Language Acquisition A2 Revision Cards

Revision cards on the entire of Language Acquisition. Hopefully these should help! :D

  • Created by: Arvyn
  • Created on: 03-01-14 10:16

Stages of Language Development: Stages 1 + 2

Before Birth

  • Baby acclimatised to sounds of language already
    • Mehler (1988); French babies sucked on dummies more strongly when they heard audio ofpeople speakingFrench as opposed topeople speakingEnglish
    • Babies used to rhythms and intonation of language spoken around them


  • Vocal expression through crying
    • Instinctive noises that are not classified as language
  • Found within the first few weeks of life
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Stages of Language Development: Stages 3 + 4


  • Universal development at around six to eight weeks
    • 'coo', 'goo' and 'ga-ga'
  • Developing increased control over vocal cords


  • Most important stage of first year
  • Occurs between 6-9 months, continues after 'actual' speech
  • Sounds resemble adult language
    • Combinations of consonants and vowels
      • 'ma', 'ga' and 'da'
    • Repeated sounds are known as reduplicated babbling
      • 'baba' and 'mama'
  • No meaning attributed to sounds
  • Child exercises mouth through blowing raspberries
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Stages of Language Development: Stage 5 + 6

Phonemic Expansion and Contraction

  • Number of phonemes produced increases initially; at the age of 9 or 10 months it reduces
    • Number of sound restricts to those of native tongue
      • Unecessary sound discarded
  • Variation in speech begins to occur around now


  • Signs of word recognition evident by the end of first year
    • Names of family members , masic repsonses, words related to famililar experiences

The First Word

  • Around first year
  • It is the first recognisable word with an associated meaning
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Phonological Development: Trends

The First Year: Trends

  • Vowel command BEFORE consonant command
    • 2 and a half: all vowels learned, 2 thirds of consonants learned
    • 4: difficulty with a few consonants
    • 6/7: all consonants learnt with confidence
  • Consonants first used correctly at beginnings of words
    • The 'p' in push is said more confidently than in rip
  • Common sounds (such as the letter e) are acquired first
  • Children simplify their pronunciation of words
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Phonological Development: Simplification

Simplification: Deletion

  • Final consonants are dropped
    • hat becomes ha
  • Unstressed syllabes are gone
    • Banana becomes nana
  • Consonant clusters reduce
    • Snake becomes nake

Simplification: Substitution 

  • Substituting hard sound for easier ones
    • rock becomes wock
    • thumb becomes numb
    • toe becomes doe
    • pig becomes big
  • Reduplication may also occur
    • dog becomes gog


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Phonological Development: Understanding + Intonati


  • Comprehension and meaning develops quicker than reproduction of sounds
    • Berko and Brown (1960)
      • Child: This is my fis
      • Father: You mean your fish?
      • Child: Yes, my fis


  • Conscience alternation in tone and rhythm before speech
  • During two-word stage, emphaiss used to alter meaning
    • Cruttenden (1974): intonation understanding develops as they enter teenage years
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Lexical and Semantic Development: Acquisition of V

How fast is vocabulary acquired?

  • Speech begins roughly at the end of the first year
    • 18 months: vocabulary of 50 words
    • 2: vocabulary of 200 words
    • 5: vocabulary of 2000 words
    • 7: vocabulary of 4000 words
      • These are how many words are USED by the child
        • At 18 months, a child understands approximately 250 words but does't necessarily use/know how to use all of them
      • Time is needed to acquire additional knowledge and full range of meanings of words
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Lexical and Semantic Development: First Words

First Words

  • A large proportion of first words are people, familiar objects and words related to social interaction
    • Nouns are the largest class, followed by verbs and then adjectives
      • Concrete nouns are found first - abstract nouns do not appear until between the ages of 5 and 7
  • First verbs are actions such 'go' and 'eat'
    • Functional word like 'the' and 'of' are missing
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Lexical and Semantic Development: Under and Overex


  • A narrower meaning is applied to a word
    • cat is solely used to refer to the family pet, but not for all cats


  • A broader meaning is applied to a word
    • daddy is used to refer to all men
  • This error is the main and most frequent type of error
    • 2 and a half: overextension rapidly decreases as the child begins to 'fill in' the gaps in their vocabulary with new words
  • The child's ability to understand meaning happens before their ability to produce the words themselves
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Lexical and Semantic Development: Labelling, Packa

Labelling, Packaging and Network Building

  • Aitchison (1987) identified three stages that occur during vocabulary acquisition:
    • Labelling
      • The first stage, links between sound and objects
        • Mummy is understood as referring to the child's mother
    • Packaging
      • The understanding of a word's range of meaning
        • Over and underextension occurs before this stage
    • Network Building
      • Grasping connections between words
        • Cold is the opposite to hot
        • The relationship between a hypernym and hyponym is understood
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Grammatical Development: One-word Stage

One-word Stage

  • Occurs roughly at the age of one
  • Words used as naming function but may also convey ore complex messages
    • Juice may mean I want more juice, I want some juice  and I've spilt some juice
    • The situation and intonation enable understanding
    • Syntactical understanding is more advanced than lexical
      • Children are able to respond to two-word instructions
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Grammatical Development: Two-word Stage

Two-word Stage

  • Occurs roughly at the 18 months
  • Two-word sentences have a wide variety of meanings
    • Possession, somebody performing an action or to explain a location
      • Bloom (1973): the same sentence can be used to express different meanings
    • The meaning is ambigious because inflectional affixes are absent
      • -s plurals and -ed past tense are absent
  • Words usually appear in a grammatically correct sequence
    • Words are ommitted but they are still in appropriate grammatical order
      • Words that convey less information or function grammatically are usually removed
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Grammatical Development: Telegraphic Stage

Telegraphic Stage

  • From the age of 2, three and four word utterances appear
    • Some will be grammatically correct whilst other will have elements missing
      • Determiners, auxiliary verbs and prepositions are not present
  • Wides structures, such as questions and commands
    • Simple statements appear
  • At the age of 3, initally-ommitted words appear alongside multiple clauses, co-ordinating conjunctions and inflectional affixes
  • At the age of 5, basic grammatical rules are learned
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Grammatical Development: Inflectional Acquisition

Acquisition of Inflections

  • Brown (1973): inflections acquired in the following order:
    • -ing
    • -plural -s
    • possessive -'s
    • 'the' 'a'
    • past tense -ed
    • third person singular verb ending -s
    • auxiliary 'be'
  • Cruttenden (1979): inflections acquired in 3 stages:
    • Words are memorised on an individual basis but principles are disregarded
    • An awarness of the general principles governing inflections occurs; overgeneralisation occurs at this sstage
    • Correct inflections are then used with irregular forms
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Grammatical Development: Understanding of Grammati

Understanding of Grammatical Rules

  • Berko (1958):
    • The 'Wug' Experiment
      • Children shown a picture of a fictional creature with the sentence 'This is a wug'. They were then shown a picture of two 'wugs' with the statement 'Now there is another one; there are two of them.' They were asked to complete the sentence 'There are two...' Children aged 3 and 4 correctly answered with 'There are two wugs'
      • Children aged 2 and a half to 5 show an awareness of grammatical rules
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Grammatical Development: Questions


  • Research suggests that the acquisition of questions is split into three stages:
    • Initial reliance upon intonation
      • Daddy gone?
    • Question words are acquired but no auxiliaries are used
      • Where Daddy gone?
    • Auxiliary verbs are used and a reversal of the subject-verb-object may be found, wh- not always inverted correctly
      • Is Joe here? would be correct but Why Joe isn't here? would be incorrect
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Grammatical Development: Negatives


  • Again divided into three stages:
    • Single dependence upon 'no' and 'not'
      • No want, No go home
    • 'Don't' and 'can't' used in the 3rd year both after a subject and before a verb
      • I don't want it, Sam can't play
    • More negative forms like 'didn't' and 'isn't' appear, along with accurate negative constructions
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Pragmatic Development: Functions of Children's Lan

The Functions of Children's Language

  • Halliday (1975)
    • Physical, Social and Emotional Needs
      • Instrumental Model - used to express needs
        • Want drink
      • Regulatory Model - used to control others
        • Go away
      • Interactional Model - used to form relationships
        • Love you, Daddy
      • Personal Model - used to express feelings, opinions and identity
        • Me good girl
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Pragmatic Development: Functions of Children's Lan

The Functions of Children's Language

  • Halliday (1975):
    • Environmental
      • Heuristic Model - used to gain knowledge of the environment
        • What that tractor doing?
      • Imaginative Model - used to create the environment
        • Jokes and stories
    • Representational Model - convey facts and information
  • Try to remember the following mnemonic:
    • HIR PRINTER (her printer); H=Heuristic, I=Interactional, R=Regulatory, PR=PeRsonal, INT=INTEractional, R=Representational


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Pragmatic Development: Early Years

Early Years

  • Bancroft (1996):
    • Peekaboo parallels typical conversation
      • Turn-taking - child may not initially grasp but adult acts as if it does
      • Each participant respond to the other's contribution
      • The common purpose is to understand the sequence
      • Pleasure is given to both parties
    • 10 months: the child regularly intiaties the game
      • Adult begins to ask questions, give agreement and disapproving/approving responses
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Pragmatic Development: First Conversations + Late

First Conversations

  • First speech - statements directed to nobody
    • Ignore others and conversation depends on adult's stimulation

Later Development

  • Skills develop between 2 and 4; they become an active participant and initiate conversation
    • Conventions of turn-taking, response to questions, greetings and politeness
  • Youssef (1991):
    • Observed Janet, aged 3 years and 9 months, found that she would give different varieties of English for different social contexts
  • At school, there is an increased sensitivity to a listener's needs and greater understanding of appropriate language for formal situations
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Acquistion Theories: Skinner

Imitation and Reinforcement

  • Skinner (1957):
    • Positive and negative reinforcement shape a child's use of language and ensures development
    • Children acquire language by imitating others
  • Evaluation:
    • All children pass through stages regardless of the amount of reinforcement they receive
    • Under and overextension proves that children have an innate understanding of grammar
      • This means they have the capacity to create an infinite number of sentences - they are entirely original and therefore not imitated
    • It is more likely that lexis is imitated whilst grammar is innate
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Acquistion Theories: Chomsky


  • Chomsky (1965) - criticism of Skinner's theory:
    • Innate ability to understand language - the Language Acquisition Device (LAD)
    • All languages have different surface but same deep structure - children possess innate awarenes of the latter
  • Evaluation:
    • LAD is proven by the speed of learning - children from all cultures pass similar stages and grammar is common in all languages
    • Bard and Saachs (1977):
      • Jim had deaf parents and was thus severely retarded. However, upon visiting a speech therapist, his language development improved dramatically
        • Children are born ready to speak but need interaction to do so
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Acquisition Theories: Piaget

Cognition Theory

  • Piaget (1976):
    • Language is learned in stages - we progress mentally from one stage to another
    • Stages cannot be skipped; they must be learned
    • The stages (in order) are as follows:
      • Sensorimotor: 0-2 years
      • Pre-operational: 3-7 years
      • Concrete operational: 8-11 years
      • Formal operations: 12 years+
  • Evaluation
    • Some children with mental development issues have still been able to speak fluently
    • Grammar and sentence structure is independent of general cognitive development
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Acquisition Theories: Bruner

Input Theories

  • Bruner:
    • Language Acquisition Support System (LASS - a parody of Chomsky's LAD)
      • Language support by interaction from parents and family
    • Bruner has stages also, and these are similar to Piaget's:
      • Inactive = Early parts of the sensorimotor stage
      • Iconic = Later parts of the sensorimotor stage and the pre-operational
      • Symbolic = Later Piaget stages
  • Evaluation:
    • Clarke-Stewart (1973): babies whose mothers talk to them have more extensive vocabularies
    • It is hard to pinpoint language advancements
    • Children acquire language even with parents who speak to them like adults
    • Feral child Genie - she had no interaction with language so she did not learn any
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Acquisition Theories: Caretaker Speech 1

Features of child-directed speech

  • Phonology:
    • Slower and clearer pronunciation
    • More pauses
    • Higher pitch
    • Exaggerated intonation and stresses
  • Lexis:
    • Simpler, restricted vocabulary
    • Diminutive forms - 'doggie' not 'dog'
    • Concrete language about the immediate environment
  • Grammar
    • Simple constructions
    • Frequent imperatives and questions
    • Repetition
    • Personal names not pronouns - 'Mummy' to refer to oneself, not 'I'
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Acquisition Theories: Caretaker Speech 2

Effects of child-directed speech

  • More accessible language; understanding of the language is clearer
  • Higher pitch and intonation retains a child's attention
  • Frequent questions improve auxiliary verb comprehension and introduces some conventions of a conversation
  • Some argue that baby talk interferes with development as the speech is distorted and inaccurate
  • Caretaker speech is also not essential - in some cultures, speech is not modified for children yet they still acquire language at a normal rate
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Learning to Read: Stages in Reading Development

Stages in Reading Development

  • Chall (1983):
    • Pre-reading or pseudo-reading: 0-6 years, the child turn pages and pretends to read a story that has previously been read to them
    • Intial reading and decoding: 6-7 years, the child begins to learn the grapheme-phoneme relationship and understands around 4000 spoken words and 600 written words
    • Confirmation and fluency: 7-8 years, it is the consolidation of previous knowledge whilst reading skills and vocabulary increase gradually - they understand 9000 spoken words and 3000 written words
    • Reading for learning: 9-14 years, it is a means of gaining knowledge
    • Multiplicity and complexity: 14-17 years, complex and varied reading material
    • Construction and reconstruction: 18 years onwards, reading is confident, rapid and efficient, reading is done for both personal and occupational reasons
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Learning to Read: The Teaching of Reading

The Teaching of Reading

  • Phonic approach:
    • Focus on sounds and the grapheme-phoneme relationshp is stressed
    • There is active encouragement for children to decode words
    • Books are read for learning not for the plot
  • Whole-word approach:
    • Recognition of individual words as wholes, not individual sounds
    • More focus on actively reading - not just theoretical
    • Encouragement to become more familiar with books
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Learning to Write

Learning to Write

  • Pre-skills must be learned beforehand:
    • Physical co-ordination of pen and pencil
    • Structures of written language
    • Different styles of writing
  • Kroll (1981) identified the following stages:
    • Preperatory - up to the age of 6, the child masters physical skills and learns the basics of spelling
    • Consolidation - 6-8, the child writes in the same way that they speak - short, declarative sentences
    • Differentiation - 8-mid-teens, increased confidence in writing, an awareness of difference between speech and writing, complex and varied sentences/styles
    • Integration - midteens onwards, they develop a personal 'voice' and adapt confidently to the requirements of different situations
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Glossary and Useful Terms

Glossary and Useful Terms

  • auxiliary verb - a verb placed in front of a main verb (such as 'is' or 'have')
  • complex sentence - a sentence containing a main clause and one or more less important clauses
  • compound sentence - two or more simple sentences joined together by a coordinating conjuctive such as 'and' or 'but'
  • declarative sentence - a sentence that makes a statement ('there is a ball')
  • grapheme - letters on a page
  • hypernym - a general word ('furniture')
  • hyponym - a more specific word ('chair')
  • phoneme - a sound (the 'cah' sound in 'cat')
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