Child Language Skills
What children have to learn within language:
- To create individual phonemes and phonemetic combinations (phonetics).
- To use a vocab of words & understand the meaning (lexis/semantics)
- Combine words in variety of sentence construstions, changing word formations to express different word classes (Syntax/morphology)
- Use prosodic features such as pitch, loudness, speed and intonation to convey meaning (phonology)
- Structure interations with others (discourse)
- Sutbleties of speech e.g politeness, irony and implications (pragmatics)
Main stages of language development (Pre-verbal st
The Pre-verbal stage AGE (months)
VEGETATIVE- Sounds of discomfort or reflexive actions. 0-4
(Crying, burping, sucking)
COOING- Comfort sounds and vocal play using open-mouthed vowel sounds. 4-7
('coos', laughter starts, pitch- squeals and growls, hard consonants
and vowels produced)
BABBLING- Repeated patterns of consonant and vowel sounds. 6-12
(Sounds linking to language, re-duplicated sounds 'ba-ba' and
PROTO-WORDS- Word-like vocalisations, not matching actual words but 9-12
used for same meaning. E.g 'mm' for 'give me that'
accompanying pointing at object.
Main stages of language development
LEXICAL AND GRAMMATICAL STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT AGE(Months)
HOLOPHRASTIC/ONE-WORD: One-word utterances 12-18
TWO-WORD:Two-word combinations 18-24
TELEGRAPHIC: Three or more words combined 24-36
POST-TELEGRAPHIC: More grammatically complex combinations. 36+
(During post-telegraphic stage key literacy, reading and writing skills start to develop)
Noam Chomsky LAD
- American Linguist.
- Believes learning takes place through innate brain mechanisms, pre-programmed with ability to acquire grammatical structures.
- Calls this LAD (Language Acquistion Device)
- Says that human language, although may different, share many similarities.
- Calls this 'Universal grammar'.
- Children all around the world are thought to develop language skills in similar stages at similar rate.
How are sounds produced?
Sounds are produced by air from the lungs passing across the vocal cords.
The production of consonant sound is affected by:
- Manner of articulation (how airstream is controlled)
- Place of articulation (where it occurs) we can use lips, tounge, teeth, roof of mouth or a combination to create sounds.
- If sound is voiced or unvoiced (vibrating or not vibrating vocal cords)
Different types of sound produced
TYPE VOICED UNVOICED
PLOSIVES- When airflow is blocked for brief time. b, d, g p, t, k
Also called 'stop consonants'.
FRICATIVES- When airflow is only partially blocked v, ᶞ(e.g thy), z, ᴣ(e.g leisure) f, ᶿ(e.g think) s, ᶘ & air moves through mouth in steady stream. ᶘ (e. g ship),h
AFFRICATIVES- Putting plosives and fricatives together. dᴣ(e.g judge) tᶘ (e.g church)
APPROXIMATES- Similar sounds to vowels. w, r, j
NASAL- Air moving through nose. m, n, ᶇ (e.g sing)
LATERALS- Placing tounge on ridge of teeth and air moving down side L
Phonological aquisition sequence
AGE (months) PHONEME
24 p, b, m, d, n, w, t
30 k, g, h, ᶇ
36 f, s, j, l
42 tᶘ, dᴣ, v, z, ᶘ, r
48+ ᶞ,ᶿ, ᴣ
Early phonological 'mistake'
Children master a language through making mistakes.Phonological development is also depends on a childs ability to produce sounds.
Early phonological errors:
TERM EXPLANATION EXAMPLE
Deletion Omitting final consonant in words. do(g). cu(p)
Substitution Sustituting one sound for another. 'pip' for 'ship'
(especially harder sounds that develop later e.g ᶘ)
Addition Adding an extra vowel to end of words (creating CVCV pattern) e.g doggie
Assimilation Changing one consonant or vowel for another.
(e.g early plosive sounds 'd' and 'b') 'gog' for 'dog'
Reduplication Repeating a whole syllabol. dada, mama
Consonant cluster Difficult to articulate so children reduce them to smaller units 'pider' not 'spider'
Deletion of unstressed syllables Ommitting opening syllabels in polysyllabic words. nana for banana
Berko and Brown- Fis phonomenon
Researchers look at children's phonological errors to see how they link to their understanding of words and ideas. They also look at their ability to imitate language surrounding them.
Jean Berko Gleason and Roger Brown (1960)
- Child reffered to plastic fish as 'fis'
- Substitued the 'sh' sound for 's'
- Couldn't link the adults use of 'fis' to the same object.
Child: A fis Adult: Is this your fis? Child: No
Child: A fis Adult: Is this your fish? Child: Yes, my fis.
Shows that children understand adults speech before they can immitate it.
- Once children produce sounds effectively they can form 'real' words that others can recognise.
- Initially 'proto-words' only have meaning to the child and their carers but not to others.
- In addition to vocabulary building the child needs to learn the semantics of words in order to link objects and ideas.
Rate of lexical development
AGE NUMBER OF WORDS
12 months 50
24 months 200
36 months 2,000
Holophrases and one word utterances develop alongside or after proto-words.
Categorising first words- Katherine Nelson
Katerine Nelson (1973) indentified four catergories for first words:
- naming (things or people)
- description/modifying things
- personal/social words
Found that 60% of first words were nouns. Verbs were second largest group, modifiers came third and and personal/social words made 8% of sample.
Early vocab contains content words (from word classes such as nouns, verbs and adjectives).
Function words (determiners, prepositions and auxilary verbs) have a grammatical rather than a semantic function and are aquired later.
- Children often overextend a words meaning (linking objects with similar qualities). E.g applying the word 'dog' to all four-legged household pets.
- Less frequently children underextend a word by giving it narrower definitions than it already has. E.g 'duck' for fluffy cartoons but not for real ducks.
Eve Clark's study found that children base overextensions on:
- the physical qualities of objects
- features such as taste, sound, movement, shape, size and texture.
Children's first words connect their experiences of the world, dominated by the senses.
Types of overextension
TYPE DEFINITION EXAMPLE % OF OVEREXTENSION
Categorical overextension Name for one member of a Apple for all fruits 60%
category is extended to all members
Analogical overextension Word for one object is extended to one Ball used for a round fruit 15%
in a different category:usually due
to physical or functional connection
Mismatch statements One-word sentences that appear quite Saying 'duck' when looking at 25%
abstract; child makes statement about one empty pond.
object in relation to another.
Jean Aitchinson- Stages of linguistic development
Linguist Jean Aitchinson connected children's lexical and semantic development.
Aitchinson's stages of lingusitic development:
NUMBER STAGE DESCRIPTION
1 Labelling Linking words to the objects which they refer, understanding that things can be labelled.
2 Packaging Exploring labels and to what they can apply. Over/underextension occurs in order to eventually
understand the range of a words meaning.
3 Network- Making connections between words, understanding similarities and opposites in meaning.
An aspect of network-building is understanding of hyponyms. For example if you take 'clothes' as a hypernym the child can list the hyponyms, for example the types of clothes that they can wear 'socks, t-shirt, shorts, jumper, trousers' etc.
Piaget's stages of children's linguistic developme
Jean Piaget- 20th Century psychologistic, his views have been very influential.
Emphasises that children are active learners- their environment and social interactions shape their language.
Piaget's Stages of children's linguistic development
STAGE AGE (years) KEY ELEMENTS
Sensorimotor up to 2 Child experiences physical world through sense- classifies the things in it When lexical choices appear they are concrete not abstract. Object permanence develops- objects still exist when out of sight.
Pre-operational 2-7 Language and motor skills develop- become more competent. Language is egocentric- either focused on child or used by child when no one is around.
Concrete operational 7-11 Children begin to think logically about concrete events.
Formal operational 11+ Abstract reasoning skills develop.
Aquiring greater lexical and semantic understandinf requires grammatical skills.
The two areas of grammar are syntax and morphology:
Syntactical advances allow children to:
- Order words into phrases and clauses.
- Make different types of utterances- (simple, compound, complex) for different functions apart from declarative (interrogative and imperative require different word order)
Morphological advances allow children to:
- Add inflections to words creating tense, marking distinctions between adjectives, showing possesion and making plurals (inflectional morphology)
- Experiment with language by adding prefixes and suffixes to make up words and to convert words from one word class to another. (derivational morphology)
When linguists calculate Mean Length Utterance (MLU) for childrren they look at the individual morphemes rather than adding up the number of words.
Stages of children's grammatical development
STAGE DESCRIPTORS GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTIONS AGE(MONTHS)
One-word/holophrastic One-word utterances 12-18
Two-word Two word combined to Subject+verb 18-24
create simple syntactical structures. Verb+object
Telegraphic Three or more words joined in Subject+verb+object 24-36
increasingly complex and accurate orders Subject+verb+complement
Post-telegraphic Increasing awareness of grammatical rules Instead of saying 'runned' 36+
and irregularities. saying 'ran' not 'runned'
Stages of grammatical development- continued
The building blocks for syntax. First words are mainly nouns. Holophrastic means 'whole phrase' where one word is used as a short utterance.
The beggining of syntactical development. Once two words are joined the child can explore different combinations and learn correct English word-order.
Types of meaning relations in two-word utterances:
Meaning relation Explanation Example Context
agent+action Did someone (the doer) perform an action? Daddy kick Dad kicks ball
agent+affected Does someone do something to an object? Me ball Child kicks ball
entity+attribute Is a person or an object described? Kitty big Sees tiger in zoo
action+affected Does an action affect an object? Throw stick Child throws stick.
action+location Is an object located? Spoon table Spoon is on a table
Types of meaning realtions in two-word utterances- continued
Meaning relation Explanation Example Context
possessor+possession Does an object have a possesor? Daddy coat Points to dad's coat
nomination Is a person or object labelled? That cake That is a cake
recurrence Is an event repeated? More ball Finds second ball
negation Is something denied? No ball Has lost her ball
- Combining three or more words= telegraphic stage.
- Utterances are similar to the style and construction of a telegram or text message. (Words are left out but content words remain)
- Verb inflections, auxilary verbs, the copular verb, prepositions, determiners are all omitted. (These appear as the child moves towards to post-telegraphic stage)
Key developments take place in the construction of questions, negatives and pronouns.
- Questions are a feature of early speech
- In one and two-word utterances they are formed through rising intonation.
- Only later can children creat yes/no interrogatives through changing word order and using auxilary verbs 'can I have a book?'
- Other questions require 'what', 'where', 'when', and 'why'- these appear fairly early on in development 'where mummy?'
- They appear to be aquired in a certain order: WHAT- subject or object, WHERE- location, WHY-reason, WHO- time.
Telegraphic stage- continued
The ability to use negation needs syntactical awareness, researcher Ursula Bellugi identified three stages of negative formation in young children:
STAGE THE CHILD: EXAMPLE
1 uses 'no' or 'not' at the beginning or end of a sentence. 'No wear shoes'
2 moves 'no'/'not' inside the sentence. 'I no want it'
3 attaches the negative to auxilary verbs and the copula verb 'No I don't want to go to nursery'
'be' securely. 'I am not'
Telegraphic stage- continued (pronouns)
Pronouns can be difficult to use accurately because they express many things. E.g a person (I/you, and the subject/ object positioning I/me), number (singular or plural, I/we), gender (s/he), possession (mine).
Ursula Bellugi found three stages:
1) The child uses their own name (e.g Tom play)
2) Child recognises the I/me pronouns and that these are used in different places within a sentence (for example, I play toy, me do that)
3) The child uses them according to whether they are in the subject or object position in a sentence 'I play with a toy', 'give it to me'.
Determiners are another function word aquired later in development. Determiners are attached to nouns. They are articles (a, the), numerals (one), possesives (my) quantifiers (some, many) or demonstratives (this).
When the remaining function words are aquired 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 forms more accurately, for instance using the passive voice ('the car was followed by the lorry')
- Constuct longer noun phrases ('the two big red buses').
A useful starting point when children move from the telegraphic to post-telegraphic stage is to know that there are two types of morpheme: Free and bound.
Roger Brown found that morphemes are aquired in a particular order:
Present tense progressive -ing Third person irregular has
Prepositions in, on Uncontactible auxilary verb they were running
Plural -s Contractible copular She's
Past tense irregular run/ran Contractible auxilary she's runnning
Uncontractible copula is, was
Articles the, a
Past tense regular -ed
Third person regular runs
'Virtuous errors' and overgeneralisations
'Virtuous errors' is usually applied to the mistakes children make as they develop grammatically. It suggests that children make errors on a linguistic basis and therefore are logical. Children around 3 or 4 often use 'I runned' instead of 'I ran'. This is very clever as they have worked out that most verbs end with the -ed inflection.
Other common overgeneralisations are to add the plural -s inflection to nouns (house, houses) but there are some irregular plurals such as (mouse/mice), (foot/feet).
Overgeneralisations support Chomsky's theories on aquisition that children produce language that they have never heard an adult say. E.g 'goed' instead of 'went'.
Jean Berko Gleason 1950's- Wug test
- Study into the -s plural
- Gave children a picture of an imaginary creature called a Wug.
- Asked them what more than one Wug would be called.
- Three quarters of the children said 'Wugs'.
Pragmatic understanding, especially conversational skills, is crucial to children's sucessful language development.
- Implicature (what we mean rather than what we say)
- Inference (interpretting what others mean)
- Politeness (Using the right words and phrases to be polite)
- Conversational management and turn-taking (knowing when to speak)
Halliday's functions of speech
Michael Halliday's 'taxonomy'.
Here are his functions of speech:
FUNCTION WHERE LANGUAGE IS USED TO:
Instrumental Fulfil a need (e.g 'want milk')
Regulatory Influence the behaviour of others (e.g 'pick up')
Interactional Develop and maintain social relationships (e.g 'love you')
Personal Convey individual opinions, ideas and personal identity (e.g 'me like Charlie and Lola')
Imaginative Create an imaginary world and may be seen in play predominantly (e.g 'me shopkeeper')
Heuristic Learn about the environment (e.g 'wassat?')
Dore's language functions
John Dore offers another way of desrcribing language functions that focuses more on speech acts as indivuidual utterances, rather than Halliday's broader approach to pragmatic functions.
John Dore's Pragmatic Functions
Labelling Naming a person, object or thing
Repeating Repeating an adult word or utterance
Answering Responding to an utterance from another speaker
Requesting action Asking for something to be done for them
Calling Getting attention by shouting
Greeting Greeting someone or something
Protesting Objecting to requests from others
Practising Using language when no adult is present
How important is context?
Context refers to the situation of an interaction, you should ask these questions when examining data:
- Who participates? (one or more speakers, gender)
- What relationships exist between speakers? (family members, friends, carer and child, teacher and student)
- What is the setting? (domestic, nursery, local environment etc)
- In what development stage is the child (age)
- What other factors might affect the data? (cultual influences such as books, televison, social experiences)
Play and language aquisition
Lev Vygotsky, an early child development researcher observed children's play and linked it to both cognitive and social development.
- Young children often use props to support their play. When older they use imagination instead.
- Children roleplay adult behaviours as a way of exploring their environment.
- Catherine Garvey's study found that children adopt roles and identities.
- Children play together as it is enjoyable but it also practices social interactions and negotitation skills.
- Sociodramatic play usually occurs around 4 years old- possibly linking to cognitive understanding of the different roles people have and how this affects language.
The role of parents
Parents are the main communicators with children. The terms used to descirbe the non-standard form of language used by parents when talking to children has changed over time: baby talk, became 'motherese', then changed to 'parentese'.
The current preffered form used by linguists is CDS (Child Directed Speech) as if focuses on the child rather than the adult.
Baby talk relys in reduplication, for example ('din-din', 'bic-bic'), deletion and substitution (ickle) and (doggie) with an adult speaker adopting child-like characteristics.
Features of Child Directed Speech (CDS)
Parents like to use some (or all) of the following:
- Repetition and/or repeated sentence frames
- a higher pitch
- the child's name rather than pronouns
- the present tense
- one-word utterances and/or short elliptical sentences
- fewer verbs/modifiers
- concrete nouns
- expansion and/or recasts
- yes/no questions
- exaggerated pauses giving turn-taking cues.
Jerome Bruner- LASS
Language Aquisition Support System (LASS)
- Ritualised activities which occur daily in children's lives- mealtimes, bedtimes, reading books.
- How carers make the rules and meanings of these explicit and predictable so children can learn.
- E.g the game 'Peek-A-Boo' is accompanied by phrases such as 'bye bye', 'where am I?', 'here I am' and prosodic indicators such as pitch and intonation.
- This teaches children important linguistic aspects such as turn-taking, formulaic utterances and syntax.
Piaget would use this game to test object permanence, where children understand that an object still exisits when it is no longer in sight.
Scaffolding- Refers to how adults help children advance cognitively. Adults withdraw support as children's skills develop. 'Scaffolding' metaphor relates to the support offered around children's language development- once the child can support themselves independently, scaffolding is no longer required.
Competing Language Aquisition Theories
Language Aquisition Theories:
THEORY DEFINITION KEY THEORISTS
NATIVIST Humans have an imbuilt capacity to acquire language Noam Chomsky, Eric Lenneburg
BEHAVIOURIST Language is aquired through imitation & reinforcement B.F Skinner
SOCIAL INTERACTIONIST Language is aquired through interaction with adults Jerome Brunner, Lev Vygotsky
COGNITIVE Language aquistion is part of a wider development of Lev Vygostky, Jean Piaget
understanding that develops
Noam Chomsky- Nativist Theory
Arguments for and against the nativist theory:
- Experience the same stages of development at the same pace
- Resist correction
- Create forms of langauge which adults don't use (overgeneralisations)
- Make their own rules for language- understand that all languages have grammatical rules
- Produce correct language when surrounded by faulty adult speech.
- Relevant studies- Wug test suggest children apply grammatical rules.
- Stop overgeneralising and learn to use language correctly, as with irregular verbs.
- Need input to give them more skills than grammar, for example pragmatic understanding.
- Children who have been deprived of social contact can't achieve communicative competence.
B.F Skinner- Behaviourist Theory
- Imitate accent and dialect
- Learn politeness and pragmatic aspects of language
- Repeat language they have heard around them and incorporate it into theirs- lexcial knowledge must be gained from being told the right labels.
- Do more than just immitate language and can form sentences that they have never heard before.
- Hear ungrammatical spoken language around them but can still learn correct language.
- Do not seem to respond to correction.
- Aren't negatively reinforced for language use.
- Aren't always corrected by parents for incorrect grammar.
- Corrections might actually slow down development.
- Imitate but don't nessicarily understand the meanings.
- 'fis' phenomenon suggests children hear and understand correct pronounciation but can't produce it themselves at that stage.
Social interactionist theory
Arguments for and against social interactionist theory:
- 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.
Relevant studies: Halliday's research into the functions of language supports the importance of social interaction.
- Children from cultures that do not promote interaction with children (e.g Samoa) can still become articulate and fluent language users without adult input.
Arguments for and against cognitive theory:
- Can't grasp aspect of language until they are ready; stages of development support this.
- Produce utterances which increas incomplexityas they work towards mastering a rule.
Relevant studies: Brown's morphemes, Bellugi's stages of pronoun and question formation.
- With cognitive difficulties can still manage to use language beyond their understanding.
- Acquire language without having an understanding of it, especially in the early stages of development.
- 'fis' phenomenon suggests children's cognitive understanding can be present but their physical development still impacts their ability to use language.