Sunday, December 26, 2010

Psycholinguistics - A Study of Language and Brain in relation to psychology

Psycholinguistics is a recent branch of linguistics developed in the sixties. It is the study of interrelationship of psychological and linguistic behaviour. It uses linguistic concepts to describe psychological processes connected with the acquisition and use of language. As a distinct area of interest, psycholinguistics developed in the early sixties, and in its early form covered acoustic phonology and language pathology.
But now-a-days it has been influenced deeply by the development of generative theory, and its most important area of investigation has been language acquisition. It has raised and has partly answered questions such as how do children acquire their mother tongue? How do they grow up linguistically and learn to handle the registral and stylistic varieties of their mother tongue effectively? How much of the linguistic system that they ultimately command, are they born with and how much do they discover on the basis of their exposure to that system?
In its early form, psycholinguistics covered the psychological implications of an extremely broad area, from acoustic phonetics to language pathology. Now-a-days, certain areas of language and linguistic theory tend to be concentrated on by the psycholinguist. Much of psycholinguistics has been influenced by generative theory and the so-called mentalists. The most important area is the investigation of the acquisition of language by children. In this respect there have been many studies of both a theoretical and a descriptive kind. The need for descriptive study areises due to the fact that until recently hardly anything was known about the actual facts of language acquisition in children, in particular about the order in which grammatical structures were acquired. Even elementary questions as to when and how the child develops its ability to ask question syntactically, or when it learn the inflectional system of its language, remained unanswered. However, a great deal of work has been done recently on the methodological and descriptive problems related to the obtaining and analyzing information of this kind.
The theoretical questions have focused on the issue of how we can account for the phenomenon of language development in children at all. Normal children have mastered most of the structures of their language by the age of five or six. The generative approach argued against the earlier behaviorist assumptions that it was possible to explain language development largely in terms of imitation and selectives reinforcement. It asserted that it was impossible to explain the rapidity or the complexity of language used by the people around them.
Psycholinguistics therefore argue that imitation is not enough; it is not merely by mechanical repetition that children acquire language. They also acquire it by natural exposure. Both nature and nurture influence the acquisition of language in children. Children learn first not items but systems. Every normal child comes to develop this abstract knowledge of his mother tongue, even of a foreign language, to some extent for himself; and the generative approach argues that such a process is only explicable if one postulates that certain features of this competence are present in the brain of the child right from the beginning. ‘In other words, what is being claimed is that the child’s brain contains certain innate characteristics which ‘pre-structure’ it in the direction of language learning. To enable these innate features to develop into adult competence, the child must be exposed to human language, i.e., it must be stimulated in proper to respond. But the basis on which it develops its linguistic abilities is not describable in behaviourist terms’. (David Crystal, Linguistics, p. 256)
The boundary between psycholinguistics and linguistics is becoming increasingly blurred as the result of recent developments in linguistics which aim at giving psychological reality to the description of language. Chomsky regards linguistics as a subfield of psychology more specially the cognitive psychology. His view of linguistics, as outlined for instance, in his book Language and Mind, is that the most important contribution linguistics can make, is to the study of the human mind. The bonds between psychology and linguistics become more and more strong by the extent to which language is influenced by and itself influences such things as memory, motivation, attention, recall and perception.
Similarly psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics are coming closer because of the realization that merely grammatical competence is not enough; we have to aim at communicative competence too. Whereas psycholinguistics is language and the mind, sociolinguistics is language and community. In other words, psycholinguistics can be said to deal with language and the individual, and sociolinguistics with language and society.
Language Acquisition
By the study of language acquisition is meant the process whereby children achieve a fluent control of their native language. Few people in the 1950s asked about the processes by which language was acquired. It was assumed that children imitated the adults around them and their speech gradually became more accurate as they grow up. There seemed to be some mystery attached to this apparently straight-forward process. Psycholinguistics have therefore attempted general theories of language acquisition and language use. Some have argued that learning is entirely the product of experience and that our environment affects all of us in the same way. Others have suggested that everybody has an innate language learning mechanism which determines learning or acquisitionof language identically for each of us. These two schools are known as ‘empiricists’ (ehaviourists) and ‘rationalists’ (mentalists).
The empiricists say that all knowledge is derived from experience. They are of the opinion that children start out as clean slates. Learning a language is a process of getting linguistic habits printed on these slates. Language acquisition is the result of stimulus-response activities. Imitation, repetition, memorization, reward, and reinforcement facilitate this process of language acquisition. The behaviourists argue that learning is controlled by the conditions under which it takes place and that, as long as individuals are subjected on the same condition, they will learn in the same way. Variations in learning are caused because of the difference in learning experience, difference in the past experience of learning, difference in aptitudes, motivation, memory and age. So, for them there is not a theory of language learning as such but merely the application to language of general principles of learning.
From this follows that in general there is no difference between the way one learns a language and the way one learns to do anything else. So, according to the empiricists, language is a result of stimulus and response. A child should therefore learn to make a response in the first place, and then the response should be reinforced in a variety of ways. Indeed strength of learning is measured in terms of the number of times that a response has been made and reinforced. A word that has been uttered thirty times is better learned than one which has been said twenty times. So language learning process is basically a mechanical process of a habit formation. Habits are strengthened by reinforcement. Language is behaviour, a conditioned behaviour which can be learned only by inducing the child to behave. Repetition plays a vital role in learning a language. Hence the necessity of mechanical drills and exercises, imitation and repetition.
The rationalists contradict the empiricists at almost every point. Children learn a language, not because they are subjected to a similar conditioning process, but because they possess an inborn capacity which permits them to acquire a language as a normal maturational process. This capacity is universal. The child has an innate language acquiring device. He learns a language by exposure to it in society and by unconsciously forming certain hypotheses about language, which he goes on modifying till he comes to the adult model to which he is for the most part exposed. So the child goes on constructing an innate grammar, operating over generalized rules.
Language acquisition is species-specific and species-uniform. The ability to take up an understand language is inherited genetically but the particular language that children speak, is culturally and environmentally transmitted to them. Children all over the world acquire their native tongue without tutoring. Whereas a child exposed to an English speaking community begins to speak English fluently, the other one exposed to a community of Urdu speakers, begins to use Urdu fluently. Only human beings can acquire language. Language acquisition thus appears to be different in kind from acquisition of other skills such as swimming, dancing, or gymnastics. Native language acquisition is much less likely to be affected by mental retardation than the acquisition of other intellectual activities. Every normal human child learns one or more language unless he is brought up in linguistic isolation, and learns the essentials of his language by a fairly little age, say by six. To acquire fluency in a language a child has to be exposed to people who speak that language. A language is not something we know by instinct or inherit from our parents. It is the result of our exposure to a certain linguistic community. It is part of that whole complex of learned and shared behaviour that anthropologists call ‘culture’. By this we do not mean that language is acquired ready-made. It is created anew by each child by putting together bits and pieces of environmental raw material. The human child does play an active role in this process, he actively strains, filters, recognizes what he is exposed to. His imitations are not photographic reproductions but artistic recreations. A child is a linguist in cradle He acquires a language more easily than adults. He discovers the structure of his native language to use that language; no one hands it to him in a ready-to-use form.
Both schools have said significant things, yet neither is perfect. The mentalists’ emphasis on the rule-learning is over-enthusiastic, and the behaviourists’ rejection of meaning entirely is unjust. Language acquisition seems to be a process both of analogy and application, nature and nurture.
Language Learning Theories
The Spectrum of language learning theories was dominated by the behaviorists till fifties of the last century when Chomsky appeared with the beam of ‘cognitive approach’ and Piaget with the ray of ‘Genetic Epistemology‘. Ideas of both the scholars turned the mode of language learning. Chomsky emphasized the importance of ‘innate cognitive abilities’ for language learning which were being neglected by the behaviorists. Whereas Piaget highlighted the importance of cognitive development in the learning process. The work of both the psychologists introduced new horizons to explore. Particularly, on one side, Piaget’s work patched the way of the language learning theories of cognitive process such as Paivio’s ‘Dual Code theory’ and Anderson’s ‘Act theory’. And on the other side, many Constructivists like Bruner, Vydotsky and Seymour Papert, influenced by Piaget’s cognitive approach, tried to synthesis the behaviorist ‘environmental stimulus’ and the Mentalist cognitive process in their theories. Moreover, Bloom’s Cognitive Domain and Gardner’s MI theory provided classroom teacher to assess and analyze the levels and problems of his students. In the following all these important theories will be discussed under these heads:
1. The Behaviorists
2. The Mentalists
3. Cognitive Process Theories
4. The Constructivists
5. Cognitive Domain
6. Multiple Intelligence Theory
In fact, all these theories tend to describe the nature and the procedure of learning as they observe it. Let’s start with ‘The Behaviorists’.
The Behaviorist School
Behaviorist school simply claims that language learning is the formation of a set of habits. The roots of this claim can be found in the general theory of learning described by the psychologist John B. Watson in 1923, and is known as behaviorism. He gave the idea that knowledge is the product of interaction with the environment through stimulus-response conditioning.
B F Skinner was the psychologist who connected SRR with language learning. His book Verbal Behavior (1957) laid out a vocabulary and theory for analysis of verbal behavior. How Skinner inferred this theory is an interesting matter and is related to the operant conditioning.
Operant Conditioning Behavior:
Skinner presented his concept of Operant Conditioning behavior in his book Schedules of Reinforcement. This behavior implies that learner demonstrate the new behavior first as a response to the system of reward or punishment and finally becomes an automatic response which gradually can be developed into complex forms. In this regard Skinner conducted an experiment on rat. He put the rat in a box containing a bar. When unconsciously the rat pushed the bar, he received a pellet of food. Skinner presented the bar as stimulus, the pushing of the bar as response and the
pellet of food as reinforcement. He made the process gradually complex by including blinking-light and reinforcement on double pushing. He showed that through this SRR bond, it had developed as a habit of rat that whenever he needed food he pressed the bar. From this, Skinner conclude :
“The basic process and relation which give verbal behavior its special characteristics are now fairly understood… the results have surprisingly free of species restrictions. Recent work has shown that the methods can be extended to human behavior without serious modification.”
Skinner broadened the theory to the vast majority of human learning including language learning, points out Jean Aitchison. When language acquisition is taken into consideration, the theory claims that both LI and L2 learners receive linguistic input from speakers in their environment. And when language learners’ responses are reinforced positively, they learn the language relatively easily.
Influence of Behaviorism:
Behaviorism influenced a great number of learning theories in general and language learning theories in specific. In general theories Guthrie’s Contiguity ,Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory, Lava’s Situated learning theory mark great influence of Behaviourism. In language learning theories Skinner’s Operant Conditioning theory, Maltzman’s Originality theory follow the behaviourism. Moreover The Bloomfieldian structuralist school of linguistics also accepted behaviorist ideas.
Maltzman proposed that Originality can be increased through instructions or practice to produce uncommon responses. He distinguished originality from creativity. He claimed latter refers to the consequences of original behavior. He is one of the few behaviorists who attempt to deal with creative behaviour. He suggested three principles:
i) Present an uncommon stimulus situation for which conventional responses may not be readily available
ii) Suggest different responses to the same situation
iii) Evoke uncommon responses as textual responses
Since the behaviorists claim that there is no need of innate or mental mechanism, they see errors as wrong habits. During learning second language errors are taken ‘first language habits’ interfering with the learning of second language habits thus strictly avoided. If there are similarities between the two languages, the language learners will acquire the target structures easily. If there are differences, acquisition will be more difficult. This approach is known as the contrastive analysis hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, the differences between languages can be used to reveal and predict all errors and the data obtained can be used in second language teaching for promoting a better learning environment
The well-know application in the field of second language teaching is the Audio-lingual Method. The theory sees the language learner with no built-in knowledge. The theory and the resulting teaching methods failed to provide a sound basis for language teaching methodology. This failure is due to the consideration of mere external factors on the one hand and on the other hand the learned psychologist ‘misunderstood the nature of language’. This is what Chomsky pointed out in his “A Review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior”.
Chomsky’s Attack:
Chomsky, a linguist and psychologist, criticized Skinner’s theory and argued that he misunderstood the nature of language. He said that Skinner took language merely ‘stringing words together’. The linguist pointed out that language makes use ‘structure-depended operation’. Through this he implies that language is consist of double structure: Surface structure and Deep Structure. In order to understand the utterance, the listener is to comprehend both the structures.
Another quality of language that Skinner overlooked is creativity in human language. In this regard Chomsky says:
The normal use of language is a creative activity. The creative aspect of normal language is one of the fundamental factors that distinguish human language from any known system of animal communication”.
Chomsky’s point is that humans have freedom to create novel, and new utterance that never used before yet other can understand it. For example, the sentence “Mars told that Pluto told him that he saw a Moon in the pocket of Sun which was crying for a new pair of shoes for he wanted to go to the fun fair in girls high school at Jupiter” is a novel and never-before-heard sentence but any fluent speaker of English would be able to understand it. Thus, the behavior of rat, which is simple and contains no creativity or novelty, is irrelevant to the human language. In this regard he pointed out further lacks that are as following:
1. The conditions in rat experiment are simple, well defined, and predictable but human language is complex phenomenon and it is next to impossible to predetermine what a human is going to say.
2. The rat was repeatedly rewarded whereas children utters without any reward and even when nobody is around.
3. If approval and disapproval (reinforcement) worked in the way Skinner suggests, children should grow up always telling truth but speaking ungrammatically, since mother always approves ‘true statements of a child’ even though ungrammatical.
On theses sound basis Nome Chomsky rejected “the verbal behavior” of Skinner and purposed his own theory that is known as “The Mentalist Theory”
The Mentalist School
In contrast with the Behaviorists, the Mentalists claim that language learning is a rule cognition process.. They suggest that learning is connected with cognition, innovation and innate ability. Noam Chomsky suggests that humans are born with an innate knowledge of language. He presented his theory about the possibility of an innate structure “Language Acquisition Device”.
Language Acquisition Device:
Chomsky named the ‘innate structure’, ‘Language Acquisition Device’. What does this LAD do? In his “The Problem of Knowledge and Freedom”, the theorist claims that it works to relate the sounds and meanings. It does this with the help of “an internalized set of rules”. That is to be said a ‘mental grammar’. He claimed that the grammar expresses the speaker-hearer language know ledge. Its system can be comprehended as a linguist analyses any ‘unknown linguistic situation’. He receives sounds, makes hypothesizes, and sometimes for a time being abandoned it until he compiled a set of rules accountable for all the possible structures of language. So he claimed:
“there can be little doubt that highly restrictive universal principle must exist [in mind] determining the general framework of each human language”. {quoted in Aitchison’ The Articulate Mammal)
Moreover, Chomsky first time made a distinction between language competence and language performance. Competence is just the knowledge that speaker possesses of the grammar of a language; performance is considered the ability to produce through use of one’s competence.
Chomsky’s Influence:
Chomsky’s ideas about language and mind shook the behaviorists’ theories about language learning. Language learning remained no more mere a matter of ‘habit formation’. Educationists, psychologist and linguists recognized this fact that language learning involves various faculties such as memory, reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving etc., so the theories which came after Chomsky’s work, were mostly based on cognitive approach. The more important among them are Cognitive Code Learning, Communicative approach, and The Bilingual Method. In fact, Chomsky’s real achievement is that his work changed the focus of learning methods and theories from outer environment or teacher to the learner’s personality and mind. Where he marked such a great influence, some of his ideas were criticized by psycholinguists even though they believed in ‘cognitive abilities’.
Criticism on Chomsky:
Many research analysts criticizes the Chomsky’s notion that ‘grammatical rules’ are given as innate knowledge. For instance Slobin modifies the Chomsky’s theory in this way that the rules are not innate but capacity to process the rules is innate.
Chomsky gives little importance to the environment when he says in his” A Review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior” : “neither empirical evidence nor any known argument to support any specific claim about the relative importance of feedback from the environment. His this claim leads towards another extreme and even his design of LAD itself demands a need of exposure for language learning.
These short comings and lapses in ‘cognitive approach’ were patched by the work another great psychologist, Piaget, who first time proposed theory of ‘cognitive development’. Piaget’s influence can be seen chiefly in two streams: 1). Theories of cognitive process 2). The Constructivists theories. Let’s discuss these streams.
Cognitive Process Theories
Piaget presented general theoretical framework of “genetic epistemology“. The concept of cognitive structure or development stages are central to his theory and he was primarily interested in “how knowledge develops in human organisms”. These stage of Cognitive developments, which he presented in his genetic epistemology, are as following:
1. Sensorimotor stage: children experience through their senses
2. Preoperational stage: motor skills are acquired
3. Concrete operational stage: children think logically about concrete events
4. Formal Operational stage: abstract reasoning is developed here.
Piaget explored the implications of his theory to all aspects of cognition, intelligence and moral development. He proposed some principle that should be kept in view during the learning process regardless of age and subject of learner. Practical implication of the principles in language learning is found useful. For instance, to the children in the Sensorimotor stage, till the age of seven, teachers should provide a rich and stimulating environment with ample objects about which they want to teach. If learner is to be taught word apple, he should be provided with the object ‘apple’. The principles are as following
1. Children will provide different explanations of reality at different stages of cognitive development.
2. Cognitive development is facilitated by providing activities or situations that engage learners and require adaptation (i.e., assimilation and accommodation).
3. Learning materials and activities should involve the appropriate level of motor or mental operations for a child of given age;
4. Avoid asking students to perform tasks that are beyond their current cognitive capabilities.
5. Use teaching methods that actively involve students and present challenges.
There are many learning theories in general and various language learning theories in particular that mark the influence of Piaget’ work. Theories related to language are:
1. Dual Coding Theory
2. Architecture Cognitive Theory
3. Social Development Theory
4. Seymour Papert’s Theory
Out of these four theories later two are related to ‘constructivism’ so they will be dealt under the headings of the constructivist whereas former two are related to cognitive process so let’s have a brief introduction of these two theories.
Architecture Cognitive Theory:
John Anderson along with his research fellows proposed a theory for memory process named ACT. He distinguishes three types of memory structures:
• declarative
• procedural
• working memory.
Declarative memory takes the form of propositions, images, and sequences by direct associations. Procedural memory or long-term memory represents information in the form of productions; each production has a set of conditions and actions based on declarative memory. Working memory is that part of long-term memory that is the most highly activated. For language learning it suggests the fowling principles:
1. Relate new language items with previous knowledge
2. Minimize working memory load.
3. Provide immediate feedback on errors
Dual Coding Theory:
Piaivio is expounder of the dual coding theory. It attempts to give equal weight to verbal and non-verbal processing. Paivio emphasizes on the dual function of ‘cognition process’ particularly with reference to language. He says:
“Human cognition is unique in that way it has become specialized for dealing simultaneously with language and with nonverbal objects and events. Any representational theory must accommodate this dual functionality”.
The theory supposes that there are two cognitive subsystems, one specialized for the representation and processing of nonverbal objects such as imagery, pictures etc and the other specialized for dealing with language. Theory of Paivio is supported by researches conducting in the field of neurology especially in regard with aphasia. These researches shows that left hemisphere of human mind is dedicated to verbal function whereas right hemisphere is dedicated to visual function. Thus, Dual Code Learning proposes a very significant principle in language teaching:
“Learning can be enhanced by presenting information in both visual and verbal form”.
The cognitive process theorist’ gave their more emphasis on mental process for learning. They give little importance to external events. This gap was filled by the constructivists.
The Constructivists
Constructivism is recognized as a unique learning theory in itself. It however, may be associated with cognitive psychology, because as a theory of learning, it focuses on a learner’s ability to mentally construct meaning of his own environment and to create his own learning. The term constructivism is linked to Cognitive and Social Constructivism.
Constructivist theory provides a general framework for instruction based upon the study of cognition. Much of the theory is linked to child development research especially of Piaget who first time emphasized that cognitive development is related as much with external experience as with inner innate abilities. A major theme in the theoretical framework of constructivists is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their experience.
J. Bruner, who presented the constructivists theory in learning context, described that the learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure provides meaning and organization to the experiences and allows the individual to go beyond the information given.
Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, suggests that social interaction plays a vital role in cognitive development at any stage .He says “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level:” His theory is a key component of Situated Learning Theory and Anchored instruction. Lava, the expounder of Situated Learning Theory, says:
“Learning, both outside and inside school, advances through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge”.
Ideas of Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky and Papert bring a balance in the approach of cognitive psychologists. Seymour Papert says:
“Thus, constructionism,… attaches special importance to the role of constructions in the world as a support for those in the head, thereby becoming less of a purely mentalist doctrine.”
Constractivists desire students to become motivated learners, critical thinkers, problem-solvers and metacognitionists.For this they propose:
1. Language learning must be connected with the experiences and contexts that motivates learner.
2. Language items must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student.
3. Learner should be encouraged to explore language own their own through experience.
4. Interactive learning should be encouraged instead of instruction based.
5. Learning should be learner-centered rather than teacher centered.
6. Use of computer technology is important for cognitive growth
While Piaget and other Cognitive psychologist were giving there attentions to the ‘cognitive process’ some other psychologists prescribed the importance of ‘learning variables’ and some other of ‘learner’s variable’. Out of those, two names gained more importance among educationists : Benjamin Bloom for his famous ‘Cognitive Domain’ that deals with learning variables and Howard Gardner for his Multiple Intelligence Theory that describes ‘learners’ variables. Let’s discuss both the theories one by one.
Cognitive Domain
Benjamin Bloom made a valuable contribution to the classification of educational objectives through his Taxonomy that is known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. He emphasized the importance of different types of learning. He divided learning into three major domains:
• Cognitive: mental skills
• Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas
• Psychomotor: manual or physical skills
Although, all three are important from teaching point of view, Cognitive Domain is more important for language teaching. Due to its this importance, this domain will be discussed in further details.
The cognitive domain involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. This includes the recall or recognition of specific facts, procedures, patterns, and concepts that are related to mental abilities and skills. There are six major categories starting from the simplest to the most complex according to Bloom. These are:
1. Knowledge 4. Analysis
2. Comprehension 5. Synthesis
3. Application 6. Evaluation
Let’s try too understand all these concepts in the context of language.
Knowledge mean “recall data or information”. When a language student is instructed to identify or label any linguistic item in the given statement, let’s suppose noun, in fact, his knowledge is checked. All questions like: “narrate summery of any event”, or “tell the name of places or characters”, are knowledge based question. Multiple-choice tests, definitions, quotations and grammatical rules, all falls in the category of knowledge.
Comprehension implies understanding of knowledge and ideas. It can be demonstrated by the questions of organization, translation or interpretation. All questions that instruct like: “Translate paragraph into Urdu”, or “State main theme of story’, or “Explain with the help of examples” are likely to test comprehension of students.
Application denotes “put the theory into practice”. For instance, learns are taught creative writing, they have knowledge what creative writing is, and they can understand any piece of writing, thus they have comprehension also. Application is a next step when they are asked to write a narrative essay or argumentative essay. In spoken context, they learn to handle any situation, let’s say giving presentation. They have knowledge of presentation, but when they themselves give a presentation they are applying there knowledge and comprehension.
Analysis is mean “break and examine information into parts by identifying motives or causes”. The tasks at this level that English language learners are give are: classify, contrast, compare, categorize, sequence. For instance, “What are the basic elements of Bacons prose? Read his essay and discuss.“ or “Why Elizabeth refused Darcy’s proposal ?(Pride& Prejudice)”
Synthesis tends to “put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure”. At this level students are to compile information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern and by proposing alternative solutions. For instance, question like “Can you invent another character for the story?” “How would you change the story of Mill on the Floss to create a different ending?”
Evaluation means “make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.” Here students are to give there own opinion. For instance “Which part of the novel Heart of Darkness did you like best? Explain why you like it?” ‘Bacon is the Father of English prose”, accept or refute the statement.”
Although the ranking of levels according to difficulty is still controversial among psychologists, yet classification of different types of learning is Bloom’s great contribution to educational scenario. It helps teacher to easily recognize and classify the weak areas of a student. As it helps in classification of learning, another theory helps in classification of learner.
Multiple Intelligence Theorem
MI theory helps in classification of learner according to their different types of intelligence. The theory of multiple intelligences was developed by Dr. Howard Gardner. It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:
• Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”):
• Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/ reasoning smart”)
• Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
• Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
• Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
• Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
• Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
• Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
In educational psychology and practice it was a great development. Prior to him, people gave importance only to logical or linguistic intelligence. For instance only those people got esteem of public who were highly articulate or who were logical. Particularly, in classroom teacher ignored all other types of intelligence and emphasized on linguistic or logical interpretation. Drawback of this was that student who were gifted with other types of intelligence were either ignored or considered ‘dull’. The theory helps teacher to addressing maximum levels of understandings. This theory has a broad scope in language learning process.
MI Theory in English Language Learning:
Through different kinds of activity almost every kind of intelligence can be addressed. If a teacher is having difficulty reaching a student in the more traditional linguistic or logical ways of instruction, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning. Whatever teacher is teaching, he should see, how can be connect it with words, numbers, pictures, music, self-reflection, any physical experience, any social experience, or with natural world.
For instance, let’s suppose lesson theme that is to be taught to second language learners at beginner’s level is “Helpers.” The key vocabulary items are the names of community helpers (firefighter, police officer, traffic warden, postman, doctor, nurse), the names of vehicles they use and their places of work. The target structure to be used is Present Simple, with third person singular.
A whole set of activities can be designed for the purpose. Let’s say take a start with an educational trip to the fire station, police station, city council and post office, around the city. First of all this will give them a direct natural and interpersonal experience of learning. Secondly, the students will produce an essay, “My Personal Account of Trip”. This will address two more levels: verbal and intrapersonal intelligence. Thirdly, they will prepare a picture album with title “Our Helpers”. In album they will paste different pictures of doctor, nurse, firefighters, postman etc, with their captions and with description in a few words. For example under the photo of nurse description will be “A nurse cares patients”. So this activity will address spatial intelligence as well as linguistic one. Fourthly, to address musical intelligence, any light song about ‘Helpers’ can be produced. The whole class will sing the song. Fifthly, to address mathematical intelligence, learner can be asked to list the ‘helpers’ they have met and give them number in words along with in digits. Sixthly, learner will play roles of different helpers to address kinesthetic intelligence. So in this way all eight intelligence can be addressed.
One great benefit of these theories of style of learning and levels of intelligence is that these gives learner more importance who actually is the most important part of teaching/learning process. On the other hand these theories help teachers in understanding their students and to easily identify their problems and mental levels. Both the theories i.e., Bloom’s ‘Cognitive Domain’ and Gardner’s MI theory have brought educational psychology out from clinics and research centers into practice.
The Conclusion
There are two main different streams of theories. One flows with the waves of behaviorist psychologist whereas the other runs with the tides of cognitive scientists. Former observes environmental stimulus as crucial factor but later declares ‘mental process’ as central feature. However, both the streams are combined at the channel of the constructivists’ who, according to Dr. Joseph Anthony, suggest “A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach”. In all this flood of theories, two separate tides of Cognitive Domain and of MI theory make their distinction by serving two purposes respectively : by categorization of he different kinds of learning, and by identification of different types of learner. Due to these developments, language learning process has remained no more subject to theories or methods but now it gives its attention to the learner. It focuses on learner, revolves around learner, thus it has become learner-centered.
Biological Evidence for Innate Language Capacity
The qualitative growth of language till now has been a unique hallmark of humans. Language seems to arise according to an inlaid biological time clock. Children, all over the world, normally start speaking almost at the same time: between their 18th and 28th month. To provide an unaltering and a patent evidence about an innate inlaid programming of language in humans is although a colossal task because language is such a complex phenomenon, still it does not deter us from making a hypothesis: language in humans is a preplanned innate program. A few factors seem to recommend the presence of a biological set up in humans for innate language capacity. These factors may stand as biological evidence for an innate language acquisition. Let us examine them in detail.
It is usually believed that when an animal has some innate behavior, it should give some biological clues about it. Physiology is an authentic branch of biology so let us first see if any kind of physiological adaptation of the organs of speech is exclusive to humans. On examination, it seems as if partial adaptation is there.
The organs of speech are involved in planning, processing and producing speech. In humans, they show certain differences from other species. These organs are the mouth, the tongue, the teeth, the vocal cords, larynx, the lungs and the brain. Their structural adaptations are as under:
Human lips are thick-muscled and the shape of the mouth is quite plastic and variable, which can be rapidly opened and shut. The human lips have a muscular system that is more intricate than the primates. The mouth’s variable size is planned to be rather small for supporting good articulation. In chimps and other animals, it is quite large to support hunting but not speech. The human tongue is also thick-muscled and not thin like chimps and birds, the shape that impedes stressed speech. Thick tongue helps in articulating a number of sounds like //, /dз/, /t /, /z/ and /j/. Thin tongue cannot rest upon itself to produce these stressed sounds. Again, the teeth are quite distinguishable from other species. They are precisely placed, placed together and go like a barrier for the air stream coming out of the lungs. Each set of teeth, the upper and lower, gets set into each other and is not indented outwards. The indented shape of teeth in animals cannot support firm articulation.
The examination of human mouth cavity shows as if it is biologically designed to meet the needs of speech production. But, of course, only this cannot stand as a quite approved and ultimate evidence of an innate language capacity therefore we move on to downward analysis.
The larynx is unlike animals in its simple structure. It shows streamlining when compared to that of the primates. Biologically, streamlining and simplification often indicates specialization for some purpose. So this may be an adaptation to speech production. In lungs, we witness a finely balanced respiratory system. Usually, breathing is accelerated when a person pants and one may faint due to this increased rate yet during speech production, people can go on talking without any peculiar discomfort. The rate of inhalation while speaking is increased and that of Exhalation is reduced. This adjustment is not learnt but natural. It also stands as a biological adaptation for language.
Critchley quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes praising the sophisticated adaptation for speech in humans:
‘What a curious thing speech is! The tongue is so serviceable a member (taking all sorts of shapes just as it is wanted)––the teeth, the lips, the roof of the mouth, all ready to help; and so heap up the sounds of the voice into the solid hits which we call consonants, and make room for the curiously shaped breathings which we call words.’
The brain is a very crucial organ in processing speech. The human cortex or the gray matter is quite thicker than other animals and it appears reasonable to suggest that a high brain-body ratio is favorable for speech production, still the factor is not always confirmed in every animal. A camel cannot produce speech like a human even when it is more huge than human. Likewise a non-cephalic human and chimp, having the same brain-body ratio, are different in language production. The dwarf speaks while a chimp does not. This again shows that language is like innate and exclusive to humans.
We shall have to examine the brain’s working in detail to comprehend its function in language processing. Many researches show that the hemispheres, the two halves of the brain, function identically in animals while in humans a considerable difference is seen in their functioning. Unlike animals, one of the hemispheres shows a high function in language production. Mostly, it is the left hemisphere. Moreover, the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and the left hemisphere, the right side. This was first discovered by Marc Dax in 1836 that the paralysis of the right side of the body incurs speech loss while the left-side paralysis does not affect speech. This discovery also recommends that usually the left hemisphere controls not only the right side of the body but speech as well. It indicates functional difference in both hemispheres. This difference is also indicated by Barbiturate (Sodium amytal) Test, Dichotic Listening Test and Electrodiagnosis. This brain asymmetry develops gradually but even in fetus development, some neurologists found traces of future left hemisphere dominance. It shows as if the physiology of the brain is altered in humans to support language acquisition.
The breathing adaptation, neuromuscular sequencing, comprehension and fine balance of different processes during speech points toward another biological evidence. The multiplicity of the integrative processes, which operates during speech production, is usually not possible in many other processes. For example, patting one’s head and rubbing one’s stomach cannot take place simultaneously. But during speech production the coordination of different processes is so intense we can feel language might be innately programmed to take place.
Different experiments have shown that only human brain has been able to achieve ‘semanticity’ and structural development of language. The animals that were given crash training to speak could not come to the point of clear articulation and semantic usage of language in spite of providing many years of language-enriched environment. Here I shall give reference of certain experiments that were carried out on different animals.
All these experiments showed that these animals might differ in their capacity to learn language, as chimps seem to be better than others at acquiring a limited amount of language. In spite of their ability to learn to speak to a limited extent, they gave biological evidence in favor of the human brain. They showed that only the human brain possesses the unique capacity to process language up to a sophisticated and intricate level. Chimps are not physiologically capable of uttering speech sounds that humans can utter.
Let us touch upon another very important factor, which might stand as biological evidence on the innate capacity of language in humans. Biologically, if any behavior shows following features, it is supposed to be innate:
• The behavior emerges before it is necessary
• The emergence of the behavior is involuntary. No conscious decision is made for its emergence
• The above said emergence of the behavior is not triggered by external events
• There is a ‘critical period’ for the acquisition of this behavior
• Direct teaching and intense practice has very little effect
• The behavior progresses through certain ‘milestones’. We can say that it is sequenced.
Let us see whether language shows these features or not:
With reference to the above said points, we see that language also emerges before it is necessary. Even when their parents still fend for them, babies start speaking. It is called ‘law of anticinatory maturation’. Without any inborn mechanism speech might develop in babies when their parents left them to fend for themselves. It would emerge at different times in different cultures but we can see that the emergence of speech takes place almost at the same time in all the babies.
Secondly, a child does not decide consciously, ‘Tomorrow I shall start speaking.’ Starting uttering words is quite unconscious. This is quite different from the decision of jumping from a high place, which has to be consciously decided. So language shows the second characteristic of an innate behavior as well.
Thirdly, children start to talk even when their external environment remains unchanged. They remain in the same house and the same place. Here, it must not be mingled with the fact that rich linguistic environment helps the child toward a far better progress. It is because any biologically programmed behavior does not develop in impoverished or unnatural surroundings.
Fourthly, all the analyses of language acquisition show that there is a certain time period in which the acquisition is on the peak, after which it slows down. We shall not go into the reasons of its slowing down. The same critical period is said to be working in children getting even two mother tongues at the same time equally effectively. The end of this critical period works in adults who do not prove to be very good at learning a second language.
Fifthly, many experiments show that direct teaching and giving forced practice only hinders the way of a child towards good learning performance. The language takes its natural course towards its development. It indicates that language is naturally programmed. And if it is naturally programmed, it is innate.
Sixthly, language acquisition is a sequenced behavior. A baby has to pass through certain milestones till he gets the language fully. At first, it starts crying, then cooing that remains for about 6 weeks. Then babbling starts and lasts for 6 months. After 2 months, intonation patterns arise, which lasts for about 2 months. 1-Word utterances are followed by 2-words utterances and last till the child is of 18 months. At the age of 5 years, children start producing rare and complex structures. And it is at 10 years of age that mature speech begins. Though this is an approximate age-schedule but the order of the events is the same.
The physiological and behavioral factors discussed above show to a very great extent that language is biologically programmed behavior and so it is innate. Lenneberg says:
‘There is in fact, no evidence that any conscious and systematic teaching of language takes place, just as there is no special training /or ‘stance or gait ‘.
Factors Affecting Foreign Language Learning
Plenty of observation has made it clear that FL learning is different from mother tongue acquisition. Although one can learn two mother tongues equally well simultaneously, FL does not seem to follow the same mode of learning. There must be then a number of factors that affect this learning and an overview might help us in getting an insight into what we can do to overcome these factors. We shall analyze the following in this regard:
• Aptitude
• Motivation
• Needs
• Age
• Personality
• Learning strategies
• Influence of mother tongue
Let us first see how aptitude affects the FL learning:
As teachers, we must have seen many a times that a few students in every session seem fairly better at language acquisition than the other ones. We assign to them a quality that they possess a good language learning potential, which differs from individual to individual. It follows that people are not identical in their capability to learn a foreign language. This language learning potential is actually the language aptitude’. It is the same element that can determine the success or failure of a FL learner. Whether their aptitude is a product of the innate abilities or previous learning experience does not matter. Neither influence, we suppose, is reversible so every person has a permanent and stable level up to which he can learn a foreign language. Here, it should be remembered that aptitude is a factor more concerned with FL learning. It is because mother tongue seems to develop through one’s innate abilities.
To measure this aptitude, researches have developed two important language tests. This measure can give us a piece of information doubt the future performance of a learner, beforehand. It seems reasonable to expect that any test that succeed in providing such a prediction would point towards the psychological components a language learning ability.
There are two existing language tests, both developed in the united states:
1. Modren Language Aptitude Test (MLA] ) developed by Caroll and Sapon.
2. Language Aptitude Battery (LAB) developed by Pimsleur
Now we can get an idea out of what has been said above that language aptitude is an important factor that can have serious effects on FL learning. A learner, who possesses an active and good aptitude, would naturally show diligent learning while a learner with a less active aptitude is expected to find hurdles in his way through language learning. That is why language aptitude tests are given a lot of significance before starting FL teaching.
We would definitely like to see how the tests work. Let us have an overview:
The MLAT in the beginning had 25 variables to determine language aptitude. The 20 variables, on seeing that they did not offer a good prediction, were dropped and 5 of them selected to develop MLAT. This test works through the following factors:
• Learning artificial numbering
• Working on a phonetic script
• Vocabulary test containing not illogical but strangely spelt words
• Identifying similar grammatical words in different sentences
• The ease of learning based on the pairs of words in English and Kurdish
After MLAT, Pimsleur’s LAB was again a good predictor of success and failure in FL leaning. LAB works through the following factors:
• Vocabulary in the mother tongue
• Construction of new analogous sentences
• Ability to discriminate sounds of new language
• Testing sound––symbol relationship
• Measuring pupil’s declared interest in language learning on a scale of 1–5
An analysis of LAB tells us that the first four factors are purely linguistic and the last one is non-linguistic but can show an important degree of language learning aptitude. The difference between MLAT and LAB is that the earlier of the two contains only linguistic sub-tests whereas the second one probes into a non-linguistic measure as well. It makes LAB a better predictor than MLAT. A general analysis of the Grade Point Average is also taken into account these days. Thus, language aptitude becomes a very significant factor that affects performance of foreign language learners.
Motivation, like aptitude, is a factor much concerned with second language learning. The reason of not associating it to first language acquisition is that L1 acquisition is thought to be a maturational process, in which motivation and aptitude seem to have no place. The psychology of first language gives a few points about motivation in second language learning as well. The two Soviet psychologists, Luria and Vygotsky describe the psychology very explicitly in an acceptable way:
It is through speech that a child learns to organize his perception and to regulate his behavior and mental activities. Faced with problems and needs, the child will in his early years merely look for outside assistance and language will have the function of obtaining this assistance for him. Then will come a stage in which the child spends a lot of time talking to himself or to anyone who cares to listen in his first efforts to find solutions to his needs himself. Finally, the external speech is internalized, so that the child’s behavior is no longer simply a response to external stimuli but has come under the control of his thought processes. It is the environment that is controlled by the child rather than the other way round.
The parallel between the above said situation and that of learning an alternate language does not abound. In learning L2, a learner does not need the second language for regulating his manners or behavior. His modes of’ behavior are already set in the culture of his L1. He is not ‘forced mentally’ to acquire a language but possesses only a desire of learning L2. He may be motivated to influence the outer environment according to his needs. The greater the motivation, the greater the success. This is where the only means available to exercise control over events and people outside himself, is the foreign language. If to satisfy his needs, to influence the actions and thoughts of others to pursue his occupation and his recreation, it is necessary to use a foreign language, then he will learn the foreign language more rapidly and effectively. These circumstances will normally arise if the learner is living in the country where a foreign language is as important functionally as the learner’s L1 in his own country. So the learner would be highly motivated to learn the alternate language. If immigrants find themselves, even in the foreign land, in a situation where most of their needs can be met in their mother tongue, they would be less motivated to learn L2. Motivation can be of two kinds:
The reason of learning may be numberless. People are motivated for different reasons. Those who want to learn a language to achieve some other goal are called instrumental learners. Some of the like reasons are mentioned below:
1. To pass an exam that is important.
2. To utilize the language at one’s job place.
3. To go for a holiday to the area of 1,2.
4. To get the entertainment that is being continuously induced.
5. Under the instruction of school.
Such a learner uses the language as an instrument to get his target.
In integrative motivation, language is itself an end into it. We considered them better motivated than the instrumental learners because research has shown that integrative learners are the most successful. The reasons of integrative motivation may be such like:
1. That one wants to know about how the native speakers of the foreign language live or what kind of culture they own.
2. That one is expected to live in the country concerned.
3. That one wants to be conversant with the native speakers.
Age factor is different from aptitude and motivation. Age is inverse-proportional to language learning capability therefore it is a variable and unlike aptitude and motivation, which are more or less permanent. It plays a very important role in L1 acquisition as well. After the passage of the ‘critical period’, it becomes hard to acquire a language fully well. In learning L2m age factor is extremely functional as a barrier because the set of behavior is already adjusted according to one’s culture. Researches have shown that children are all the better able to acquire L1 and L2 than adults. Let us go into its detail:
Many sources have shown if children are exposed to two mother tongues, they become ambilingual; they can use both languages and each without being distinguishable from the native speakers. On the other hand, adult immigrants, who have acquired their first language cannot remove traces of L1 in their communication. This points toward age factor working as a barrier behind it. The capacity to master a new language is gradually reduced along with increasing age. Many adult learners remain at the primary level of their speech in second language.
Evidence of a boundary between child and adult learner, is also provided by neurophysiology. Penfield and Roberts have argued on the basis of their study of speech mechanisms that the neurological evidence is in favor of language instruction beginning at an early age. ‘I he brain’s motor skills are associated with the left hemisphere and if it is damaged only children can transfer the motor skills to the other hemisphere. They also argue that the brain has a certain sort of plasticity at a young age, which is lost when one becomes an adult. That is why the articulatory skills cannot be perfectly acquired at a later age. These ideas are expressed by these neurophysiologists in Speech and brain Mehanisms.
It is also observed that children can adopt a new sound system better than adults. That’s why it is now preferred to start teaching a foreign language at the primary level. Inhibition also plays the part of obstruction in adults acquiring a new pronunciation. Children usually enjoy imitation and repetition, which is needed in this process. They are less self-conscious and ethnocentric.
Though these factors are to a great extent operant, still exceptions can be found. If adults face a difficulty in getting a new language, they are also better off to tackle the troubles that arise on way. It takes us to another realm of a factor that might be functional in acquiring a foreign language.
Personality of a learner is also significant in learning a foreign language. An introvert learner is usually very self-conscious and due to this inhibition, he cannot take the desired advantage of teacher’s instructions. Imitation is much needed in learning a language, which may not be well met by an introvert. A confident learner talks about his problems openly and gets them solved. Still, we should remember that research labels this factor as less functional in language learning.
Learning Strategies
Good and active learners are those who are apt to adopt different learning strategies. He should be ready to change his active knowledge into passive one. For example, he should try to use a newly gained item into sentences and look for opportunities in which he can be conversant in the target language. Switching on to the programs in the target language also helps. Successful learners do not feel shy at making mistakes as they are predictors of how the learning is going.
Influence of Mother Tongue
Mother tongue, for an adult, impedes the way to a thorough teaming of a foreign language. It is because his mind is already caught in the mazes of the first language so L1 interferes with the operation of a new language. The previous grammatical system and pronunciation affects the new one. Often, many adults cannot speak and hear new sounds. They seem to filter out the new sounds from their hearing because they have been using the systems of the previous language for a long time and so they become accustomed of it.
Let us now see how much functional these factors arc in our local environment. English is a significant foreign language in our locality. In Pakistan, it is mostly used among people who wish to go for higher education or immigration. In other situations, it is usually not given the attention it needs. “That is why the factors of less aptitude and age can be seen to lay the worse effects.

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