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.

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

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.

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

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.

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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