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The Difference between First & Second Language Learning

407). It is a complex relationship which is more haphazard than heretofore suspected. Comprehension may precede production, but more often than not the reverse is true. Producing without comprehending is precisely the purpose of lalling and that of much early speech . Ask a two-year old in the negativistic stage whether he wants an ice-cream and he is likely to retort: "No!", meaning: "Yes!", while grabbing it from his parent's hand. In the former case, that of lallation, the purpose of production is unlimited phonological experimentation, exercise which gradually acquires mother-tongue intonations and a limited repertory of phonemes and then meaningful utterances. In the latter case, the motivational force is self-assertion--an unconscious (or subconscious) productive mechanism that may precede semantic comprehension or appropriateness.

Where and what are rather straightforward concepts and are acquired before the age of two. Why and when are more complex conceptually. Why's are often used productively in order for the child (about 35 months) to work out its semantic content. It is through the feedback of adults' answers that the baby gets to comprehend the semantics of the words he has experimentally uttered. Word order is acquired early by children, presumably because syntactical patterns are what they grasp as whole semantic units (Or is it that they construct syntactic utterances on the basis of a hierarchy of what they perceive as having decreasing levels of significance? "Baby want dolly!" Why not: "Want dolly baby!") Yet, some studies show that children do not necessarily rely on word order to identify the subject of a sentence. Since the verb is the key word in an English sentence--the action word, one would expect it to influence children's comprehension foremost, but comprehension of active sentences has been shown to be more influenced by the affective (read "possessive") value of nouns than by the active value of verbs ...

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