Language Acquisition Q&A

I'm the TA for a course in Second Language Acquisition right now, and we're reviewing for the midterm. The professor and I thought up a little activity that worked pretty well, so I thought I'd share it.

First, you need a good-sized list of questions (which I'm sharing with you here). You need one notecard with a question written on it and one with an answer for each student. Each student receives both a question card and an answer card (that doesn't match the question). Everyone has to go around the room trying to find the answer to their question. You need to make sure there's really a one-to-one relationship here or you might run into problems getting everything matched up. When a student thinks ey've found a match, be sure to check that ey really have, or again there will be problems.

Here's what we've covered so far in the course:
  1. Q: What are some of the features that make human language unique and differentiate it from other forms of communication?
    A: Arbitrariness, discreteness, displacement, productivity/creativity, cultural transmission, and duality.
  2. Q: What does "systematicity" refer to?
    A: The idea that language is not random but ordered and governed by rules.
  3. Q: What are the different levels of analysis typically used by linguists?
    A: Phonology, semantics, morphology, syntax, and discourse.
  4. Q: On what aspect of language does phonology focus?
    A: Speech sounds that can make a difference in meaning, syllable structure, etc.
  5. Q: On what aspect of language does semantics focus?
    A: Word meaning, grammatical categories (parts of speech), idioms, etc.
  6. Q: On what aspect of language does morphology focus?
    A: Word structure, parts of words that retain meaning, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
  7. Q: On what aspect of language does syntax focus?
    A: Sentence structure, word order, ways to form questions, ways to negate statements, etc.
  8. Q: On what aspect of language does discourse focus?
    A: Ways to connect sentences in order to generate stories, dialogues, ads, songs, etc.
  9. Q: What is the difference between linguistic competence and performance?
    A: The stored linguistic knowledge a given speaker has (which is not directly observable) vs. actual production of speech, signing, etc.
  10. Q: According to Canale and Swain, what are the components of communicative competence?
    A: Grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, and strategic competence.
  11. Q: In Canale and Swain's model, what is grammatical competence?
    A: Knowledge of syntax, morphology, the lexicon, etc.
  12. Q: In Canale and Swain's model, what is discourse competence?
    A: The ability to connect setences and create texts.
  13. Q: In Canale and Swain's model, what is sociolinguistic competence?
    A: Knowledge of socio-cultural rules and expectations.
  14. Q: In Canale and Swain's model, what is strategic competence?
    A: The ability to compensate for breakdowns in communication.
  15. Q: What are the developmental stages that first language (L1) learners typically pass through?
    A: Cooing, babbling, the holophrastic (one-word) stage, the telegraphic (two-word) stage, and creative but child-like phrases.
  16. Q: What does "overgeneralization" refer to?
    A: When a language learner discovers a pattern in the target language (TL), forumlates a rule, and attempts to apply this rule too freely, resulting in errors.
  17. Q: What does the natural order of English morphemes demonstrate?
    A: Some morphemes (such as "-ing") are consistently acquired early in the process while others (such as the third-person "-s") are acquired later.
  18. Q: What is the criterion linguists use for differentiating between a language and a dialect?
    A: Mutual intelligibility: the extent to which speakers can understand each other.
  19. Q: What are some instrumental reasons for learning a second language (L2)?
    A: Job opportunities, blending in after immigration or invasion, social advancement, etc.
  20. Q: What are some intrinsic reasons for learning a second language (L2)?
    A: A desire to learn about people of another culture, a very different form of communication, etc.
  21. Q: What distinguishes learning a second language from learning a foreign language?
    A: Whether the target language (TL) is commonly spoken where the learner is studying or not.
  22. Q: What is an interlanguage?
    A: An autonomous language system that allows the learner to communicate while the target language (TL) is being acquired.
  23. Q: According to Selinker, what are the central processes of second language acquisition (SLA)?
    A: Language transfer, how instruction affects transfer, learning strategies, communication strategies, and overgeneralization.
  24. Q: What does "transfer" refer to?
    A: The extent to which a learner's native language (L1) affects (positively or negatively) the acquisition of a target language (TL).
  25. Q: What important name(s) is/are associated with behaviorism?
    A: B.F. Skinner.
  26. Q: What are some key concepts of behaviorism?
    A: Focus on performance, empiricism/structuralism, tabula rasa, importance of the environment, imitation, reinforcement, habit formation, and conditioned response.
  27. Q: What important name(s) is/are associated with nativism/innatism?
    A: Noam Chomsky and Stephen Krashen.
  28. Q: What are some key concepts of nativism/innatism?
    A: Innate predispositions, universal grammar (UG), focus on competence, rationalism/mentalism, systematic/rule-governed acquisition, and creative construction.
  29. Q: What is the language acquisition device?
    A: Noam Chomsky's theorized "language organ" that allows children to acquire their first language (L1).
  30. Q: What is the critical period hypothesis?
    A: If a child doesn't acquire a language before the onset of puberty, it will be increasingly difficult (and perhaps impossible) to do so. This may or may not apply to second language (L2) learners.
  31. Q: What are the components of Krashen's model of second language acquisition (SLA)?
    A: The input hypothesis, the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, and the affective filter hypothesis.
  32. Q: What is Krashen's input hypothesis?
    A: Learners acquire language only when they receive comprehensible input that is a small step above their current level (i + 1).
  33. Q: What is Krashen's acquisition-learning hypothesis?
    A: There are two independent ways in which we develop our linguistic skills, one subconsciously focused on meaning and one consciously focused on form.
  34. Q: What is Krashen's natural order hypothesis?
    A: Just as children acquire certain grammatical morphemes in a predictable sequence regardless of instruction, so do second language (L2) learners.
  35. Q: What is Krashen's monitor hypothesis?
    A: Although only the learner's acquired system is capable of producing spontaneous output, the learned system acts as a monitor, checking and modifying production.
  36. Q: What is Krashen's affective filter hypothesis?
    A: Negative emotional responses to the learning environment (such as stress or embarrassment) reduce the amount of input the learner is able to understand, impeding both learning and acquisition.
  37. Q: What important name(s) is/are associated with interactionism?
    A: Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.
  38. Q: What are some key concepts of interactionism?
    A: Interaction/cooperation, the zone of proximal development (ZPD), importance of the environment, interest in baby talk (IDS), focus on performance.
  39. Q: What are some possible explanations for the fact that children seem to learn language more easily than adults?
    A: They have greater plasticity in the brain, better access to universal grammar (UG), less of an affective filter, no interference from another language, etc.

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