Child Language Acquisition: Stages

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Before Birth:

  • Research suggests that whilst in the womb, babies become used to the rhythms and intonation of the language being spoken around them.
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  • During the first few weeks of a child’s life, the child can express itself vocally. Different kinds of ‘cry’ can be identified – from one signalling hunger or distress for example.
  • This suggests that cries are distinctive noises and as such, cannot be described as language.
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  • This generally occurs when babies are around 6-8 weeks old. It is though that during this stage the child is discovering its vocal chords and sounds like ‘coo’ ‘goo’ and ‘ga-ga’ are made.
  • This is the most important stage during the first year of a child’s life. It usually begins when the child is between 6 and 9 months. At the onset of babbling, the baby begins to make sounds that more closely resemble adult language.
  • Combinations of sounds are produced such as ‘ma’ ‘ga’ and ‘da’. Sometimes these sounds are repeated producing what is known as reduplicated monosyllables – eg: ‘mama’, ‘dada’, ‘baba’. Such sounds still have no real meaning, but parents are often eager to believe their child is speaking its first words. As well as babbling, the baby is likely to blow bubbles and splutter
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Babbling: Phonemic Expansion and Contaction

  • During the babbline stage, the number of different phonemes produced are increased - know as phonemic expansion. Later about 9 or 10 months the number of phonemes drop as the child discards phonemes not usedin their native tongue.
  • We know this happens because research has shown that at this age, the sounds made by babies from different nationalities are different.
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Babbling: Intonation and Gesture

  • Another development during the babbling stage is the when patterns of intonation begin to resemble speech. For example, there might be a rising tone at the end of a sentence as if the child were asking a question.
  • Another method of communication without speech is for a child to point at an object with a facial expression that seems to say 'I want it' or 'I want that'
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