Language development in childrenDr. Reem Al-SabahDept. of Community Medicine & Behavioral Sciences
Why is language important?• Language is our primary means of communicating thought.• Language is universal (all human cultures).• Every human being of normal intelligence acquires his or her native language and uses it effortlessly.
Levels of language Sentence units ↓ Words ↓ speech soundsLanguage: a multilevel system for relating thoughts to speech by means of word and sentence units.
The two aspects of language• Production: thought → sentence → sounds• Comprehension: sounds → words → sentence → meaningTwo of the basic properties of language • Structured • Productive
Language Units and Processes• Speech sounds (phonemes): discrete speech categories • In English, all speech sounds are divided into about 40 phonemes. • Example: • ee (sweet, heat, thief, these) • ur (burn, first, term heard, work) • f (field, photo)
• Word units (morphemes): •The smallest unit of language that carries meaning. • Most morphemes are words (e.g., house, class). •Others are prefixes and suffixes added to words (e.g., prefix un; suffix ing and ed).
Morphemes: • Grammatical morphemes: make a sentence grammatical (e.g., a, the, in, on, ed, ing) • Most important aspect of a word is its meaning, or the name of a concept. • Ambiguous words: name more than one concept.
• Sentence units: include sentences and phrases. • They correspond to parts of a thought or proposition allowing us to extract propositions from sentences.• Propositions can be divided into: • Subject- noun • Predicate (description)- verb• Syntactic rules: structure the parts of a sentence so we can tell what is related to what. • Example: “the green bird ate a red snake”
Effects of Context on Comprehension and ProductionFigure 9.3 Levels of Understanding and Producing Sentences. Inproducing a sentence, we translate a propositional thought into thephrases and morphemes of a sentence and translate thesemorphemes into phonemes. In understanding a sentence, we go inthe opposite direction-we use phonemes and phrases of a sentenceand from these units extract the underlying propositions
Language and the Brain• Two regions of the left hemisphere of the brain critical for language: • Broca’s area- controls speech • Wernicke’s area– language understanding
• Damage to either of these areas leads to specific kinds of aphasia (breakdown or deficit in language) • Broca’s aphasia: (expressive aphasia) • difficulty pronouncing words correctly. • Speak in a slow, labored way. • Their speech makes sense but includes only key words. • Disruption at level of syntax (syntactic deficit)
Wernicke’s aphasia: (receptive aphasia) Unable to comprehend words Can hear words, but don’t know their meanings. Disruption at level of words and concepts (Conceptual deficit).Conduction aphasia: problems in repeating a spoken sentence.
The Development of Language• Infants appear to be preprogrammed to learn phonemes, but need years to learn the rules.• Children are able to discriminate among different sounds which correspond to different phonemes in any language.
The Universal Sequence• First noises and gestures • Make a variety of sounds even in the first weeks of life. • Newborns prefer to listen to high-pitched, simplified, and repetitive adult speech (baby-talk, motherese/parentese, child-directed speech)• Babbling • 6-9 months, babies begin to repeat certain syllables (ma-ma-ma, da-da-da, ba-ba-ba) accompanied by rhythmic gestures (waving of arms). • Deaf babies make babbling sounds later and less frequently, but are advanced in their use of gestures (manual babbling).
• First Words • About 1 year of age, the average baby speaks (or signs) a few words. • Children learn words that name concepts familiar in their environment (family members, food, body parts). • Over the first years of life, children learn which phonemes are relevant to their language and lose the ability to discriminate between sounds that correspond to the same phoneme in their language (e.g., Japanese children and /l/ and /r/)
• Overextend: applying words to similar concepts (12-30 months) .• vocabulary development speeds up.• Next children learn sentences, one word utterances, next telegraphic speech, and then elaborate their noun and verb phrases.
Best Time to learn any languageWhen is the best time?• Childhood (ages 2-6yrs) appears to be a sensitive period for many language skills.• Vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation are rapidly and easily learned.
Why is early childhood the best time to learn language? 1.The developing brain: dendrites and neurological areas for language learning grow rapidly during these years. 2. The social context: young children are motivated to be social. Want to communicate, not embarrassed to be wrong.
How do children acquire language?• Learning• Innate factorsLearning• Imitation and conditioning• Hypothesis testing: children learn a rule, test it, and retain it if it works. • Example: adding ed to regular verbs to form the past tense of a word (cook-cooked). Irregular verbs (go-went, break-broke).
Innate factors• All children go through the same sequence of language development. • Deaf children• Critical periods. Especially for acquiring sound systems of a new language. • First few months of life critical for learning phonemes of native language.
Critical Periods• Learning the sound system of another language (speech sounds).• Learning syntax. Native ASL speakers were better at understanding and producing words with multiple morphemes (e.g., untimely).• Children exposed to extreme isolation (e.g., the case of Genie).
• Can other species learn human language? • They have communication systems different from humans. • Apes are able to develop human-like vocabulary but cannot combine their signs in the way humans do.
Teaching Children to Read Fluently Talking (without too many commands) and reading to young children. An extensive vocabulary and awareness of sounds are more important than memorizing the alphabet and recognizing the letters. An extensive vocabulary and awareness of sounds develop naturally if child is read to at least daily and discusses what is read.
Learning to ReadA B C D E F G H IJ K L M N O P Q RS T U V W X Y Z
あ ば せ だ え ふ が は いA B C D E F G H Iじゃ か りゃ ま な お ぱ きゅ らJ K L M N O P Q Rさ て う ふ わ きゃ や びS T U V W X Y Z
The importance of readingReading aloud to young children is not onlyone of the best activities to stimulate language andcognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, andmemory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby!(2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
Reading aloud to children• linked to young children’s emergent literacy ability.• Phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge.• Stimulate oral language skills (vocabulary, syntactic and semantic processes, and narrative discourse processes such as memory, storytelling and comprehension and reading ability).• involves parents and other important adults to the child in a focused interaction. Duursma, Augustyn, & Zuckerman (2008)