AS AQA English Language - Child Language Acquisition; Specification A!

Notes on phonological, pragmatic, lexical-semantic and grammatical development as well as theories.

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  • Created by: Gemma
  • Created on: 16-05-12 15:40

Grammatical Development I

One word stage; (12-18 months) one word utterances. Nelson (1973) found that most of a child's 1st words label or name things.


Holophrases in holophrastic stage: single word stand for a whole statement.


Gestalt expressions: longer utterances - seem to involve more than 1 word, however child just uses as if it were a single word; 'allgone,' or 'gimme.'


Two word stage: (18-24 months) Be able to produce 1st sentences - difficult to understand w/o context. Do follow rules; subject before verb, object after verb etc.


Telegraphic stage (2-3 years) starting points: word order = usually correct. Content words = used, not function words (auxiliary verbs, prepositions)

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Grammatical Development II

'Wug's experiment: Jean Burko presented words eg 'Wug' to children in telegraphic stage; "This is a wug" -> "Now there are 2..." Child reply 'wugs!' - Shows that children not only imitate their parents but also how to follow grammatical rules of pluralisation.
Overgeneralisation: learn rules of language + apply them to irregulars as well. Shows language development is not solely based on immitation: child = actively working out + applying rules. Adults don't use words like 'goed' -> child can't copy.
Virtuous Errors: challenge idea of coping - child needs to learn the rules of grammar but also exceptions. Children copy without grasping rules. Intelligent mistakes, eg 'mouses.'
Roger Brown + inflections (1973): 1st learn = -ing. Last = 3rd person singluar present tense -s. Children learn in a fixed regular order -> not copying - would be more random otherwise. Are children pre-programmed?
Questions: 3 stages: intonation -> wh- words ->  change word orer,
Negatives: 4 stages: negatives use on own -> combined w/ others -> use in middle of sentences -> use with auxiliary verbs. 

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Phonological Development I

0-8 weeks: crying - vowel like sounds. A biological sound; (sneezing, coughing etc) Start = birth cry, then changes. Pain cry = higher and off rhythm. All babies cry in the same way (regardless of nationality)

6-8 weeks - 5 months: cooing - quieter, softer, more musical. Short vowel sounds, some consonants. Not very sustained.

6-7 months: vocal play - more controlled, definite, louder. Discovering + experimenting with vocal chords - starts to vary sounds.

6-9 months: babbling - repeating sounds/syllables in a controlled way. 'bababa' = reduplicated monosyllables. 'ma-moo-me' = variegated babbling. All nationalities, incl. deaf children sound the same - preprogrammed? Follow the CV pattern.

9-12 months: melodic utterances - melody, rhythm and intonation develop. Child produces fixed patterns of sound - these have a meaning that can be recognized by parents - 'proto-words.'

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Phonological Development II

Olmstead's table:
2 years: /p/, /b/, /t/ - plosives = easier or child because of the manner of articulation.
3 years: /f/, /v/, /z/, /ʃ/ - fricatives = learned later.
Alveolars: /t/, /s/, /n/ = easier than velars: /k/, /g/, /ŋ/

Realisation Rules:
Reduplication: syllables are repeated, others = left out. 'wawa,' 'dindins,'
Deletion: Difficult consonant sounds = left out. 'ball,' -> 'ba,'
Consonant Cluster Reduction: combinations of consonants = simplified. 'crisps,'      -> 'kips,' 
Substitution: Difficult sounds = swapped for easier sounds. Fricatives = replaced      by plosives, velar -> alveolars. 
Additions: Extra vowel sounds added -> CV pattern. Dog -> 'doggie,'
Assimilation: Difficult sound = swapped for another within word. 'yellow' ->              'lellow,'

Don't forget 'Fis' phenomenon -> shows child's knowledge of words = better than ability to say.

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Pragmatic Development II

Child Directed Speech: speech used adults -> children. Has special features: use intonation + pitch to hold babies' attention. With older children = use intonation to emphasize important words in a sentence.

Lexical -> simplified or 'concrete' lexis.
Grammatical -> simplified grammar.

Questions + tag questions -> encourage child + prompt turn-taking.
Use expansion or recasting.
Frames -> Focus on individual words rather than sentence structure. 

Link to theories:
Child Directed Speech = central to interaction theory (Bruner) of language acquisition. 

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Lexical-Semantic Development I

12 months = babies understand a number of words. -> 12-18 months = children produce first recognisable words.

Katherine Nelson (1973) studied 1st 50 words of 18 children.
Classified: naming things, referring to actions/events, describing things, personal/social words.
Largest group = naming people, things, animals. Nouns = concrete nouns.
Things = small + easily handled, can move, make a noise or change in a way.

Growth of child's vocab: 18months = 50 words. Vocab - understand 250. (5x)

Link to theories: Piaget linked growth of vocab at 18 months to child's cognitive development.

Age 2: able to use around 200 words - understand more.

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Lexical-Semantic Development II

Most common semantic error = over extensions.
Rescoria (1980) categorised them:
Two types:
Categorical: Child uses apple for all types of fruit. A word for something belonging to a group or category = used to describe everything in the same category.

Analogical: Child use 'eye' to refer to all round objects. A word is used for another object not in the same category but has some similarity to the original object.

Under-extensions: Child gives a word a narrower meaning than it usually has. 'Shoe' to only refer to his or her shoe.

2 1/2 years + -> child's use of over-extensions decreases: vocabulary is growing rapidly.

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Theories! - The Behaviourist theory - Skinner

Children = blank slates (Tabula Rasa)
Learn through imitation, conditioning through positive and negative reinforcement.

Support:
Children learn language they hear being spoken around them (French, Chinese etc)
Children whose parents have accents grow up with this accent.

Challenge:
Can't explain stages - if children were imitating, language development would be more varied.
Not much negative reinforcement - parents don't often correct their child's linguistic mistakes.
Areas of Grammatical Development: 'wugs' experiment + virtuous errors

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Theories! - The Nativist Theory - Chomsky

Children have an innate + unconscious ability to understand the rules of language: 'linguistic universals.' (eg existence of verbs, nouns etc)

He believes the main problem of Skinner's theory = 'poverty of the input.' (adults use simple speech with babies, don't often use grammatically correct sentences, especially in casual conversation) 

Innate ability = LAD in brain. Input from outside triggers it.

Support:
Speed of development.
Existence of stages.
Elements of Grammatical development; 'wugs' experiment, virtuous errors + Roger Brown + inflections.

Challenges:
Genie (Lenneberg's 'critical period' - over by puberty.)
Jim - had deaf parents, couldn't learn language correctly despite hearing TV and radio. 

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Theories! - The Interaction Theory - Bruner

Argues key factor = interaction.

Develops Chomsky's theory, focus on facts like the case of Jim: not enough to hear language -> has to be 2 way interaction.

Interaction -> helps to scaffold a child's language development -> supports innate understanding.

Builds on Chomsky's LAD - interaction between children + parents = LASS

Uses Child directed Speech: special features = designed to help children learn language skills E.g. limited vocab and simple grammar, recasting + expand: 'kips all gone,' -> 'yes, you've eaten all the crisps.'

Supports: Jim - listened to radio but no interaction - speech = undeveloped.

Challenges: parents in Samoa + Papua New Guinea don't use CDS -> their children = language development. 

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Theories! - Cognitive Theory - Piaget

Argued = close connection between lang dev and cognitive development. 
Cognition = ability to know and understand the world. Like Chomsky; interested in existence of stages. Unlike Chomsky; no special language acquisition device. Saw lang. dev. as part of a bigger process of cognitive development.

Strengths: Pre-18months = if child can't see/touch an object, object = ceases to exist. When they understand Object Permanence = noticable growth in vocab: once child realise = object permanence -> learn names of objects (link to lexical-semantic)
Children who are able to put items into a series (seriesation) = also able to use comparative + superlative forms of adjectives.

Weaknesses:
Before 18 months = possible to find connections between cognitive development and their language development. After 18 months = more difficult.
Some children w/ cognitive problems (or learning difficulties) = quite skilled users of language.
Some children w/ good cognitive abilities lack language skills. 

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