Language development

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Language development is a process starting early in human life. Infants start without language, yet by 4 months of age, babies can discriminate speech sounds and engage in babbling. Some research has shown that the earliest learning begins in utero when the fetus starts to recognize the sounds and speech patterns of its mother's voice.

Usually, productive language is considered to begin with a stage of preverbal communication in which infants use gestures and vocalizations to make their intents known to others. According to a general principle of development, new forms then take over old functions, so that children learn words to express the same communicative functions which they had already expressed by preverbal means.

Theoretical frameworks of language development Language development is thought to proceed by ordinary processes of learning in which children acquire the forms, meanings and uses of words and utterances from the linguistic input.The method in which we develop language skills is universal however, the major debate is how the rules of syntax are acquired. There are two major approaches to syntactic development, an empiricist account by which children learn all syntactic rules from the linguistic input, and a nativist approach by which some principles of syntax are innate and are transmitted through the human genome.

Chomsky says that all children have what is called an innate language acquisition device (LAD). Theoretically, the LAD is an area of the brain that has a set of universal syntactic rules for all languages. This device provides children with the ability to construct novel sentences using learned vocabulary. Chomsky's claim is based upon the view that what children hear - their linguistic input - is insufficient to explain how they come to learn language. He argues that linguistic input from the environment is limited and full of errors. Therefore, nativists assume that it is impossible for children to learn linguistic information solely from their environment. However, because children possess this LAD, they are in fact, able to learn language despite incomplete information from their environment. This view has dominated linguistic theory for over fifty years and remains highly influential, as witnessed by the number of articles in journals and books.

The empiricist theory' suggests, contra Chomsky, that there is enough information in the linguistic input children receive and therefore, there is no need to assume an innate language acquisition device exists (see above). Rather than a LAD which evolved specifically for language, empiricists believe that general brain processes are sufficient enough for language acquisition. During this process, it is necessary for the child to be actively engaged with their environment. In order for a child to learn language, the parent or caregiver adopts a particular way of appropriately communicating with the child; this is known as child-directed speech (CDS). CDS is used so that children are given the necessary linguistic information needed for their language. Empiricism is a general approach and sometimes goes along with the interactionist approach. Statistical language acquisition, which falls under empiricist theory, suggests that infants acquire language by means of pattern perception...

Other researchers embrace an interactionist|interactionist perspective, consisting of social-interactionist theories of language development. In such approaches, children learn language in the interactive and communicative context, learning language forms for meaningful moves of communication. These theories focus mainly on the caregiver's attitudes and attentiveness to their children in order to promote productive language habits.

An older empiricist theory, the behaviorist theory proposed by B. F. Skinner suggested that language is learned through operant conditioning, namely, by imitation of stimuli and by reinforcement of correct responses. This perspective has not been widely accepted at any time, but by some accounts, is experiencing a resurgence. New studies use this theory now to treat individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Additionally, Relational Frame Theory is growing from the behaviorist theory which is important for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. American Psychological Society. Some empiricist|empiricist theory accounts today use behaviorist model a new approach to the logical problem of language acquisition.... Other relevant theories about language development include "Piaget's theory of cognitive development, which considers the development of language as a continuation of general cognitive development From theory to practice in child language development...

"Biological preconditions"

Evolutionary biologists are skeptical of the claim that syntactic knowledge is transmitted in the human genome. However, many researchers claim that the ability to acquire such a complicated system is unique to the human species. Non-biologists also tend to believe that our ability to learn spoken language may have been developed through the process and that the foundation for language may be passed down genetically. The ability to speak and understand human language requires 'speech production' skills and abilities as well as 'multisensory integration of sensory processing abilities.

One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes capacities specific to language acquisition, often referred to as universal grammar. For fifty years, linguist "Noam Chomsky"as argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning..

"Environmental Influences"

The environment a child develops in has influences on language development. The environment provides language input for the child to process. Speech by adults to children help provide the child with correct language usage repetitively. Environmental influences on language development are explored in the tradition of social interactionist theory by such research When children begin to communicate with adults, this motherese speech allows the child the ability to discern the patterns in language and to experiment with language.

Throughout research done, it is concluded that children exposed to extensive vocabulary and complex grammatical structures more quickly develop language and also have a more accurate syntax than children raised in environments without complex grammar exposed to them. With motherese, the mother talks to the child and responds back to the child, whether it be a babble the child made or a short sentence. While doing this, the adult is prompting the child to continue communicating which may help a child develop language sooner than children raised in environments where communication is not fostered.

Child-directed speech will concentrate on small core vocabulary, here and now topics, exaggerated facial expressions and gestures, frequent questioning, paralinguistic changes, and verbal.. An infant is least likely to produce vocalizations when changed, fed, or rocked. The infant will more likely produce vocalizations when a nonverbal behavior such as touching or smiling is directed at the infant.

Child-directed speech will also catch the child's attention and in situations where words for new objects are being expressed to the child this form of speech may help the child recognize the speech cues and the new information provided. Data shows that children raised in highly verbal families had higher language scores than those children raised in low verbal families. Continuously hearing complicated sentences throughout language development increases the child's ability to understand these sentences and then to use complicated sentences as they develop. Studies have shown that students enrolled in high language classrooms have two times the growth in complex sentences usage than students in classrooms where teachers do not frequently use complex sentences...

Social preconditions[edit]

It is crucial that children are allowed to socially interact with other people who can vocalize and respond to questions. For language acquisition to develop successfully, children must be in an environment that allows them to communicate socially in that language.

There are a few different theories as to why and how children develop language. The most popular—and yet heavily debated—explanation is that language is acquired through imitation. The two most accepted theories in language development are psychological and functional. Psychological explanations focus on the mental processes involved in childhood language learning. Functional explanations look at the social processes involved in learning the first language.

There are four main components of language:

  • Phonology involves the rules about the structure and sequence of speech sounds.
  • Semantics consists of vocabulary and how concepts are expressed through words.
  • Grammar involves two parts.
  • The first, syntax, is the rules in which words are arranged into sentences.
  • The second, morphology, is the use of grammatical markers (indicating tense, active or passive voice etc.).
  • Pragmatics involves the rules for appropriate and effective communication. Pragmatics involves three skills:
    • using language for greeting, demanding etc.
    • changing language for talking differently depending on who it is you are talking to
    • following rules such as turn taking, staying on topic

Each component has its own appropriate developmental periods.

Phonological development[edit]

From shortly after birth to around one year, the baby starts to make speech sounds. At around two months, the baby will engage in cooing, which mostly consists of vowel sounds. At around four months, cooing turns into babbling which is the repetitive consonant-vowel combinations. Babies understand more than they are able to say. In this 0–8 months range, the child is engaged in vocal play of vegetative sounds, laughing, and cooing.

Once the child hits the 8-12 month range the child engages in canonical babbling i.e. dada as well as variegated babbling. This jargon babbling with intonational contours the language being learned.

From 12–24 months, babies can recognize the correct pronunciation of familiar words. Babies will also use phonological strategies to simplify word pronunciation. Some strategies include repeating the first consonant-vowel in a multisyllable word ('didi') or deleting unstressed syllables in a multisyllable word ('banana'-->'nana'). Within this first year, two word utterances and two syllable words emerge. This period is often called the holophrastic stage of development, because one word conveys as much meaning as an entire phrase. For instance, the simple word "milk" can imply that the child is requesting milk, noting spilled milk, sees a cat drinking milk, etc...

By 24–30 months awareness of rhyme emerges as well as rising intonation..

By 36–60 months, phonological awareness continues to improve as well as pronunciation.

By 6–10 years, children can master syllable stress patterns which helps distinguish slight differences between similar words.

Semantic development[edit]

From birth to one year, comprehension (the language we understand) develops before production (the language we use). There is about a 5 month lag in between the two. Babies have an innate preference to listen to their mother's voice. Babies can recognize familiar words and use preverbal gestures.

Within the first '12–18 months semantic roles are expressed in one word speech including agent, object, location, possession, nonexistence and denial. Words are understood outside of routine games but the child still needs contextual support for lexical comprehension.

18–24 months Prevalent relations are expressed such as agent-action, agent-object, action-location... Also, there is a vocabulary spurt between 18–24 months, which includes fast mapping. Fast mapping is the babies' ability to learn a lot of new things quickly. The majority of the babies' new vocabulary consists of object words (nouns) and action words (verbs).

30–36 months The child is able to use and understand why question and basic spatial terms such as in, on or under..

36–42 months There is an understanding of basic color words and kinship terms. Also, the child has an understanding of the semantic relationship between adjacent and conjoined sentences, including casual and contrastive...

42–48 months When and how questions are comprehended as well as basic shape words such as circle, square and triangle...

48–60 months Knowledge of letter names and sounds emerges, as well as numbers.

By 3–5 years, children usually have difficulty using words correctly. Children experience many problems such as underextensions, taking a general word and applying it specifically (for example, 'blankie') and overextensions, taking a specific word and applying it too generally (example, 'car' for 'van'). However, children coin words to fill in for words not yet learned (for example, someone is a cooker rather than a chef because a child will not know what a chef is). Children can also understand metaphors.

From 6–10 years, children can understand meanings of words based on their definitions. They also are able to appreciate the multiple meanings of words and use words precisely through metaphors and puns. Fast mapping continution... Within these years, children are now able to acquire new information from written texts and can explain relationships between multiple meaning words. Common idioms are also understood.