Chunk-Based Language Acquisition

Inbal Arnon & Morten H. Christiansen

In: Encyclopedia of Language Development

Chunk-Based Language Acquisition

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  • In learning to talk, children have to discover the linguistic units of their language (sounds, morphemes, words) and the ways these units can be combined to create larger patterns (inflected words and sentences). Children's progression is often characterized as a move from smaller building blocks to larger combinations: from syllables to words to multiword combinations. This characterization captures the combinatorial aspect of language learning but does not address an equally important process: the use of larger chunks to discover the units of language and the regularities governing their combination.

    The idea that children use larger chunks in learning language was first formulated by Ann Peters in her seminal work on the units of language acquisition. She emphasized the role of gestalt processes in language learning and ...

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