CLA Theories

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  • Created by: Laura
  • Created on: 29-05-13 15:16

John Dore's 'Infant Language Functions'

  • Labelling - naming a person, object or experience
  • Repeating - echoing speech of an adult
  • Answering - direct response
  • Requesting action - demanding something
  • Calling - attracting attention by shouting
  • Greeting - greeting someone
  • Protesting - objecting to requests
  • Practising - using and repeating language when no adult is present
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Halliday's 7 Functions

  • Instrumental - to get something
  • Regulatory - to make requests or give orders
  • Interactional - to relate to others
  • Personal - to convey a sense of personal identity and to express views and feelings
  • Heuristic - to find out about the immediate environment
  • Imaginative - to be creative through language that relates to imaginative play, storytelling, rhymes and humour
  • Representational - to convey information
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Rescorla's Types of Overextension

  • Categorical overextension - the name for one member of a category is extended to all members of the category - 'apple' used for all fruits - 60% of overextension
  • Mismatch statements - one-word statements that appear quite abstract; child makes a statement about one object in relation to another - saying 'duck' when looking at an empty pond - 25% of overextension
  • Analogical overextension - a word for one object is extended to one in a different category; usually on the basis that it has some physical or functional correction - 'ball' used for a round fruit - 15% of overextension
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Aitchison's Stages

  • Stage 1: Labelling - linking words to the objects to which they refer, understanding that things can be labelled
  • Stage 2: Packaging - exploring the labels and to what they can apply; over/underextension occurs in order to eventually understand the range of a word's meaning
  • Stage 3: Network-building - making connections between words, understanding similarities and opposites in meanings
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Brown's (1973) Order of Inflections

Children between 20 and 36 months learn inflections as follows:

1) Present participle -ing - 'I going' (although 'am' will still be missing)

2) Plural -s - 'Cups'

3) Possessive 's - 'Teddy's chair'

4) Articles (a, the) - 'Get the ball'

5) Past tense -ed - 'I kicked it'

6) Third person singular verb ending -s - 'She loves me'

7) Auxiliary be - 'It is raining' (or, more likely, 'It's raining')

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Cruttenden's (1979) Acquisition of Inflections

Stage 1: Inconsistent usage - infrequent correct usage of inflections - 'I play outside' one day, 'I played outside' the next

Stage 2: Consistent usage but sometimes misapplied - overgeneralisations/virtuous error - 'I drinked it' rather than 'I drank it'

Stage 3: Consistent usage - children are able to use irregular verb forms successfully - 'mice' rather than 'mouses' and 'ran' rather than 'runned'

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3 Stages of Learning to Ask Questions

Stage 1: around 18 months - two-word stage: rising intonation - 'Sit me?'

Stage 2: between the ages of 2 and 3 - telegraphic: 'wh' words - 'Where tractor?'; wider range of interrogative pronouns - 'Why', 'When', 'How'

Stage 3: from the age of 3 upwards - subject-verb inversion - 'Can I see it?' instead of 'I can see it?'; auxiliary verbs - 'What is Mummy doing?'

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3 Stages of Learning to Use Negatives

Stage 1: around 18 months - 'no' or 'not' to make things negative, normally at the beginning of the phrase - 'no juice'

Stage 2: between the ages of 2 and 3 - 'no' and 'not' in front of verbs - 'I no want juice'; contracted negatives, 'can't' and 'don't' - 'I can't drink it'; can sometimes get mixed up - 'I can't like it'

Stage 3: from the age of 3 upwards - stop using 'no' and 'not' like in stage 1; standardise usage of 'can't' and 'don't'; start using other negative contractions like 'didn't' and 'won't' - 'she didn't catch it'; use of 'isn't' usually develops slightly later - 'Mummy isn't here'

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Skinner's (1957) Imitation Theory

  • Imitation and reinforcement
  • Children repeat what they hear
  • Caregivers reward children with praise
  • Reinforce - repeating words and phrases back and correcting mistakes
  • Learn specific pronunciations of individual words by copying an adult


  • Children can construct new sentences they've never heard before
  • Don't memorise thousands of sentences to use later
  • Doesn't explain overgeneralisations - adults don't make these errors
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Chomsky's (1965) Innate Theory - LAD

  • Inbuilt
  • Language isn't taught - natural development
  • Explains overgeneralisations and why they acquire inflections in a certain order
  • Children learn language quickly because they are predisposed to learn it
  • All children pass through the same early stages of language acquisition
  • Common features of language - linguistic universals


  • Underestimates the significance of Skinner's argument that interaction, imitation and reinforcement are important in language development
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Piaget's Cognitive Approach

  • A child needs to have developed certain mental abilities before they can acquire particular aspects of language
  • At first, children are egocentric
  • 18 months old - things have object permanence - they can exist all the time, even if the child can't see them - coincides with a big increase in vocabulary
  • Child is then better mentally equipped to understand abstract concepts like past, present and future


  • Doesn't explain how some people with learning difficulties are still linguistically fluent - suggests that cognitive and language development are not as closely linked as the cognitive approach suggests
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Bruner's (1983) Input Approach - LASS

  • There has to be linguistic interaction with caregivers
  • LASS - caregivers support their child's linguistic development in social situations
  • Clear patterns of interaction between child and caregiver in everyday social situations, e.g. meal times, bath time and when playing
  • Caregiver talks to child and encourages them to talk back, e.g. pointing at things and asking questions - 'What's that there, is it a doggy?'
  • Child gradually learns to play a more active part in social situations - asking the caregiver questions
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Lenneberg's (1967) Input Approach

  • Children who are deprived of language early on don't seem to be able to acquire it easily later
  • Critical Period Hypothesis - without linguistic interaction before ages 5-6, language development is severely limited
  • Children without any exposure to language in the first 5 years of life (e.g. cases of extreme child abuse) subsequently fail to develop normal speech
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Vygotsky's (1978) Socio-Cultural Approach

  • Social interaction and experiencing different social and cultural contexts are very important for language development
  • Private speech - when a child talks aloud to itself - evidence that the child is thinking for itself
  • The ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) - when a child needs a caregiver's help in order to interact, e.g. if a doctor asks 'Where does it hurt?', the child might not answer. The caregiver either responds for the child or tries to encourage a response - gives the child a model to apply to similar situations in the future when it might respond without help
  • Scaffolding - children require it less and less once they become more able to deal with different social and cultural situations on their own
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Brown's (1960) 'Fis' Phenomenon

Child: 'A fis'

Adult: 'Is this your fis?'

Child: 'No'

Child: 'A fis'

Adult: 'Is this your fish?'

Child: 'Yes, my fis'

  • This suggests that children can recognise and understand a wider range of phonemes that they can produce
  • Cognitive understanding - understands mentally, but can't produce the sounds physically
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Bruner's LASS in Reading Skills

  • LASS explains how adults encourage children's speech by using books to interact with babies and young children
  • He saw parent-child interactions as four-phased:

1) Gaining attention - getting the baby's attention on a picture

2) Query - asking the baby what the object in the picture is

3) Label - telling the baby what the object in the picture is

4) Feedback - responding to the baby's utterance

  • Bruner was inspired by Vygotsky, who believed that children learn not by being told how to do something, but by being helped to do it when they are ready
  • Both Bruner and Vygotsky see children as active learners and believe that the social contexts of their experiences are very important
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Chall's 6 Stages of Reading Development

  • Stage 0: pre-reading and pseudo-reading - up to 6 years - "pretend" reading (turning pages and repeating stories perhaps previously read to them); some letter and word recognition; predicting single words or the next stage of a story
  • Stage 1: initial reading and decoding - 6-7 years - reading simple texts containing high-frequency lexis
  • Stage 2: confirmation and fluency - 7-8 years - reading texts more quickly, accurately and fluently, paying more attention to the meanings of words and texts
  • Stage 3: reading for learning - 9-14 years - reading for knowledge and information becomes the motivation
  • Stage 4: multiplicity and complexity - 14-17 years - responding critically to what they read and analysing texts
  • Stage 5: construction and reconstruction - 18+ years - reading selectively and forming opinions about what they have read
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Barclay's (1996) 7 Stages of Writing Development

  • Stage 1: Scribbling - random marks on the pages; learning the skill of keeping hold of a pencil or crayon (motor skills); often talk about what they are writing
  • Stage 2: Mock Handwriting - practise drawing shapes on paper, but not possible to work out what drawing represents; letter-like forms (pseudo-letters) begin to appear; emergent writing (attempt to write letters)
  • Stage 3: Mock Letters - practise random letters; still no evidence of awareness of spacing or matching sounds with symbols
  • Stage 4: Conventional Letters - matching sounds with symbols; words are unlikely to be spaced out; initial consonants to represent words - read out as if the whole word was on the page
  • Stage 5: Invented Spelling - most words are spelt phonetically, though some simple and familiar words are spelt correctly
  • Stage 6: Appropriate Spelling - sentences become more complex; child becomes more aware of standard spelling patterns; writing becomes more legible
  • Stage 7: Correct Spelling - most words are spelt correctly; joined-up writing
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Kroll's (1981) 4 Phases of Writing Development

  • Stage 1: Preparation - up to age 6 - basic motor skills and some principles of spelling are acquired
  • Stage 2: Consolidation - 7/8 years - writing = similar to spoken language; colloquial tone, unfinished sentences, strings of clauses joined by 'and'
  • Stage 3: Differentiation - 9/10 years - writing = separate from speech (awareness); stronger understanding of writing for different audiences and purposes, becomes more automatic; begin to structure their work using guides and frameworks; more complex grammar and sentence structures; punctuation becomes more accurate and consistent
  • Stage 4: Integration - mid-teens - "personal voice" in writing; evidence of controlled writing; appropriate linguistic choices made consistently; narrative and descriptive skills improve; expanded stories - developed characters, plot and setting; more accurate - wider vocabulary and more accurate spelling
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Rothery's Categories for Evaluating Writing

  • Observation/Comment - the writer makes an observation - 'I saw a tiger' - and follows this with either an evaluative comment - 'It was very large' - or mixes this in with the observation - 'I saw a very large tiger'
  • Recount - usually a chronological sequence of events - school trip - written subjectively - 'I' - usually follows a set pattern: Orientation - Event - Reorientation - the orientation sets the scene and the reorientation at the end of the recount completes the writing
  • Report - a factual and objective description of events or things; tends not to be chronological
  • Narrative - a story genre; scene is set for events to occur and be resolved at the end; set pattern: Orientation - Complication - Resolution - Coda - the coda, which identifies the point of the story, is not always added; because of the complex structure, few children will achieve the whole structure early on, despite their experience of reading stories that follow this narrative structure
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Britton's 3 Modes of Writing

  • Expressive - the first mode to develop because it resembles speech; uses the first person narrative perspective and the content is usually based on personal preferences
  • Poetic - develops gradually, requiring skills in crafting and shaping language, but is encouraged early on because of its creativity; phonological features such as rhyme, rhythm and alliteration, as well as descriptive devices such as adjectives and similes, are common
  • Transactional - develops last, around secondary school age, once children have finally dissociated speech from writing; style of academic essays - more impersonal tone; third person - detached tone; formal sentence structures and graphological features are used to signpost sections and ideas; structures tend to be chronological
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