Research Topic

Language Acquisition in Diverse Linguistic, Social and Cognitive Circumstances

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The language experience of children developing in linguistically diverse environments is subject to considerable variation both in terms of quantity and quality of language exposure. It is an open question how to investigate language exposure patterns and more important which factors are relevant for ...

The language experience of children developing in linguistically diverse environments is subject to considerable variation both in terms of quantity and quality of language exposure. It is an open question how to investigate language exposure patterns and more important which factors are relevant for successful language learning. For example, children acquiring a minority language, including a signed language, are exposed to less variety of input than children acquiring a more global language. This is because they are living in a smaller linguistic community and with fewer occasions to use the language in everyday life. Despite this reduced input, most native signers are successful language learners. In contrast, native language competence is not always achieved in signing deaf children with hearing parents or those with cochlear implants learning a spoken language. A similar outcome but with very different reasons has also been reported for hearing children with language impairment. In these populations acquisition of morphosyntactic aspects is developing atypically ending with an incomplete linguistic repertoire.

The circumstances of exposure during language development tend to differ in significant ways with respect to a large number of factors, such as, (i) length, quality and quantity of input, (ii) social status and attitudes toward the language, (iii) cognitive abilities required for language learning, and (iv) age of first exposure. Having early exposure to a range of different speakers is important in the acquisition of any language and may affect language proficiency. However, negative societal attitudes or a cognitive based disadvantage may create an unfavourable learning environment that prevents language learning from surfacing typically. This situation inevitably generates a different type of exposure for the child and consequently different language competence.

In this Research Topic we intend to encourage the debate concerning the social, linguistic and cognitive factors at play for designing an effective environment for language acquisition. Papers will aim to integrate those linguistic variables coming from theoretical studies on language with wider environmental and psycho-linguistic variables, such as, measures of language input or cognitive abilities ancillary to language development. Topics to be addressed in contribution papers could cover:

i) Effects of a different quantity and quality of input in the acquisition of specific linguistic competences;
ii) Interactions between social factors (including use and attitude towards a language) and linguistic factors in language development;
iii) Optimal characteristics for language input in therapeutic interventions for children with developmental language disorders;
iv) Effects of language based priming exploring language learning modifications in different social and linguistics contexts;
v) Comparisons of linguistic abilities in the case of diverse social circumstances, for example, in migrant children, or in the case of diverse sociolinguistic circumstances, for example in heritage language speakers or in international adopted children;
vi) Investigation of vulnerable linguistic domains in different populations in relation to language exposure;
vii) Effects of diverse cognitive skills, for example the role of executive functions and its relation to language development;
viii) Theoretically motivated research on early language acquisition and the role of the input.


Keywords: Language acquisition, language input, heritage languages, sign language, atypical language development.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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