The beginnings of language development


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As far as my field of study is concerned, I want to share a presentation from one of our study sources. This is for the benefit of those who are studying the language. :D

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The beginnings of language development

  2. 2. Learning Language: the first words It first becomes obvious that children are actually learning to talk some time between twelve and eighteen months of age when they begin to use single-word utterances of the following type: juice there byebye hi car hot dada no big shoe look up biscuit that wassat allgone dirty ball Studies of child language development usually refer to these one-word utterances as ‘holophrases’, implying thereby that these single items carry a broader and more diffuse range of meaning than do their equivalents in adult languages.
  3. 3. Some precursors of language development THE INFANT CRY From the moment of birth, for example, infants can impinge dramatically on those around them: they can cry. Indeed, from the first weeks of life they have a repertoire of at least three distinguishable types of cry – the hunger cry, the pain cry, and a cry associated with fatigue, boredom or discomfort – each sounding subtly differrent from the other.
  4. 4. Some precursors of language development THE INFANT CRY The hunger cry, or ‘basic cry’ as it sometimes known, is a moderately pitched loud cry that builds into a rhythmic cycle made up of a cry itself followed by a short silence, then an intake of breath followed by another short silence before the next cry resumes the cycle. The discomfort cry or ‘grumble’ is lower in pitch, more variable in volume, though generally quieter than the basic cry. The pain cry is markedly different again, taking the form of an inward grasp folloed by a high-pitched, long-drawnout rising shriek.
  5. 5. Some precursors of language development FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN VOCALIZATION The phase of ‘coing’ aroung three months and this gives way in turn to a period of ‘babbling’ from aroung six months onwards. FROM VOCALIZATION TO COMMUNICATIVE EXPESSION One childe (reported in Halliday, 1975) fastened on the sound ‘nanana(na)’ and used it to mean ‘give me my toy bird’, he used a sound something like ‘buh’. While the latter sound may be indirectly related to the adult word for object, the other expression (‘nanana’) has no obvious antecedent in the language (English) that this child was taking over.
  6. 6. Some precursors of language development THE COMMUNICATIVE FUNCTIONS OF THE EARLY EXPRESSIONS The kind of work being performed by these two examples is primarily instrumental: they fulfill ‘I want’ function for the child, serving satisfy material needs and to gain the goods and other services that are required from an immediate situation. Other functions that emerge around this time are the regulatory, the interactional and the personal.
  7. 7. The early communicative expressions as as protolanguage Babbling and vocal doodling fade out completely with the advent of these functionally oriented expressions or ‘protoforms’. With others, babbling continues side by side with the protoforms on into the development of speech. CONDITIONS THAT AID THE EMERGENCE OF A PROTOLANGUAGE The child is typically interacting predominantly with a small circle of ‘significant others’, and the world of persons and objects with whom and about which the child communicates is usually relatively constant and familiar.
  8. 8. The early communicative expressions as as protolanguage EXPANDING THE PROTOLANGUAGE Given special circumstances, the child is able to accumulate expressions, thereby refining the distinctions in meaning that s/he can make in each of the four functional areas. For example, the child who produced ‘nanana’ at around nine months (see Halliday,1975) continued over a six-and-a-half month period to acuumulate roughly ten protoforms for expressing instrumental purposes, adding expressions for meanings such as ‘I want the clock’ ‘I want some toast’ ‘I want a rusk’ ‘I want some powder’ to the basic two expressions that he began with in this area.
  9. 9. From protolanguage to holophrases Initially the holoprhases operate in similar ways to the protoforms that cpomprises the protolanguage, tending to slot into, and be an enactment of, one or the other of the already established repertoire of functions, be it the instrumental, regulatory, personal, heuristic, intercational or imaginative function. Initially, then, the holoprhases fit into the place alongside the protoforms of the existing protolanguage. They do, however, constitute a new departure for the child, who now begins to assimilate expressions ready-made from the speech of theos around him/her, instead of making up protoforms afresh as s/he goes along.
  10. 10. Two-word utterances as beginning of syntax The holophrastic phase has enabled the child to lay down set of possibilities for doing things with language – a functional basis, in effect, for later developments. Now s/he must find ways for realizing these functions not just in words but in the word sequences that are such a crucial component of the adult language system. In essence the child has to develop a syntax; a way of combining single words into sentences.