English Language Child Language Acquisition AQA

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Child Language Acquisition
Skinner (1957) Imitation and Reinforcement
Children acquire language by imitating and repeat what they hear. When they are approved
of or applauded for their success, this reinforces their acquisition of the word(s). The idea is
that a human will repeat if the results are pleasurable and will avoid if the consequences are
unpleasant. Caregivers reward a child's efforts with praise and reinforce what the child is
saying by repeating words and phrases back and correcting mistakes. However, there are
some problems with the imitation theory. Children are able to construct new sentences they
have never heard before, therefore are not always directly imitating. Children don't
memorise thousands of sentences to use later, so their development cannot be exclusively
based on repeating what they have heard their parents or other people say. Imitations can't
explain overgeneralisations as children can't copy these as adults do not make them. His
ideas on reinforcement could be useful to link to literacy acquisition.
Chomsky (1965 ­ Present) Innateness
He believed that children have an inborn ability to extract the rules from the language they
hear around them. He believes this innateness enables children to learn language quickly. He
also maintains that children are born with an innate understanding of grammar. He suggests
that each child has a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) which allows them to take in and
use the grammatical rules of the language that is spoken where they live. Supporters of
Chomsky state that the existence of the innate LAD would explain: the impressive speed
with which children learn to speak, the fact that children from all cultures pass through similar
stages of language development, and the existence of grammatical features that is common
to all languages. The LAD can also explain why some children will exhibit speech features of a
future stage. Successful CLA by the age of 5 is dependent on coherent development of each
of the aspects: cognition, physiological and social. The main criticism is that it underestimates
the significance of Skinner's argument that imitation, interaction and reinforcement are
important in language development.
Bard and Sachs (1977) Input
Input theories are the most recent CLA theories. The input theory stresses the role of
Interaction in the development of language. A child's language acquisition is said to depend
on the Input made by parents and other carers.
Piaget (1977) Cognitive
The cognitive approach focuses on the importance of mental abilities and skills. He stated
that children need to develop certain mental abilities before they can acquire particular
aspects of language. First a child is unable to mentally process the concept that something
can exist outside their immediate surroundings ­ called egocentric. At around 18 months
children realise that things have object permanence and can exist without aving to see it.
The child can then mentally grasp the ideas of past, present and future. When a child is able
to arrange objects in decreasing size, the ability and skill are mirrored in their use of
language, and they will begin to use comparatives. Children are active learners who use their
environment and social interactions to shape their language. Children are also unable to be
taught before they are ready. One criticism is that it doesn't explain how some people with
learning difficulties are still linguistically fluent. It suggests that cognitive development and
language development are not as closely connected as this approach suggests. He has four
development stages:

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Sensorimotor (up to 2 years old) ­ child experiences the physical world through
the senses and begins classifying the things in it; lexical choices, when they appear;
tend to be concrete rather than abstract. Object permanence develops.
Pre-operational (2 ­ 7 years old) ­ language and motor skills develop and become
more competent. Language is egocentric.
Concrete Operational (7 ­ 11 years old) ­ children begin thinking logically about
concrete events.
Formal Operational (11+ years old) ­ Abstract reasoning skills develop.…read more

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John Dore's Language Functions
He offers another way of describing language functions that focuses more on speech acts as
individual utterances rather than Halliday's broader approach to pragmatic functions. He
does not align these to stages. They go across Proto stages to Telegraphic stages. He sees
language as context bound rather than development bound. His functions are:
Labelling ­ Naming a person, object or thing.
Repeating ­ Repeating an adult word or utterance.
Answering ­ Responding to an utterance of another speaker.…read more

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Action utterances form the basis for the first verbs and social expressions mark a
growing awareness of cultural expectation. Conversational skills are still limited, with much of
the child's communication takes the form of a monologue as adults do most of the talking.
Two-word Stage (18 ­ 24 Months)
This stage marks the beginning of syntactical development. Once two words are put
together the child can explore different combinations and learn correct English word order.…read more

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Sentence Structures are simplified and Function Words are omitted.
Proper Nouns / Child's Name often used instead of pronouns.
High proportions of nouns are Concrete Nouns.
Present tense used more than the past tense.
Fewer Verbs and Modifiers.
Yes / No questioning.
Key Terms
Deletion ­ omitting the final consonant in words e.g. do(g)
Substitution ­ substituting one sound for another e.g. `pip' for `ship'
Addition ­ adding an extra vowel sound to the ends of words, creating a CVCV
pattern e.g.…read more

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Stage 3 (3+ Years) ­ children do not use no and not in the way they did in the first 2
stages. They start using other negative contractions like didn't and won't, with the
use of can't and don't becoming standardised.
Children start to add inflections to their words at the age of 20 months.…read more

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Query ­ asking the young person what the object is in the picture.
Label ­ telling the young person what the object in the picture is.
Feedback ­ responding to the young person's utterance.
Writers of children's books build Cues into their texts:
Graphophonic ­ looking at the shape of words, linking these to familiar
graphemes/words to interpret them.
Semantic ­ understanding the meanings of words and making connections between
words in order to decode new ones.…read more

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Stages of Writing Development
Barry Kroll (1981) identified four phases of children's development:
Barclay (1996) outlined 7 stages of writing:
Barclay (1996) outlined 7 stages of writing development:
Stage 1: Scribbling ­ children make random marks on the page, which aren't related
to letters or words. They are learning the skill of keeping hold of a pencil or crayon,
which prepares them for writing.…read more

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Stage 4: Transitional ­ combine phonic knowledge with visual memory; an
awareness of combinations of letters and letter patterns.
Stage 5: Conventional ­ spell most words correctly.…read more


Alex Judge

Everything you could need for child language in 10 pages, F*****g Ace

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