Child Language Acquisition A* notes

My notes for the speaking element of child language acquisition 

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  • Created on: 15-04-14 20:02
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Marco Ball-Albarran
Child Language ­ Learning to talk
Once argued to be a biologically determined process alongside physical and mental growth.
Cannot be true because children deprived of human contact in extreme human isolation do
not acquire language.
If language were innate and liked only to biological factors, even after isolation, then the
appropriate triggers would help children acquire language in the same way, though this is not
the case.
It seems language acquisition is dependent on appropriate linguistic input which must be
gained before a certain age.
Behaviourist approach of language acquisition (Skinner)
Based on conditioning and reinforcement. When a child imitates language and receives
attention, this motivates the child to repeat the behaviour.
Children learn to speak by imitating the language structures they hear. Parents reinforce and
correct utterances which forms the basis for a child's knowledge of language.
Although important in learning pronunciation and acquiring vocabulary, children don't pick up
`correct' forms from imitation
With irregular verbs, for example, children' don't use the standard form because they hear
adults use it. Instead, they over-extend the language patterns they already know:
Steal Stealded (stole) Grow Growded (grew)
Although children may add new words to their repertoire by using labels (a word with a
naming function) an adult has introduced, they rarely imitate speech that is not directed at
Children don't assimilate syntactical structures by imitation
Fails to explain how children produce structures they haven't heard before
Cognitive approach of language acquisition (Piaget)
The cognitive approach links language acquisition to intellectual/cognitive development,
suggesting that children can only use a certain linguistic structure when they understand the
concept involved.
E.g. Children will only understand the past tense when they have understood the concept of
past time; so children must recognise and conceptualise vital physical differences before
they can talk about shape and colour
Children's knowledge is structured differently to adults. It changes from infancy to adulthood
in a similar way for everyone. Due to maturation, there are changes in understanding,
therefore they are determined biologically- however it is via interaction with the world
around them that their intelligence develops. Because of this, Piaget proposed that
children's thinking develops in 4 stages: Sensimotor, Pre-operational, concrete and formal

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Age range Description of stage Developmental Phenomena
0-2 years Sensorimotor- Baby explores through 5 Object Permanence ­ The awareness that an
senses. Initially grasping, sucking object exists even though not visible. Shake
reflexes. Grabbing objects and exploring a rattle and gain attention of 3month old
it with mouth. then cover it with cloth = no longer
These skills develop and become more interested. Repeat with 8month old and
complex child shows distress at its disappearance.…read more

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Basic principles of all the above theories
They all highlight a particular element of child language acquisition, but none can provide a full
explanation on their own.…read more

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Interaction with other people gives children a purpose ­ if they can acquire language, they
will be able to participate in the communication going on around them.
It usually starts by using different kinds of cries to attract attention to their needs, but as
they grow they use more complex methods.…read more

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children create imaginary situations, or
may arise from storytelling
Similarly, John Dore describes language functions that focus more on individual differences-
`Infant Language Functions'
Infant language Description Example
Labelling Naming or identifying a person, object or "Mummy" when
experience mother returns.…read more

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Stages of development
It's possible that in the womb that have already become accustomed to sounds of the native
When a child is born, it cannot speak or understand, yet it can recognise
its mother's voice Evolutionary advantage ­ Stay closer to mother, know
that mother can protect & feed as primary caregiver.…read more

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Stage one (0-8 weeks basic biological noises)
Vocal sounds reflect biological stages and activities
hunger, pain, discomfort = causes crying/fussing (reflexive noises)
Vocal folds vibrate strongly, pitch falls sharply- quality similar to [a]
Not easy to attribute different functions to cries at this early stage
Nothing language specific about noises.…read more

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Stage 4 (25-50 weeks canonical babbling)
Less varied than vocal play, less experimentation but more control- smaller sets of sounds,
yet greater frequency and stability to produce. Bababada ­ reduplicated babbling
containing consonant vowel (CV) syllables
Half way through this stage, the child develops variegated babbling ­ consonant and vowels
change from one syllable to the next [ado]
Previously there would be no visible link between babbling and spoken language,
previously random manner babbling until speech began.…read more



Unbelievable - excellent.

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