language acquisition episodes
How do babies get so good at language so quickly? Because they already know a lot from the beginning about how language works. In this episode, we talk about Universal Grammar and evidence that babies are little language acquisition geniuses.
What happens when babies are exposed to more than one language at the same time? You might be worried about them getting confused, but we're here to talk about bilingualism, and how kids have no trouble working out how to build their two languages right. It turns out babies, as always, are linguistically amazing.
How does our first language influence learning new ones? What gets moved over from the old languages to the new? In this episode, we talk about transfer in second language acquisition: how we know that the foundation of our new language is the one we knew already, and what the effects are of having that old language knowledge around.
How can we find out what babies know about language before they can tell us themselves? What methods can we use? In this episode, we look at some of the experimental techniques linguists use to get into those infant heads, and discuss some of the discoveries we've made about what's going on in there.
What do we have to memorize for our language? How can we know if kids learn the same things as adults? In this episode, we talk about the wug test: why it's important, how it works, and what it shows us.
Do children have an easier time learning a second language than adults? What paths do kids travel for acquiring new languages? In this episode, we talk about child second language acquisition: how it differs from first language acquisition by babies, how it differs from adult second language acquisition, and from what ages we start seeing transfer effects from the first language showing up in little kids.
How do we learn new words? What guidelines do we follow for picking up new terms? In this episode, we take a look at vocabulary development: the difficulties in deciding what sounds go with what meanings, the assumptions we make to help us solve those challenges, and what kinds of morphemes get stored where. Hodor!
How do we communicate with groups who don't speak the same language as us? What happens when kids start learning the linguistic systems we construct? In this episode, we talk about pidgins and creoles: what pidgins tend to have in common, how pidgins are like and not like natural languages, and what happens when kids take a pidgin and change it into something new.
How can we get at what kids know about language? What challenges do linguists face in working with children? In this episode, we take a look at child language experimentation: why it differs from adult testing, descriptions of a couple of types of experiments, and how we need to find the right test to get at exactly what's happening with kids.
When a kid makes a mistake in their language, does it help them fix it to correct the error? How do they deal with linguistic feedback? In this episode, we talk about negative evidence and child language acquisition: what it is, when we provide it, and how kids listen to it.
Why do little kids make speech mistakes? What patterns can we find in their errors? In this episode, we talk about sound substitutions in child speech: why it happens, what varieties there are, and how many different varieties we can find even in a single word.
How do we change our grammars when we pick up a new language? Is there a limit to how much we can shift? In this episode, we talk about parameter resetting in second language acquisition: how quickly we can change our transferred grammar, whether there's a difference in ability between children and adults, and whether there are some areas where we might be unable to adjust.
What kinds of mistakes do kids make in their sentences? Why do we see them leaving things out so much more often than putting things in wrong? In this episode, we talk about grammatical conservatism: what it means, some ways it shows up, and what it can tell us about language and how kids use it.
What knowledge do you start off with when you learn a third (or fourth, or fifth...) language? Do the languages you already have in your head help or interfere? In this episode, we talk about third language acquisition: whether you have to transfer from your first language, how you can build from the languages you already know, and what we still don't know about this new field.
What kinds of sentences do we hear from babies and toddlers? How much grammar can we find in their language use? In this episode, we take a look at child syntactic stages: what characteristics kids display as they progress from one to two to many words, whether their grammars are similar to those of adults, and how their linguistic interpretation may tell us more than just their speech.