PDF Child Language: Acquisition and Growth (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics)

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The first word may be a noun. Dada is easier to say than mama. However, first words are more than labels for objects.


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First words are communicative like "Bye-bye" and "uh oh. These words are called holophrases, whole phrases which are full of meaning, because they are self-contained. I need to be held. After the holophrase stage children begin using words in a telegraphic fashion. Before e-mail and telephone, people sent telegrams to communicate quickly. Because senders were charged by the word, extraneous words were omitted-only the most important words were selected to communicate the meaning.

Telegraphic speech in children performs the same function. Cookie Monster is a telegraphic speaker: "Me want cookie. Examples include: more apple; doggie sleep; and baby go. Language seems to expand dramatically after the telegraphic stage. But during the preschool years, parents and caregivers sometimes think that children regress rather than make linguistic progress.

That is because preschoolers are learning that language has rules. As children learn these rules they tend to make errors because they overregularize the rules. Therefore, children generalize that if houses means more than one house, then mouses must mean more than one mouse. Similarly, if we played and hopped, we must have also have runned and falled. The errors actually represent progress because the child is thinking about the structure of the language.

Three-year-olds are frequently perplexed by the use of pronouns Me want cookie. But most pronouns are mastered by the time a child is four or five years old. Four-year-olds can also use complex and compound sentences and create their own words when they can't think of a real word to express their meaning.

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Throughout life our receptive vocabularies, spoken or written language we understand, tend to be greater than the language we produce. We use contextual and gestural cues to help us understand the meanings of new words even though they might not be part of our spoken, or expressive vocabularies. Thus vocabulary can continue to increase over a lifetime.

Ways to Encourage Language Development In most cultures adults and even older children tend to use a particular style of speech when interacting with infants. Parentese is not baby talk. Instead, parentese resembles the way some adults speak to pets and involves the use of slightly higher than normal pitch, exaggerated vowel sounds, short and simple sentences, repetition, exaggerated stress, and pauses between sentences.

While talking about ongoing events, the speaker simplifies the speech. However, communication is not always initiated by adults. Infants can initiate social communication. Adults can then take their cues from the infant's efforts by taking turns vocalizing, smiling, and cooing while maintaining eye contact.

A child's environment is the most critical component to language development. An environment free of abuse and excess stress frees the brain to create the necessary language connections. In such an environment, adults need to provide a language-rich, nurturing world in which attentive caregivers encourage a child's language efforts, however primitive. The following suggestions will help you encourage language development in infants as well as toddlers and preschoolers. Importance of Play It appears that certain types of play are particularly beneficial for promoting language.

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O'Brien and Nagle observed parents playing with their children with a variety of toys-shape sorters, toy vehicles, and dolls. Neither boys nor girls spoke much when playing with the toy vehicles. The most language interaction and exposure occurred as children played with dolls. That makes sense So do puppets, block people, and stuffed animals. Yet, the best way to facilitate language development requires no props or expensive equipment. Language can be promoted by simply talking with children. Get on the child's physical level, make eye contact, give undivided attention, and have a conversation.

Language Acquisition

Because children need to speak and be spoken to, we need to engage them in conversation. Adults tend to give directives such as "Pick up your toys"; "Wash your hands"; and "Come with me. Too often early childhood professionals are busy with what needs to be done, busy with the important things of life.

When children try to engage us in conversation we might be tempted to listen with half an ear, give an inane response, and get on with the important work. Is it any wonder that preschoolers often rush and stumble in their attempts to say it all quickly before the adult stops paying attention? Confidence is built when we give a child our full attention. Conclusion When we understand how language develops, we are in a better position to promote that development.

By first ensuring that every child has a safe, secure environment and then by providing appropriate materials and activities to facilitate language development, teachers can maximize each child's innate potential. Children need to speak and be spoken to, and engaged in conversation from the very first. Sandra Crosser, Ph.

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References Bandura, A. Social cognitive theory. Vasta Ed. Begley, S. Your child's brain. Newsweek , February 19, Bickerton, D. The language bioprogram hypothesis.


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Behavioral and Brain Science , 7, Bohannon, J. Theoretical approaches to language acquisition. Gleason Ed. Boyson-Bardies, B. A cross-linguistic investigation of vowel formats in babbling. Journal of Child Language ,16, Chomsky, N. Language and Mind 2nd ed. New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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Craig, C. Children Today. Gelman, R. Appropriate speech adjustments: The operation of conversational constraints on talk to two-year-olds. Lewis and L. Rosenblum Eds. Interaction, Conversation, and the Development of Language. New York : Wiley. Gleitman, L.