Lexicon en taalverwerving
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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Chomsky's notions of 'knowledge' and 'ability' are discussed, and are distinguished from the notion 'performance'. 'Knowledge' is taken to refer to the native speaker's abstract knowledge of the language system, 'ability' is taken to refer to the (no less abstract) processing mechanisms underlying speech production and perception, whereas 'performance' is used for referring to the actual linguistic behavior at some particular moment, in some particular situation. Subsequently, a case-study of the development of language and speech during the third year is presented. Twelve hours of spontaneous speech, produced by one child at ages 2:4, 2:6, 2:7, 2:8, 2:9, and 2:11 are analyzed (two hours per period). The development of sentence structure over periods suggests that the child is differentiating function words and content words as separate word classes (development of 'knowledge'). Also, there is a temporary increase of disfluencies and production errors in the periods 2:7 to 2:9 (development of 'performance'). It is argued that these changes in knowledge on the one hand and performance on the other are related, and that this relation is mediated by changes in 'ability', i.e., in the processing mechanism underlying speech production. Two kinds of 'effort' displayed by this mechanism are distinguished: 'syntactic' or planning effort, which is investigated by analyzing developmental changes in the child's peak performances (his longest, most complex sentences in each of the six periods), and 'articulatory' effort, which is investigated by analyzing developmental changes in the way in which the words of sentences that are immediate and complete self-repetitions are articulated, as compared to the way in which these same words were articulated in the preceding instance of the sentence. In his syntactic effort, the child appears to become increasingly concerned with producing function words; at age 2:7 (the start of the temporary increase in disfluencies) there is a significant increase in the relative number of function words per sentence, and this is especially clear in the longest sentences. At the same time however, the child seems to concentrate his articulatory effort on content words; from age 2:7 onward content words tend to be articulated more accurately in the repetition of an utterance than in its first production, whereas the same does not hold for function words. In the Discussion it is suggested that the differentiation of function and content words ('knowledge') causes a certain imbalance within the developing production mechanism ('ability'), in that function words and content words start 'competing' for effort, each at a different processing level. This, in its turn, might play a role in the observed temporary increase of disfluencies and production errors ('performance').


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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