Bad Language by Lars-Gunnar Andersson and Peter Trudgill (p.47)
Two theories are suggested for a person’s acquisition of a new word. Here is my summary:
- Flu Theory: We pick up the word used by others and start using it right away, like cathing a flu virus from another person.
- Ripe Apple Theory: Upon hearing a new word, we go through a lengthy process of considering and evaluating it and reach a decision to use it, like waiting for an apple to ripe.
Andersson and Trudgill continue with their analysis of ‘the role of attitudes and free will in language change.’ They acknowledge that both theories are somewhat true and this role plays a bigger part in language acquisition for adults than for children. That’s why we oftern say kids absorb everything they observe including language.
My Theory: Stone Inscription Theory
As a teacher of ESL, I thought of my students learning and memorizing new English vocabulary. I also thought of my own experience of learnign foreign languages. I rather liken the process to inscribing on a stone. When you hear a new word a couple of times, it merely makes a scratch on the stone (storage files in your brain). As you hear and see the word more and more, the inscription becomes deeper and deeper. Finally it sticks in your head so you can remember and retrieve it later.
Like all the other studies of human brain activities, finding out how a brain works in inquiring a new word is difficult. However, contemplating different theories about it may help deepen our understanding of it.