Children typically acquire language, not just through explicit learning trials arranged by parents and teachers, but by a process of automatic reinforcement. They first acquire a repertoire of discriminative responses to what they hear as well as an echoic repertoire that enables them to repeat what they hear. Assuming that they have normal hearing, they hear themselves when they speak. They can any detect discrepancies between their own speech and that of others, and this permits a process of automatic shaping toward the practices of the verbal community. (The process is analogous to a novice picking out a tune on a piano.) In this presentation, I will review some demonstration experiments that suggest that both grammar and prosody can be acquired this way. Since both grammar and prosody are features of complex verbal behavior, automatic reinforcement appears to be of fundamental importance in moving beyond the elementary verbal operants when addressing language deficits in children.
August 6 – 9, 2018
The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center
State College, Pennsylvania