Children's Language Acquisition Theorists

  • Created by: Lex
  • Created on: 19-03-13 09:26

Halliday's 7 Functions of Language

Instrumental ~ indicate need, e.g. obtaining food, drink and comfort.

Regulatory ~ influence the behaviour of others, e.g. persuading, commanding and requesting.

Interaction ~ form relations, e.g. phatic speech.

Personal ~ express feelings and identity of the speaker, a.k.a 'here I am!' function.

Representational ~ exchanging information, factual, e.g. relaying or requesting information.

Heuristic ~ learn and explore the environment, e.g. questions and answers.

Imaginative ~ reality and fantasy, e.g. children's play and storytelling.

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  • Children imitate adults.
  • Their correct utterances are rewarded.
  • POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT = reward/praise.
  • NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT = unrewarded/punished.


  • Children develop regional accents showing they imitate sounds around them.
  • They pick up words and "parrot" them as they acquire a vocabulary.
  • Mistakes made by children reveal they are not simply imitating but actively working out and applying rules - virtuous errors and irregular verbs.
  • They can produce original sentences.
  • Apart from extreme cases (e.g. Genie), all children pass through the same stages of language development regardless of the treatment they receive or the type of society they grow up in.
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  • Children have an innate ability to extract the rules underlying language from the words they hear.
  • LAD (Language Acquisition Device) - triggered by hearing speech.
  • Process is biologically determined.


  • LAD explains the speed at which children learn to speak, children of all cultures pass through similar stages, children understand and use new sentences before hearing them.
  • Slobin - unlike primates, we have evolved a vocal tract. Human anatomy adapted to the production of speech.
  • Chomsky's work is theoretical. He did not study real children.
  • No account of interation between children and their caregivers.
  • Does not recognise why children might want to speak, the function of language.
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  • Language is just one aspect of a child's overall intellectual development.
  • Children have to understand a concept before they can use a certain linguistic structure - object permanence, classification, seriation.


  • Studies on children who have learned to speak fluently despite abnormal mental development.
  • A child's ability to grasp grammar and sentence structure is independent of cognitive development.
  • As a child continues to develop it becomes harder to find a clear link between language and intellect.
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  • This theory emphasises the interaction between children and their care-givers.
  • CDS (child-directed speech).
  • Language acquisition depends on the input made by parents -  - slower clearer pronounciation, more pauses, higher and more range of pitch, exaggerated intonation, introducing new words, expanding child's speech, conventions of conversation.


  • Cultures without CDS.
  • Other contexts: lovers, pets, carers and elderly people.
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Skills needed:

  • Motor skills - to hold and control a pen.
  • Form letters (upper and lower case).
  • Know the importance of letter direction.
  • Cursive text - know how to join phonemes.
  • Recognise graphemic combinations (e.g. suffixes).
  • Lineation - write in a straight line and space out words.
  • Punctuation.
  • Monitor own writing.
  • Later skills - use different forms and conventions.
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Kroll (1981)

Stage 1: Preparotary Stage

  • Masters the basic motor skills needed to write.
  • Learns the basic principles of the spelling system.

Stage 2: Consolidation Stage (up to 6 yrs)

  • Child writes in the same way it writes.
  • Uses short declarative sentences which mainly include 'and' conjunctions.
  • Incomplete sentences as they don't know how to finish the sentence off.
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Kroll (1981) [continued]

Stage 3: Differentiation Stage (up to 9 yrs)

  • Child becomes aware of difference between speaking and writing.
  • Recognises the different writing styles, e.g. letter, essay.
  • Lots of mistakes.
  • Use writing guides and frameworks to structure work.
  • Write to reflect feelings and thoughts.

Stage 4: Intergration Stage (up to 12 yrs)

  • Child develops a personal style.
  • Child understands that you can change a personal style according to audience and purpose.
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Ways a child spells:

  • Doubling consonants, e.g. brezzy, dissappeared.
  • Spell phonetically, e.g. ment, brite.
  • Stressed and unstressed letters, e.g. knife = nife, stomach = tomach.
  • Vowel combinations, e.g. coulourful.
  • Suffixing and prefixing, e.g. living = liveing.
  • Intial letter, e.g. England = Ingland.
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Chall (1983)

Stage 0: Pre Reading (birth - 6 yrs)

  • Children pretend to read, turn pages of books and repeat what they have previously had read to them.
  • Rely on images to determine what the text is saying.
  • Use logographic information to guess the words.
  • Realise words are made up of sounds.
  • Recognise rhyme and alliteration.

Stage 1: Initial Reading/Decoding Stage (6 - 7 yrs)

  • Able to read simple texts.
  • Relies heavily on text and focuses on visual images.
  • Realise letter combinations represent sounds.
  • Become aware of vowels and vowels sounds.
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Chall (1983) [continued]

Stage 2: Conformation & Gluing Stage (7 - 8 yrs)

  • A child can automatically decode words.
  • High levels of comprehension and reading.
  • Ability to become more fluent.
  • Can control pace and are comfortable with reading situations.

Stage 3: Reading to Learn (8 - 14 yrs)

  • Reading to learn and acquire new knowlege.
  • Before this the child relied on environment and speech.
  • Words mean a lot more to them.
  • Able to bring previous experiences and knowledge to the reading.
  • Learn facts from a singular viewpoint.
  • They need direct reconstruction.
  • Learn to read narrative texts.
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