Theories of Language Development - Child Language Acquisition

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  • Theories of Language Development
    • Skinner (1957)
      • Language is acquired through imitation and reinforcement e.g. repetition, rewards
      • Children learn all of the specific pronunciations
      • Problems
        • Children can construct sentences they've never heard before
        • They don't memorise thousands of sentences
        • Can't explain the 'fis' phenomenon - children can understand more words than they can say
    • Chomsky (1965)
      • Child's ability to acquire language was inbuilt and it's a natural development
      • Each child has a Language Acquisition Device (LAD)
      • Languages all have common features, called linguistic universals, suggesting everyone learns it in a similar way
      • Problems
        • Chomsky's theory underestimates the significance of Skinner's argument
    • Lenneberg (1967)
      • Critical Period Hypothesis: If a child hasn't had linguistic interaction before ages 5-6, language development is seriously limited
    • Vygotsky (1978)
      • Two different significant factors that contribute to language development
        • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): When a child needs a caregiver;s help in order to interact e.g. when a doctor asks 'where does it hurt?' and the child doesn't answer until their caregiver prompts them/answers for them
        • Private Speech: When a child talks aloud to itself it shows it's thinking for itself
    • Bruner (1983)
      • Language Acquisition Support System (LASS): A system where caregivers support their child's linguistic development in social situations
        • For example the caregiver talks to the child and encourages them to talk back by pointing at things and asking questions like 'what's that there, is it a doggy?'
          • As a result of this the child learns to play a more active part in social situations e.g. asking the caregiver questions
    • Piaget (1896-1980)
      • Child needs to have developed certain mental abilities before he or she can acquire particular aspects of language
        • 1. At first a child can't mentally process that something can exist outside their social surroundings. This is called being egocentric.
        • 2. At 18 months old children realise that things have object permanence (they can exist all the time), coinciding with a big increase in vocab
        • 3.The child is then mentally better equipped to understand abstract concepts like past, present and future
        • Problems
          • It doesn't explain how some people with learning difficulties are still linguistically fluent. This suggests cognitive development and language development aren't as closely connected as the cognitive approach suggests
  • Piaget (1896-1980)
    • Child needs to have developed certain mental abilities before he or she can acquire particular aspects of language
      • 1. At first a child can't mentally process that something can exist outside their social surroundings. This is called being egocentric.
      • 2. At 18 months old children realise that things have object permanence (they can exist all the time), coinciding with a big increase in vocab
      • 3.The child is then mentally better equipped to understand abstract concepts like past, present and future
      • Problems
        • It doesn't explain how some people with learning difficulties are still linguistically fluent. This suggests cognitive development and language development aren't as closely connected as the cognitive approach suggests

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