CLA Speaking

Katherine Nelson

Nelson identified 4 categories for first words - Naming (concrete or proper nouns), Actions/events (verbs), Describing/modifying things (dirty, nice), Personal/social words (hi, bye)

Found that 60% of children's early word phrases contained nouns, then verbs.

She also found that the nouns were more commonly things that surrounded the children in their environment i.e ball, mum, cat. ---> Nelson also said that in Re-casts (e.g. Ben - "me ball" mum - "pass me the ball"), children whose sentences were re-cast performed better at imitating sentences 

Early vocabulary contains content words (from word classes such as nouns, verbs and adjectives). Function words (determiners, prepositions and auxiliary verbs) have a grammatical rather than a semantic function, and are acquired later. Thus, words which convey meaning are key ones in the early stages of Language Acquisition. 

CDS- Found that children at the holophrastic stage whose mothers corrected them on word choice and pronunciation actually advanced more slowly than those with mothers who were generally accepting. 

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Chomsky - Nativist LAD

Describes human language as 'universal grammar', language share many similarities. 

His theory supports the fact that children around the world seem to develop at a similar pace, irrespective of race/culture/mother tongue. (This also 'defies' Skinner's model) 

Language is innate, it takes place through the innate brain mechanism, pre-programmed with the ability to acquire grammatical structure. 

Children are born with an inherited ability to learn any human language and with the basic rules for language. 

Chomsky’s focus on rules rather than imitation of what a child has already heard is interesting as it counts for the way the child can display ‘linguistic creativity’ —> the ability to utter expressions never heard before. 

Reasons for Chomsky's theory -

  • Children create forms of language that adults dont use (overgeneralisations)
  • Children produce correct lang when surronded by faulty adult speech
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Phonemic Transcription

  • Short Vowels: e.g. pet, pat, cut, cot, put, about
  • Long Vowels: e.g. lean, learn, lark, lawn, loot
  • Mono-thongs: Vowels with a single perceived auditory quality
  • Diphthongs: Consists of 2 vowels pronounced consecutively in one syllable. 
  • Triphthongs: Vowels in which 3 vowel qualities can be perceived. 
  • Digraphs: 2-letter combinations like sh, th, ch in shop, sharp, thing, think, chip. 
  • Final ’S’ sounds: e.g. lemons, goes, works, runs, passes. 

Fricatives = Close approximation between 2 organs so that the movement of air between them causes audible friction (F,Z,S) 

Stops = Complete closure at some point in the vocal tract. ----> Air pressure builds up behind the closure and is then released explosively. 


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Features of Babytalk

A =  To attract and hold babies attention...

  • Higher pitch and exaggerated intonation and stress 
  • Frequent use of the child’s name and an absence of pronouns 

B = To help the process of breaking down language into understandable chunks

  • Repeated sentence frames 
  • Repetition and partial repetition of the adult’s own words 
  • A large number of one word utterances
  • Use of simple sentence 
  • Omission of inflections such as plurals and possessives
  • Fewer verbs, modifiers (adjective in front of nouns) 
  • Use of expansions, where the adult fills in the child’s utterance
  • Use of re-castings, where the babies vocab is put into a new utterance. 

C = Make the conversation more predictable by keeping the conversation in present tense and referring to things the baby can see 

  • Questions and commands (getting the child to do something)
  • Absence of past tenses (threw, ran, played)
  • Use of concrete nouns and dynamic verbs 
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The Pre-verbal Stage

Vegetative = Sounds of discomfort or reflexive actions (0 -4  months)

Cooing = Comfort sounds and vocal play using open-mouthed vowel sounds (4 - 7 months)

Babbling = Repeated patterns of consonant and vowel sounds (6 - 12 months)

Proto-words = Words like vocalisations, not matching actual words but used consistently for the same meaning (sometimes called 'scribble talk'. For example, using 'mmm' to mean 'give me that' with accompanying gestures such as pointing, supporting the verbal message. (9 - 12 months)

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Lexical and Grammatical stages of development

Holophrastic Stage: One-word utterances 18+ months

Two-word Stage: Two-word combinations 18-24 months

Telegraphic: Three and more words combined 24-36 months

Post-telegraphic:More grammatically complex combinations 36+

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Types of Sounds

Plosives = Created when the airflow is blocked B, D, G - voiced & P, T, K - voiceless ---> Plosives P, B, D, T are one of the first phonemes to be acquired by young chidren around 2 years old

Fricatives = Close approximation between 2 organs so that the movement of air between them causes audible friction (F,Z,S) 

Laterals = Placing tounge on the ridge of the teeth - 'L' 

Stops = Complete closure at some point in the vocal tract. ----> Air pressure builds up behind the closure and is then released explosively. 

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Smallest units may be whole simple words e.g. man, run, big or parts of complex words e.g. un-faith-ful which are called morphemes

Free morphemes = words that can stand alone

Bound morphemes = words that cannot stand alone, need to be attatched to something e.g. affixes

Other morphemes include prefixes and suffixes cannot stand alone, also need to be part of complex words. 

Where two simple words are joined together to form a new complete word, it is a compound word. Some compounds words. Examples include teapot and starlight. --> When a compound word is first coined they are shown in some dictionaries with a hyphen, e.g. light-house or fish-finger. 

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Key Terms

Virtuous Error: Syntactic errors made by young children in which the non-standard utterance, it reveals some understanding, though incomplete of standard syntax. 

Overgeneralisation: A child over applies certain rules or patterns to the language they use. This can be split into:

- Grammatical overgeneralisation = Such as application of plural '-s' endings to nouns which dont have regular plurals e.g. man-mans, sheep-sheeps) OR '-ed' endings to verbs which dont have regular past tenses e.g. 'runned' or 'falled' 

- Semantic overextension = The word is 'stretched' to include things that aren't normally part of that words meaning. Such as calling all round fruit apples, even if it is a pear, orange or peach (semantic features hypthesis) OR calling items which do the same job by the same word e.g. cup applies to glass, beaker, bottle, bowl (functional similarities hypthesis)

- Semantic underextension = The word used to label is 'reduced' to include only part of its normal meaning. Such as only calling your own shoes shoes, but not anyone else's, or limitating the use of the word banana to only real life bananas, not a picture or toy. 

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Dan Clayton

Says in reality, we are much more interested in the truth of a child's utterance than in its grammatical or semantic accuracy. ---->  In other words, we are more likely to be happy that a child has said something we recognise to be true, than annoyed that the form it takes is non-standard. 

Behavioursts (Skinner) see reinforcement and correction as crucial to learned behaviour, yet research has shown that correcting a child's grammatically non-standard utterances might actually impede a child's language development. 

Children tend to imitate phonology of language around them, supported by the fact children's accents tend to be similar to their parents. 

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Piaget's cognitive approach suggests a CLA is part of a child's wider development. A child cannot articulate concepts he/she does not understand. ---> A child needs to be taught concetps before they articulate.

A child can start to use comparative and superlatives when they have grasped the concept of relative sizes. Likewise, a child can employ adverbs of time, like yesterday or tomorrow, once they have grasped the concept of time passing. 

Piaget made 4 stages -

1) Sensori-motor stage (up to 2) = Infant recognises they can carry out actions by themselves and develop and unserstanding of the world. ---> With SMS comes object permanence 

2) Pre-operational stage (2-7) = Learns to use language and to represent objects and words. These words and images reflect increased symbolic thinking. 

3) Concrete operational (7-11) = The child begins to reason logically and classify objects.

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Jerome Bruner - Social Interactionist

Interactions between child and carer are crucial to language development and help children develop important abilities such as turn-taking in conversation

Bruner focuses on importance of conversations, routines of social interaction and role of CDS. 

Reasons for Bruner's theory which may appear in exam..

  • Routine/rituals seem to teach children about spoken discourse structure such as turn-taking
  • Pragmatic development suggests that children do learn politeness and verbally acceptable behaviour 
  • Role-play and pretend play suggest that more interaction with carers can affect vocabulary 

Interaction helps acquistion by 'scaffolding' -- Bruner believed when children learn new concepts they need help from teachers/caregivers. To begin they are dependent on adult support, but as they acquire new skills and logic they become more independent- important for caregiver to recognise when child no longer needs scaffold and can learn independently.

Says 'Peek-a-boo' is an example of educational rituals. Teaches importance of linguistic aspects such as turn-taking, syntax and formulaic utterances. 

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Stages of Development - Holophrastic

Holophrastic Stage = 

  • Provides the building blocks for syntax to develop
  • First words are mainly nouns used to label and name objects
  • The term 'holophrastic' means 'whole phrase' and is used to describe words that don't simply fulfil the naming purpose, but behave more like a short utterance. 
  • At this stage, the carer's role is important as they start to make sense of early word's through trial and error
  • Context too, is central to understanding children's needs' --> protowords or holophrases can be deduced from the fact that the child uses them in a particular place or when holiding a certain toy. --> Children also use other linguistic clues, such as prosodic features to make their intentions clear, showing the importance of having acquired and practised phonological skills early on. 
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Stages of Development - Two-Word & Telegraphic

Two-Word Stage

  • This stage marks the beginning of syntactical development. Once 2 words are joined, the child can explore different combinations and learn correct English word order. 
  • Roger Brown's study of two-word sentences found that children from all cultures and countries make the same relationships between grammatical concepts

Telegraphic Stage

  • Once a child can combine 3 or more word, they are starting to make their meanings more explicit. 
  • Utterances are similar to the construction of a telegram - function words are left out but content words are retained. 
  • Key developments take place in the construction of questions, negatives, pronouns and determiners. 
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Stages of Development - Post-Telegraphic

This is when the remaining function words are acquired and used appropriately. The child can:

  • Combine clause structures by using coordinating conjunctions 'and', 'but' and subordinating conjunctions 'because', 'although' to make complex and compound utterances.
  • Manipulate verb aspects more accurately, for instance using the passive tense
  • Construct longer noun phrases 'the two big red buses' 
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Question Formation - Bellugi

  • A feature in early speech
  • In the one/two word stage they are formed by rising intonation
  • It is only later on that children can create yes/no questions because these involve changing word order and using auxiliary verbs. 
  • Other questions require the 5Ws
  • These appear fairly early on and are frequently used at the beginning of a sentence e.g. Where mummy? 
  • Acquired in a certain order - What, Who, Where, Why, When 

- knowing what is happening gives a child more words

- 'who' and 'where' pinpoints locaiton of objects and people

- 'why' shows some cognitive awareness. 'When' - children not usually aware of constraints of time

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Stages of negative formation: Bellungi

Stage 1 = Uses 'non' or 'not' at the beginning of end of a sentence e.g. 'No wear shoes'

Stage 2 = Moves 'no'/'not' inside the sentence e.g. 'I no want it'

Stage 3 = Attaches the negative to auxiliary verbs and the copula verb 'be' securely e.g. 'No, I dont want to go to nursery I am not' 

David Crystal adds another way to say 'non'. ---> A more pragmatic method, as it does not use a negative word. It can be observed when adults don't want to be direct in disagreeing with their children by using 'maybe' to mean'non' -- a skill children will develop.

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Stages of Pronoun Formation

Stage 1 = Uses their own name e.g. 'Tom play'

Stage 2 = Recognises the I/Me pronouns and that these are used in different places within a sentence e.g. 'I play toy/me do that'

Stage 3 = Uses them according to whether they are 'I' the subject or object position within a sentence e.g. 'I play with the toy/give it to me' 

Determiners are another function word and are acquired at this stage. They are attatched to nouns and are:

  • Articles - a/the
  • Numerals - one
  • Possessives - my
  • Quantifiers - some/may
  • Demonstratives - this
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  • Location - Formal/informal? Un/familiar environment? Surrondings? Educational?
  • Relationships - Close? Distant? Positional power? (teacher) Personal power? (parents) 
  • Age - Used to rituals/routines? Still learning them? What stage of development are the children in? i.e. post-telegraphic?
  • Purpose of interaction - To entertain? Educational functions? 
  • Gender - of caregiver?
  • Company - Is it a large group? Small group? Group size beneficial to child? Are children old enough to understand turn-taking or are they ego-centric
  • Rituals/readings 
  • What's happening?
  • Use of props? 
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Child Directed Speech CDS

CDS = The language that parents use when interacting with their child to help them acquire language 


  • Separate phrases more distinctly, leaving longer pauses between them.
  • Speak more s-l-o-w-l-y. - May help the child rememeber the word and pronounciation. 
  • Use exaggerated  ‘singsong’ intonation, which helps to emphasise key words.  Also to exaggerate the difference between questions, statements and commands. -- to entertain and keep child interested. 
  • Use a higher and wider pitch range.

Lexis and semantics

  • Use of concrete nouns (cat, train) and dynamic verbs (give, put).
  • Adopt child’s own words for things (child-like words)e.g. doggie, wickle babbit
  • Frequent use of child’s name and an absence of pronouns.
  • Simplifed vocab that helps child's understanding e.g. dog instead of german shepard 
  • Yes or no questioning - to encourage the child to speak
  • Use of interrogatives - to encourage the child to speak
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Child Directed Speech CDS (2)


  • Simpler constructions
  • Frequent use of imperatives
  • High degree of repetition
  • Use of personal names instead of pronouns (e.g. ‘Mummy’ not ‘I’)
  • Fewer verbs, modifiers and adjectives
  • Present tense 

Large number of one-word utterances

  • Repeated sentence frames eg. “that’s a ……”
  • Use more simple sentences and fewer complex and passives.
  • Omission of past tenses, inflections (plurals and possessives).
  • Use more commands, questions and tag questions.
  • Use of EXPANSIONS – where the adult fills out the child’s utterance.
  • Use of RE-CASTINGS – child’s vocabulary is put into a new utterance. 
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Child Directed Speech CDS (3)


  • Lots of gesture and warm body language -- actions that accompany speech e.g pointing
  • Fewer utterances per turn – stopping frequently for child to respond.
  • Supportive language (expansions and re-castings).
  • Exaggerated pauses giving turn-taking cues - teaching child rituals of conversation

Are there are variations due to the gender of the caregiver?

Research has suggested that fathers are more demanding than mothers, using more direct questions and a wider range of vocabulary.

What effects do you think this kind of speech has on children?

Some claim that it retains the attention of the child, others that it makes language more accessible. Some claim that children learn by repetition.

Others claim that ‘babytalk’ actually interferes with language development because children learn babyish words and sentences instead of the real language.

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Brown, Bellugi

Found that parents often respond to the TRUTH value of what their baby is saying, rather than its grammatical correctness. ----> For example, a parent is more likely to respond to “there doggie” with “Yes, it’s a dog!” than “No, it’s there is a dog.” 

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Key Terms

Virtuous Error = Things that make sense but are still wrong e.g. 'Sheeps'

Echoing = Adult repeats what the child said Reduplication = Repeating whole syllables e.g. dada, mama,

Expansion = Restating what the child said in a more linguistically sophisticated way 

Labelling = Providing the name of an object using simple vocabulary 

Expatiation = Elaborating on the child's word by adding more information 

Overarticulation = More presice sounds, stretching out souds and sounding out supervowels

Exaggerated prosodic cues = Exaggerated intonation patterns, higher frequencies and greater pitch variations

Substitution = Swapping harder sounds for easier ones e.g. 'Ross' = 'Woss' 'Th' = 'F', 'P' = 'B'

Deletion = Dropping of final consonant e.g. do(g) Addition = Adding  extra vowel sounds e.g. dog --> doggie    Protowords = Invented words that have a consistent meaning e.g. dada --> daddy

Constonant cluster reduction = Consonant clusters can be hard to articulate, so children reduce them to smaller units e.g. spider ---> pider    Deletion of unstressed syllables = omiting opening syllable 'nana'

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Skinner - Behaviourist

Says infants learn language by imitating their caregivers

Children are conditioned into language --> through Positive & Negative reinforcement 

Verbal behaviour is strengthened by and reinforced by caregiver --> Parents encourage correct language so child repeats form 

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Other Theorists

Alison Clark-Stewart - 

Children have a larger vocabulary if their parents talk to them a lot. 

Roger Brown -

Children are rarely corrected for grammatical mistakes but are corrected for lexical errors. 

Vygotsky - 

Zone of proximal development - The difference between what a child can do with help and what they can do without. Competence, independence and knowledge need to be built up. 

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Halliday - pragmatic development

Instrumental - Expresses needs e.g. I want juice

Regulatory - Tells others what to do e.g. Go away, pick up

Interactional - Make contact and form and maintain social relationships e.g. I love you mummy

Personal - Express feelings, opinions and indivudal identity e.g. Me good girl, I like Charlie and Lola

Heuristic - To gain knowledge about the environment e.g. What's the tractor doing?

Imaginative - Used to tell stories and create an imaginary environment e.g Me a shopkeeper

Representational - Used to convey facts and information e.g. It hot

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Repeating - Repeating adult's word or utterance 

Answering - Responding to someone else's speech 

Requesting action - Asking for something to be done e.g. caregiver/child may be asserting power/dominance 

Calling - Getting attention by shouting 

Greeting - Gretting someone or something

Protesting - Objecting to requests from others

Practising - Using language when no adult is present e.g. alone playing with toys

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He considered attatchment and bonding to be an innate biological need of the infant. A failure in attatchment is the most basic trauma a child can experience --- as attatchment and bonding is the basis for all that makes us human. 

When an infant is neglected, meaning that his/her physical and emotional needs are not met, he/she may withdraw from human contact as a good experience ----> e.g. if a child is speaking a lot in th transcipt, this could mean that child physical and emotional needs have been met, yet if they are quite withdrawn from conversation, they met not OR pragmatically may lack confidence or self-esteem (naturally shy). 

Signs of crying and anger could be early sings of seperation anxiety. 

Fear of strangers marks the start of a period in which babies and toddlers show great anxiety when their caregiver leaves.

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CLA facts

  • A child understands more words than he/she can speak 
  • Age 6-7 confident with use of all phonemes
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Lenneburg --> with info from Hart & Risley

Lenneburg said that between the ages of 0-5 years, auditory input was most important to allow the acquisition of language.

Lenneburg stated the Critical period hypthesis --> language has to be acquired before 13 otherwise child's language will be impaired (supported by case stuy of Genie).

Could be support by study from Hart & Risley - research showed the important variable was how much talking the parents were doing ---> the higher the social class the more words the child will hear, thus they become more intellectually stimulated and develop language faster. 

If more girls talking in the transcipt then boys... Hart & Risley found that parents talk much more to girls than to boys (perhaps because girls are more sociable, or because it is mum who does most of the care, and parents talk more to children of their gender). This might explain why young, poor boys have particular trouble in school.

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David Crystal

David Crystal has the theory that children learn language in five stages, which aren’t clearly defined and some tie in with each other.

These stages are: Stage One: Where children say things for three purposes:

  1. To get something they want
  2. To get someone’s attention
  3. To draw attention to something

Then they begin to make basic statements such as “daddy car”. 

During this stage children begin naming things with single words and then move on to relating objects with other things, places and people E.G. “there mummy”. 

At this early stage they don’t have much vocabulary so they use intonation to ask a question. Children use words like: “there, want and allgone” to express a full sentence. This could be said that part of this stage is holophrastic.

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David Crystal (2)

Stage Two:

This is when children usually ask questions, “where” questions come first. Their questions often begin with interrogative pronouns (what, where) followed by a noun or verb such as “where gone?”

Children become concerned with naming and classifying things by frequently asking “Wassat?” They may also begin to talk about the characteristics of things for example: big/small. Children are taught to learn things in opposite pairs such as up/down and hot/cold.

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David Crystal (3)

Stage Three:

By now children would be asking lots of different questions but often signalling that they are questions with intonation alone, for example: “Sally play in garden mummy?” This is made into a question by varying the tone of voice.

Children soon begin to express more complex wants by using more grammatically correct language, for example: “I want mummy to take it work”. 

Verbs such as “listen” and “know” are also used. Children refer to events in the past and less often in the future. They usually talk about continuing action for examples: “she still in bed” and ask about the state of actions

The basic sentence structure has expanded such as: [subject]+[verb]+[object] e.g. “You dry hands” 

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David Crystal (4)

Stage Four: Children use increasingly complex sentence structures and begin to: 

  • Explain things
  • Ask for explanations using the word: “why?”
  • Making a wide range of requests: “shall I do it?”

- Are able to use complex sentence structures, they have flexible language tools for expressing a wide range of meanings.

- They begin to communicate meaning indirectly by replacing imperatives such as “give me” with questions; “can I have?”

- Have pragmatic understanding & suit their utterances to context/situation.

- Children also use negation (denial/contradiction) for example: “he doesn’t want one!” Don’t rely on intonation and signals anymore as they explain more fully.

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