
According to UG, children‟s ability to acquire a language is genetically determined. This is because they have „hardwired tools‟ which are referred to as the language acquisition device (hereafter LAD). The generative approach postulates the reality of the language faculty and the fact that it is biologically endowed. Evidence of the reality of the language faculty is seen in cases of damage to the brain causing language deficit, resulting in aphasia35. The generative approach is a hybrid approach, which balances the notion that for language to develop there is both the inborn capacity and the input from the environment. Chomsky labels these as externalized and internalized language (commonly referred to as E-language and I-language respectively). Powell (2005: ii) states that “Chomsky maintains that E-language such as English, German and Korean, are mere „epiphenomena‟, a body of knowledge or behavioral habits shared by a community…. I-language is a mental object which is biologically/genetically specified and equates to language itself.” According to Chomsky (1986:20), in the externalized approach, “the construct is understood independently of the properties of the mind.” The LAD is, therefore, part of the I-language approach. It is important to note that though the ideas of LAD have been superseded by the principles and parameters theory36 (henceforth PPT), which postulates that some language features are universal (e.g. all languages are said to have verbs for instance). The LAD is more of a language acquisition approach while the PPT is more of a general linguistic theory that can be applied to child language. The PPT also assumes that other features “… involve grammatical differences between languages which include parametric variation” (Peccei 2006:115). For example, Japanese sentences are of the structure subject-object-verb (SOV) order whilst Shona has subject-verb-object (SVO) order. It then follows that according to PPT in the process of acquiring language, children identify the correct parameter which is the grammatical rules of the language they are acquiring. The assumption is that the children identify these parameters from the speech of adults, which is the interaction of E-language and I-language. This implies that a child acquiring Japanese, for instance, will have a parameter set for SOV while for Shona it will be SVO. This also implies that the child has to match the E-language with I-language. If the child discovers a match then the grammatical rule will be adopted. However, the process of acquisition is not as clear-cut. There are a lot of other constraints that are at play in order for certain grammatical rules to be grasped by the child. For instance, the assumptions of PPT was largely formulated by the linguists Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik (1993). PPT is a modification of Government and Binding theory (for more see Chomsky 1981: Lectures on Government and Binding). PPT is within the generative tradition of phrase structure grammar.
The concept of the LAD and UG is what distinguishes the generative approach from the usage-based approach which postulates that children learn languages item by item when exposed to a language (cf. Tomasello 2000a). The usage-based approach relies more on the external inputs making the approach extrinsic based, while the generative approach relies on the hardwired tools which are inborn making it an intrinsic approach. However, although the proponents of the generative approach believe that input from adults is necessary for language development they contend that by itself such input is not adequate. On the other hand, the usage-based approach is premised upon the belief that adult input is necessary and sufficient to support the acquisition of a first language. According to Tomasello (2000a:156), “…children imitatively learn concrete linguistic expressions from the language they hear around them, and then – using their general cognitive and social-cognitive skills – categorize, schematize and creatively combine these individually learned expressions and structures to reach adult linguistic competence.” The debate between these two approaches emanates from the 1957 nature-nurture debate mentioned earlier, where nature relates to any inborn capacities and structures that children are born with. Nurture relates to what children gain from experience which is usage-based (also known as empiricists). These two approaches are the broad perspectives on language acquisition. As mentioned earlier an understanding of how children acquire grammar is significant in explaining linguistic theoretical assumptions. The theories are put forward in an attempt to explain CLA to answer questions raised by Chomsky (1981) regarding the „knowledge of language‟. The three fundamental questions are:

  • What constitutes knowledge of language?
  • How does such knowledge develop?
  • How is such knowledge put to use?

The generative and usage-based approaches on language acquisition are the basics of theoretical approaches to language acquisition. These gave rise to a plethora of approaches that attempt to explain the acquisition of various language aspects. As already noted, the phenomenon of language acquisition is complex, as evidenced by the number of theories that have been put forward by various scholars from many varied disciplines such as education, psychology, linguistics and communication. The complexity of understanding language acquisition also emanates from the fact that it develops so swiftly with little effort from the child and in an efficient manner, and it all takes place within a very short period of time.

DECLARATION 
ABSTRACT 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT 
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 
1.0 PREAMBLE
1.1 AREA OF INVESTIGATION
1.2 RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.3 AIM OF THE STUDY
1.4 JUSTIFICATION
1.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0 PREAMBLE
2.1 ACQUISITION OF LANGUAGES: GLOBAL VIEWS
2.2 ACQUISITION OF BANTU LANGUAGES
2.3 PROPOSITIONS ON THE ACQUISITION OF INFLECTIONAL MORPHOLOGY
2.4 SHONA MORPHOSYNTAX
2.5 GENERAL OVERVIEW OVER CHAPTER AND PRELUDE TO NEXT CHAPTER
CHAPTER THREE: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND METHODOLOGY 
3.0 PREAMBLE
3.1 LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AND THEORIES
3.2 DATA COLLECTION METHODS
3.3 DATA ANALYSIS
3.4 GENERAL OVERVIEW OVER CHAPTER AND PRELUDE TO NEXT CHAPTER
CHAPTER FOUR: INFLECTIONAL MORPHOLOGY IN CHILD SHONA 
4.0 PREAMBLE
4.1 CHILD SHONA NOUN AND VERB INFLECTIONAL MORPHOLOGY
4.2 ELICITATION RESULTS
4.3 CHILD SHONA MORPHOSYNTAX
4.4 GENERAL OVERVIEW OVER CHAPTER AND PRELUDE TO NEXT CHAPTER
CHAPTER FIVE: CONSTRAINTS IN CHILD SHONA
5.0 PREAMBLE
5.1 PHONOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS
5.2 MORPHOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS
5.3 SEMANTIC CONSTRAINTS
5.4 VISIBILITY AND PERCEPTUAL SALIENCE CONSTRAINTS
5.5 FREQUENCY OF IMS IN INPUT AS A CONSTRAINT
5.6 CONSTRAINTS AND LINGUISTIC THEORIES
5.7 GENERAL OVERVIEW OVER CHAPTER AND PRELUDE TO NEXT CHAPTER
CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION
6.0 PREAMBLE
6.1 RESEARCH FINDINGS
6.2 RECOMMENDATIONS
REFERENCES
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
A CONSTRAINT-BASED APPROACH TO CHILD LANGUAGE ACQUISITION OF SHONA MORPHOSYNTAX

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