Lexical and Semantic Development

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First Words


Found that first words can fit into 4 categories-

  • Modifying: Any lexime which can modify.
  • Action: Verbs or any other lexime linked to an action.
  • Naming: Nouns (often concrete nouns).
  • Social: Interactions or greetings.

Around 60% of a child's first 50 words were naming words.


  • Children tend to prefer words that are matched to objects that are solid, still and defined in shape.
  • Social words that instigate interaction were also common.
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Virtuous Errors

Addition: Adding an extra vowel to create a CVCV structure.

Deletion: Leaving out a consonant sound, usually the ast consonant.

Reduplication: Reduplication of a sound, for example choochoo or weewee.

Substitution: When sounds are swapped for easier sounds, rabbit becomes wabbit for example.

Consonant Cluster Reduction: Consonant sounds from a cluster are ommited, frog becomes fog.

Deletion of Unstressed Syllables: -nanas instead of bananas or -jamas instead of pyjamas.

Assimilation: Sounds are affected by a sound nearby, doggy becomes goggy.

Metathesis: Mix in initial sounds from neighbouring words, eg. par cark or led rorry.

Categorical Overextenstion: The child thinks that "dog" is the hypernym for all 4 legged animals.

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Virtuous Errors from Derivational Morphology

Derivational Morphology: Adding an affix to a word to make it a new word class, thus making it a new word entirely.

Conversion: When a word is used as another word class, for example, "I jammed the bread".

Affixation: Applying endings to the word to make new ones, for example, "He's shooting his shooter."

Compounding: Joining words together to make new compounds, for example, "horsey-man". 

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Social Interactionists

  • Bruner follows the Social Interactionist school of thought.
  • He believed that interaction was the most important thing, as it acts as a scaffolding in language acquisition. 
  • Interaction develops our ability to understand pragmatic and semantic meanings, and other elements of conversation, such as turn taking.
  • Bruner directly opposed the LAD, he called the interaction as a scaffolding for language acquisition, the Language Acquisition Support System (LASS)
  • Parents interact with their children even before they have a productive vocabulary, for example when the child has a nappy change. The child associates certain sounds with an activity and eventually understands it as a word.

Child Directed Speech (CDS):

  • This is the name given to social interactions between parents and children.
  • It will contain, simplified vocabulary, repitition, shorter utterances, exaggeration, and recasting, repeating what a child has said, but as a correction or with more information.
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Berko's Wug Test

  • A test performed on children to show how they apply inflectional morphology.
  • When the children were shown two "wugs" they were told, one is called a "wug", what are two called? 
  • Once children reach the age of four, they were able to add the suffix -s, showing that they understood the normal rules for pluralisation.
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