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Questions tagged [language-acquisition]

The study of language learning, especially the processes by which first languages are learned by children.

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51 votes
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Why do most words for "mother", across languages, start with an [m], and for "father" with [p]/[b], but not vice versa?

It has been observed that in general, a word for "mother" tends to be based on a bilabial nasal [m] or similar consonant, and for father it tends to be [b] or [p]. This is found in many language ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
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24 votes
10 answers
7k views

Are some languages inherently harder for children to acquire?

I don't see why this shouldn't be the case. Surely children around the world don't learn to speak fluently by the same age?
JohnJamesSmith's user avatar
22 votes
5 answers
1k views

What method do linguists use to rate language competence?

People on the street bandy about words like "fluent", "knows French", "speaks broken French" as if it all means something. How do linguists determine if a speaker is competent and what taxonomy do ...
MatthewMartin's user avatar
22 votes
2 answers
4k views

Why do parents refer to themselves in third person?

Why do parents refer to themselves in third person, when talking to small kids? I've seen this happening in German, English and Russian and I do this myself (even though I try not to, because I think, ...
Amelse Etomer's user avatar
20 votes
4 answers
2k views

Corpus of baby-talk or motherese

Baby-talk or motherese is the language that parents tend to use when addressing preverbal or just-starting-to-speak children. What are the fundamental features or rules that define this subset of a ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
20 votes
8 answers
56k views

What is the difference between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1?

Note: I'm not a linguist, and I realize I might be treading in a grey area here. I'm wondering what the differences (and/or similarities) between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1 ...
DPenner1's user avatar
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20 votes
3 answers
1k views

Are there any fundamental differences in personal pronoun acquisition across languages?

I am interest in reversal errors in personal pronoun acquisition. My knowledge comes mostly from studies done with English-speaking children, and I was wondering if there is any languages where this ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
20 votes
2 answers
877 views

Are similar languages easier for children to acquire than dissimilar ones?

When a child is first learning a language in a bilingual environment, is it easier or harder to properly acquire the two distinct languages if they are more similar? For example, is it easier for a ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
18 votes
10 answers
10k views

What makes a non-native English speaker sound foreign?

I'm not a native speaker. However, I have tried a lot during last 10 years to learn English at a high level of proficiency and to become fluent in conversation. However, when I talk to some of my ...
Saeed Neamati's user avatar
18 votes
7 answers
7k views

Are language and thought the same?

I want to know whether language and thought are the same. I think language enriches one's thought and thought helps one to use language better. Without language how could man think? Did they ...
Jvlnarasimharao's user avatar
18 votes
5 answers
939 views

Language acquisition without interactive contact with fluent speakers

Children raised in a multilingual environment learn all the languages that they are exposed to with no effort. Does the same thing happen if a child has only indirect contact with a language? For ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
17 votes
1 answer
401 views

Are first words in signed languages composed of signs that babies frequently babble?

In many spoken languages, the words for "mother" and "father" are composed of sounds that babies make very early. Is there a similar trend for early words that babies babble across signed languages?
Adele- Nexus of Potlucks's user avatar
15 votes
3 answers
5k views

Can I learn a new language just by listening or watching videos?

The question is a bit more specific than title would suggest, but I was not creative enough to put it so specifically into compact form. Let me explain. When I was a kid I was learning English in ...
enedene's user avatar
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15 votes
4 answers
677 views

Can one's native medium of language be written, rather than spoken or signed?

(This is probably a poorly-formed question, but I'm really just trying to find out if there's any research in this area.) Most children pick up a spoken or signed language at an early age, and this ...
Joe's user avatar
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13 votes
6 answers
13k views

Evidence for age cutoff in foreign accent acquistion

Steven Pinker in "The Language Instinct" claims that there is strong psychological evidence for the existence of a sharp age cutoff for the ability to acquire a flawless foreign accent (I may dig up ...
Marcin Kotowski's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is the rarity of dental sounds explained by babies not immediately having teeth?

Dental consonants, which involve the corona of the tongue contacting the teeth (typically the upper teeth) are known to be rare throughout the world’s languages. More specifically, phonemic ...
Graham H.'s user avatar
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11 votes
17 answers
42k views

Simultaneous bilingualism vs Sequential bilingualism

Simultaneous bilingualism (or multilangualism) is when a child acquires two (or many) languages simultaneously, for example when they are raised by parents speaking more than one language. ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
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11 votes
3 answers
714 views

General mathematical frameworks of language acquisition since Gold

Gold's theorem on the unlearnability of certain sets of languages (among them context-free ones) made several assumptions in its modeling of learning a language: At each time step the learner ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is there an equivalent to the Flesch Kincaid test for measuring quality and understandability of speech?

I want to measure the quality of speech: is it higher level/lower level (vocabulary grammar etc.) and also the understandability of the speech, i.e. is the teacher using language above a student's ...
Tyler Rinker's user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
5k views

When is the end of the critical period?

At what age, approximately, is the end of the critical period for native language acquisition? Of course, I understand that many details surrounding the critical period are up for debate. I want to ...
JoFrhwld's user avatar
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10 votes
2 answers
2k views

How useful is the "pimsleur approach" for learning a new language?

I saw this video earlier today (The most important part is from 8.00 to 9.00), explaining what the "Pimsleur approach" is. It got me interested, because they claim it's the fastest method of learning ...
Simon Verbeke's user avatar
9 votes
5 answers
5k views

Can children learn up to 4 different languages? And how to do it?

An example is parents with different mother tongues living in a foreign country, teaching those three languages and also English. How and when should this language be taught? Can all be taught in ...
DK39's user avatar
  • 201
9 votes
3 answers
464 views

What do we know about primary language loss?

Living for the past five years in countries in which English is not the native language has left me feeling that my use of my native tongue has somewhat diminished in daily speech. When I talk to my ...
user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
222 views

Is there a word-list for child English?

Are there any publications which list words of English that one might reasonably expect a child to know? I assume that "father" would be on the list, and "allophone; metallurgy" would not be. As for ...
user6726's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
306 views

L2 acquisition as a factor in loss of "complex" grammatical features

Recently I came across a short text on Language Log briefly discussing a phenomenon which seems to affect certain languages. The author noticed that loss or heavy weakening of inflection during ...
czypsu's user avatar
  • 1,426
8 votes
7 answers
14k views

Is it possible to change your mother-tongue by thinking in another language?

Once I heard from someone that your mother tongue is the language you talk in your thoughts. I've asked many people to verify the correctness of this proposition and to me, inductively this seems to ...
Saeed Neamati's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
1k views

Why is the English phoneme /θ/ pronounced like /t/ in Indian accents but /s/ in Chinese accents?

The dental fricatives (/θ/ and /ð/; spelled with th) often present a challenge to non-native learners of English. Depending on the speaker's native language, different phonemes may be substituted. In ...
Bai Li's user avatar
  • 183
8 votes
2 answers
467 views

How do children learn to speak compared to adults?

Why is it hard to learn a second language as an adult while the children may learn to speak more than one language more easily than adults do? If true, how can the language learning process be made ...
cpx's user avatar
  • 199
8 votes
2 answers
2k views

Relationship between language similarity and ease of foreign language acquisition?

Inspired by this infographic, which lists a bunch of languages as either easy to learn, hard to learn, or medium. I noticed that all the languages in the easy category were either Romance or Germanic ...
Lucky's user avatar
  • 600
8 votes
1 answer
246 views

How can I embed language proficiency assessment within an unrelated experiment design?

I'm in the process of designing a self-paced-reading & a grammaticality-judgment-task experiment, which should be performed by second language learners. It is crucial to the study is how the ...
Linguister's user avatar
7 votes
4 answers
2k views

Language acquisition by 100% immersion -- any cases you know of?

I am looking for documented cases where some person or group of people learned a language (= gained ability to communicate) with no prior knowledge of the target language through being immersed in ~...
Daniil M. Ozernyi's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
228 views

Does your brain make a distinction between vocal and non-vocal language?

Language noob here. Just curious; does are body, while learning a language, make a distinction between spoken language and sign language? Or are they all just inputs and outputs to your brain? Each ...
Tirous's user avatar
  • 375
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Are analytic languages easier to learn compared to synthetic languages?

I believe the Czech linguist Karel Oliva mentioned it somewhere that analytic languages are like a hill - one can make a progress relatively easily from the beginning but there's always more to learn (...
Probably's user avatar
  • 597
6 votes
4 answers
820 views

When and how do children learn to distinguish languages?

At what age range are children expected to be able to distinguish languages? Are there any factors that aid children in learning this skill?
blunders's user avatar
  • 1,335
6 votes
4 answers
643 views

How do illiterate French people learn which pronunciation to use in different sentences?

Are there any studies on language acquisition for illiterate French people? Are they aware of the spelling of French words on a subconscious level to be able to pronounce them correctly in different ...
CJ Dennis's user avatar
  • 1,242
6 votes
3 answers
861 views

Teaching my son Arabic [closed]

I recently had a meeting with my son's teacher. In the meeting she suggested that I stop teaching him arabic and focus only on English. Arabic is a big part of our family. She said only with reading ...
Abu ahmad's user avatar
6 votes
7 answers
25k views

How similar are Spanish and French?

I know that Spanish and French both belong to the Romance branch and they are very alike. But what I want to make clear is that how similar they are. I mean that if I have mastered one of them, how ...
rome's user avatar
  • 79
6 votes
4 answers
1k views

How do we know that abstract words mean the same thing to all of us?

When a baby is learning a language some words must be easier to grasp. You show them a banana and say "This is a banana." You show them a train and say "This is a train." But how can we really be sure ...
kiroo4's user avatar
  • 61
6 votes
1 answer
774 views

I'm having trouble understanding chomskyan linguistics

ok so I'm trying to understand the argument for an innate language faculty, and specifically Chomsky's opposition to the behaviorist model of language acquisition. Behaviorists thought that language ...
teddygonyea's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
232 views

Do children's mispronunciations influence the development of a language?

Having read this question about how alternative names develop for a given name (Bill for William, Peggy for Margaret etc.) It seemed reasonable to me to assume that at least some of these develop due ...
DRF's user avatar
  • 163
6 votes
2 answers
422 views

Computational models of language acquisition

What are currently used computational models/frameworks of language acquisition? Desired features: models that are biologically plausible (such as neural networks). Personally, I have used cascade ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
777 views

Are there any audio recordings of the speech of the feral child Genie?

Genie (Susan Wiley) is the pseudonym of a feral child whose linguistic development was considered extremely important in the study of the critical period for language acquisition as she had virtually ...
forest's user avatar
  • 163
6 votes
2 answers
370 views

If someone grows up bilingually, with what accent will they speak a third language they learn as an adult?

If someone grows up bilingually (say, a Mexican-American who's a native speaker of both English and Spanish), and they learn a third language (say, Mandarin), what accent will they speak it with? (Or ...
user24353's user avatar
  • 169
6 votes
1 answer
203 views

How do Latin American Spanish speakers acquire vosotros forms?

In travels throughout Latin America, during which I spoke Spanish learned in Spain, local people had no problem understanding my use of vosotros forms even if they lived in very isolated rural areas ...
user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
319 views

A multilingual home, a pro or a con?

My question is about the appropriate number of languages for a child to learn at home. I'm Finnish and me and my husband recently moved to Finland after living in Spain a few years. My husband's first ...
Laura's user avatar
  • 61
6 votes
1 answer
328 views

L1 acquisition of morphology in heavily inflected languages

It is very common to hear two- and three-year-olds in English saying "I falled down," "She gived me it," etc. And the frequency of a verb form is inversely related to the age at which one is likely to ...
Daniel Briggs's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
4k views

At what age do children lose the ability to hear phomene differences that their native language doesn't make?

As far as I understand, very young children have no trouble distinguishing many different phonemes. However, when they get older they lose the ability to hear the difference between different phonemes ...
Christian's user avatar
  • 788
5 votes
3 answers
545 views

Significance of "childish errors" in mainstream language change

Over on ELU the question Is “bettern't” an OK word to use? drew me into debate about how significant "childish errors" are in the development of mainstream language. Hence, the question: Are "...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
3k views

Intonation for questions in different languages and child's early language development intonations

Since my 9 months old son started pointing to things and saying 'Ahh?' with a proper question intonation, I was wondering if all other languages have the same intonation for questions as in English (...
Daria's user avatar
  • 153
5 votes
1 answer
369 views

Is Wikipedia's argument for Universal Grammar completely fallacious?

Wikipedia's article about Chomsky makes the following argument for Universal Grammar: For example, although children are exposed to only a very small and finite subset of the allowable syntactic ...
MWB's user avatar
  • 1,112