Child Language Acquisition - The Development of Speaking

Theorists and terminology regarding how children learn to speak

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Developing Speaking
When analysing a transcript, you should consider how the child has learnt to
Phonetics ­ i.e. do they mispronounce certain words and, if so, how?
Phonology ­ do they use prosodic features such as pitch, loudness, speech and
intonation to convey meaning?
Semantics ­ what semantic fields does their speech include, are they ever vague
and do they ever make mistakes with over/underextension?
Syntax/morphology ­ how they construct their sentences, negatives, questions, etc?
Do they use articles, inflections, modal/auxiliary verbs, pronouns, etc. correctly?
Discourse ­ how do they structure interactions with others?
Pragmatics ­ how does the child use the subtleties of speech such as politeness,
implication and irony? Do they appear to understand the social expectations of
behaviour in conversations, e.g. turn taking? Do they allow for the roles taken by
specific speakers, e.g. child directed speech?
Functions ­ which of Halliday's functions are the child using? (See later notes)
David Crystal's Stages of Language Acquisition
0 ­ 8 weeks ­ The Vegetative Stage
Basic biological noises
Reflexive noises to show states of hunger, pain and discomfort and include
crying and fussing.
Vegetative noises include sucking, swallowing, coughing and burping.
There is nothing languagespecific about these early noises.
8 ­ 20 weeks ­ Cooing and laughing
Coos are produced when the baby is settled and become more frequent and
varied as the baby begins to respond to smiles and speech.
Later, they are strung together in sequences of about ten or more.
The first laugh appears at about 4 months.
The tongue becomes more agile.
20 ­ 30 weeks ­ Vocal play
Steadier than coos
Range of consonantvowel sequences
Begins to resemble babbled utterances ­ almost like sentences
25 ­ 50 weeks ­ Babbling
Reduplicated babbling ­ repeated consonant + vowel, e.g. bababababa
Variegated babbling ­ consonant and vowel change from one syllable to
another, e.g. abu or tadata
The rhythm of these utterances is very close to speech.
Most of the babbling consists of a small set of sounds similar to early speech.
9 ­ 18 months ­ melodic utterances
Variations in melody, rhythm and tone of voice become a major feature of child
Individual syllables come to be used with a fixed melody, producing
Syntax/Morphology ­ Holophrastic/ One word stage:
o Utterances consist mainly of a single item, like `teddy', `juice', `mama'.
o They may have a more pragmatic meaning ­ `I want teddy'

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Sometimes they consist of two items expressed as one unit, e.g.
`allgone', which is known as a holophrase.
o Mainly naming immediate environment.
o Semantic fields include food, the body, clothes, family and toys.
18 ­ 24 months ­
Phonology ­ use of stress for emphasis ­ `my car'
o More phonemes appear, though words may be quite different from
adult speech.
Syntax/Morphology ­ Two word stage:
o Speech includes many combinations, e.g. `teddy gone', `mammy hat,
including basic questions, e.g.…read more

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Continuing stabilisation and development of phonemic and prosodic
aspects of speech, though some consonants (such as l, r, th) still not
acquired, especially in clusters.
o Sentences expand to four or more elements
o More words from grammatical category ­ pronouns, determiners, etc.…read more

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Auxiliary verbs appear in affirmative sentences, as well as negative
o The verb `to be' appears more frequently
o Sentences are generally more complex and complete
o E.g. `I gave him some so he won't cry'
Forming Questions
Stage 1 ­ The child adds a `Wh` form to the beginning or the end of the
expression, or utters the expression with a rise in intonation towards the end.…read more

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These two consonant sounds have double symbols to represent the
fact that each one is a plosive followed by a fricative.
Nasals (m(man), n(man) and (sing))
o These phonemes are produced in a particular manner: the airstream
comes out through the nose rather than the mouth.
o They differ from each other in being made in different places /m/ is
bilabial, /n/ is alveolar and // is velar.
o When you have a cold and air cannot escape from the nose, nasals
become plosives.…read more

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Reduplication ­ This refers to the repetition of a whole syllable, as in
`choochoo.' This has become a recognised feature of `babytalk.'
Theories of Language Acquisition
Jerome Bruner's LASS theory (Language Acquisition Support System)
Adults provide opportunities for a child to acquire their mothertongue by providing
ritualised scenarios ­ the ceremony of having a bath, eating a meal, getting dressed,
or playing a game ­ in which the phrases of interaction are rapidly recognised and
predicted by the infant.…read more

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Piaget linked linguistic development with an understanding of the concepts
surrounding the word's meanings, suggesting that children cannot be taught before
they are ready:
Stage Age (years) Key elements
Sensor/motor Up to 2 The child experiences the physical world through the
sense and begins classifying the things in it lexical
choices, when they appear, tend to be concrete
rather than abstract
Preoperational 2 ­ 7 Language and motor skills develop and become
more competent.…read more


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