Chapter 9 OutlinePlease note that much of this information is quoted from the text.I. WHAT IS LANGUAGE? A. Defining Language • Language is a form of communication, whether spoken, written, or signed, that is based on a system of symbols. • Infinite generativity is the ability to produce an endless number of meaningful sentences using a finite set of words and rules and is a basic characteristic of human language. B. Language’s Rule Systems 1.Phonology: The sound system of language. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language. 2.Morphology: Word formation based on meaning. A morpheme is the smallest unit of sound which carries meaning in a language. 3.Syntax: The way words are combined for acceptable phrases and sentences. 4.Semantics: The meaning of words and sentences. 5.Pragmatics: The use of appropriate conversation and knowledge underlying the use of language in context.II. HOW LANGUAGE DEVELOPS A. Infancy 1. Babbling and Other Vocalizations • Early vocalizations are to practice making sounds, to communicate, and to attract attention. • A universal pattern is observed: newborn cries, cooing at 2 months, babbling by 6 months (deaf babies babble with their hands and fingers), and gestures by 8–12 months. 2. Gestures • Pointing is considered by language experts as an important index of the social aspects of language. • The absence of pointing is a significant indicator of problems in the infant’s communication system. 3. Recognizing Language Sounds • Infants can recognize all phonemes of all languages up to about 6 months of age. After this time, infants become more adept at recognizing the sounds of their native language and lose the ability to recognize sounds of other languages that are not important in their native language. • Infants must identify individual words from the nonstop stream of sound that makes up ordinary speech. Finding the boundaries between words is a difficult task. 4. First Words • Between about 8 to 12 months of age, infants often indicate their first understanding of words. • The infant’s first spoken word usually occurs between 10 to 15 months of age. • Long before babies say their first words, they have been communicating with their parents, often by gesturing and using their own special sounds. • First words include names of important people, familiar animals, vehicles, toys, body parts, clothes, familiar items, and greetings. • Single words are often used to express various intentions.
• The first words of infants can vary across languages. • Receptive vocabulary refers to the words an individual understands. Receptive vocabulary precedes and exceeds spoken vocabulary (words that the child uses). • The rapid increase in vocabulary that begins at approximately 18 months is called the vocabulary spurt. • Cross-linguistic differences in word learning are apparent, with infants learning an Asian language acquiring more verbs earlier in their development than do children learning English. • Some children use a referential style, others an expressive style, in learning words. • Overextension is the tendency to apply a word to objects that are not appropriate for the word’s meaning. • Underextension is the tendency to apply a word too narrowly for the meanings of words. 5. Two-Word Utterances • By 18 to 24 months of age, two-word utterances begin to occur, which rely heavily on gesture, tone, and context in order to provide meaning: — Identification: “See doggie.” — Location: “Book there.” — Repetition: “More milk.” — Nonexistence: “All gone thing.” — Possession: “My candy.” — Attribution: “Big car.” — Agent-action: “Mama walk.” — Question: “Where ball?” • Telegraphic speech is the use of short and precise words to communicate and is characteristic of young children’s two- or three-word utterances.B. Early Childhood • Language develops rapidly in early childhood. • Between 2 and 3 years of age, children begin the transition from saying simple sentences that express a single proposition to saying complex sentences. • As young children learn the special features of their own language, there are extensive regularities in how they acquire that specific language. • Some children develop language problems, including speech and hearing problems. 1. Understanding Phonology and Morphology • During early childhood, most children gradually become more sensitive to the sounds of spoken words and become increasingly capable of producing all the sounds of their language. • By the time children move beyond two-word utterances, they demonstrate a knowledge of morphology rules. • Use of plural and possessive demonstrates knowledge of morphological rules. • Jean Berko’s research using sentence completion of a missing word relating to a story of creatures called “Wugs” also provides evidence of morphological rule use. 2. Changes in Syntax and Semantics • Preschool children learn and apply rules of syntax. • Gains in semantics also characterize early childhood. • Vocabulary development is dramatic.
• Some experts have estimated that between 18 months and 6 years of age, young children learn about one new word every waking hour. • The speaking vocabulary of a child entering first grade is approximately 14,000 words. • One way children may increase their vocabulary so quickly is through fast mapping. • Research in Life-Span Development: Family Environment and Young Children’s Language Development • Socioeconomic status has been linked with how much parents talk to their children and with young children’s vocabulary. • Other research has linked how much mothers speak to their infants and the infants’ vocabularies. • Maternal language and literacy skills are positively related to children’s vocabulary development. • Mothers who frequently use pointing gestures have children with greater vocabulary. 3. Advances in Pragmatics • Pragmatics or rules of conversation also show great improvement. Indeed, by 4 or 5 years of age, children can suit their speech style to specific situations (e.g., they speak differently to younger and older children).C. Middle and Late Childhood— • Children gain new skills as they enter school that include increasingly using language to talk about things that are not physically present, learning what a word is, and learning how to recognize and talk about sounds. • It is important for children to learn the alphabetic principle (that the letters of the alphabet represents sounds of the language) is important for learning to read and right. 1. Vocabulary, Grammar, and Metalinguistic Awareness • The process of categorizing becomes easier as children increase their vocabulary. • Vocabulary increases to about 40,000 words by 11 years of age. • Children make similar advances in grammar. • Elementary school children, due to advances in logical reasoning and analytical skills, can now understand comparatives (e.g., shorter, deeper) and subjunctives (e.g., “If I were president,…”). • The ability to understand complex grammar increases across the elementary school years. • Children learn to use language in a more connected way (producing descriptions, definitions, and narratives), which allows for connected discourse. • Children must be able to do these things orally before they can deal with written language. • Metalinguistic awareness is a term that refers to knowledge of language, cognition about language. • Metalinguistic awareness improves over the elementary-school years; children define words and learn how to use language appropriately. • Children also make progress in understanding how to use language in culturally appropriate ways – pragmatics. 2. Reading • Before learning to read, children learn to use language to talk about things that are not present; they learn what a word is; and they learn how to recognize
sounds and talk about them. • The larger a child’s vocabulary, the easier it is for him/her to learn to read. • Vocabulary development plays an important role in reading comprehension. • The whole language approach stresses that reading instruction should parallel children’s natural language learning. Reading materials should be whole and meaningful. • The phonics approach emphasizes that reading instruction should focus on phonetics, and its basic rules for translating written symbols into sounds. Early reading instructions should involve simplified materials. • Researchers have found strong evidence that direct instruction in phonics is a key aspect of learning to read.3. Writing • Early scribbling in early childhood is a precursor for writing. • Most 4-year-olds can print their first name, and most 5-year-olds can copy several short words, although some letter reversal may still be evident. As they begin to write, children often invent spelling of words. • Advances in language and cognitive development provide the underpinnings for improved writing. Providing many opportunities for writing is helpful. • There is growing concern over the writing ability of youth and young adults. • As with reading, teachers play a critical role in students’ development of writing skills.4. Bilingualism and Second Language Learning • Sensitive periods for learning a second language likely vary across different language systems. • Children’s ability to pronounce words with a native-like accent in a second language typically decreases with age, with an especially sharp drop occurring after the age of about 10 to 12. • Some aspects of children’s ability to learn a second language are transferred more easily to the second language than others. • Students in the United States fall behind students in other countries when it comes to learning a second language. • Bilingualism—the ability to speak two languages—is associated with cognitive development. • Subtractive bilingualism is the term used when a person learns a second language and ceases to use their native language. • Contexts of Life-Span Development: Bilingual Education • Bilingual education aims to teach academic subjects to immigrant children in their native languages while gradually adding English instruction. • Proponents argue that if children who do not know English are taught only in English, they will fall behind in academic subjects. • Recent research shows that it takes immigrant children approximately three to five years to develop speaking proficiency and seven years to develop reading proficiency in English. • Critics argue that many more years of bilingual education are needed than received resulting in these children failing to become proficient in English, placing them at a disadvantage. • Drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of bilingual education programs is difficult because of variations across programs in the number of years they are in effect, type of instruction, qualities of schooling other than bilingual education, teachers, children, and other factors.
D. Adolescence • Adolescents are generally more sophisticated in their language abilities, including: —Metaphor: An implied comparison between two ideas that is conveyed by the abstract meaning contained in the words used to make the comparison. —Satire: Refers to a literary work in which irony, derision, or wit are used to expose folly or wickedness. —Young adolescents often speak a dialect (language distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation) with their peers, characterized by jargon and slang. —Nicknames that are satirical and derisive also characterize the dialect of young adolescents. E. Adulthood and Aging • Language abilities are thought to be maintained throughout adulthood. • A distinct personal linguistic style is part of one’s special identity. • Vocabulary can continue to increase throughout most of the adult years. • Decrements may appear in late adulthood. • Because of a decline in memory skills, older adults may have difficulty in retrieving words from long-term memory. This often involves the tip-of-the- tongue phenomenon. • Older adults report that in less than ideal listening conditions they can have difficulty in understanding speech. • Some aspects of phonological skills of older adults are different than those of younger adults. • In general, though, most language skills decline little among older adults if they are healthy. • Researchers have found conflicting information about changes in discourse with aging. • Nonlanguage factors, such as processing speed, may be responsible for some of the decline in language skills in late adulthood. • Alzheimer’s disease can affect language skills.III. BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES A. Biological Influences • Evidence of biological influence is that children all over the world reach language milestones at about the same time developmentally and in the same order despite the vast variation in the language input they receive. The fact that such a difficult feat is done so quickly also points to biology. • Evolution and the Brain’s Role in Language: • In evolutionary time, language is a recent acquisition. The brain, nervous system, and vocal apparatus of our predecessors changed over hundreds of thousands of years. • There is evidence that the brain contains particular regions that are predisposed to be used for language, mainly in the left hemisphere. • Broca’s area is an area in the left frontal lobe of the brain involved in producing words. • Wernicke’s area is another area of the left hemisphere involved in language comprehension. Individuals with damage to Wernicke’s area often babble words in a meaningless way. • Damage to either of these areas produces types of aphasia, which is a loss or
impairment of language processing. • Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device: • The language acquisition device (LAD) is a theoretical construct developed by Noam Chomsky, which proposes that a biological endowment enables children to detect certain language categories, such as phonology, syntax, and semantics. • Chomsky’s LAD is a theoretical construct, not a physical part of the brain.B. Environmental Influences • Behaviorists view language as a behavior that is learned like any other behavior with the use of reinforcement for correct responses and productions. There is no real support for this position. • Children are typically immersed in language through their social environment. • Michael Tomasello stresses that children are intensely interested in their social world and that early in their development they can understand the intentions of other people. • Tomasello’s interaction view of language emphasizes that children learn language in specific contexts. Through joint attention and shared intentions, children are able to use their social skills to acquire language early in life. • Child-directed speech is often used by parents and other adults when they talk to young children. It has a higher-than-normal pitch and involves using simple words and sentences • Adults use other strategies that may enhance language acquisition: • Recasting: rephrasing something the child has said in a different way, perhaps turning it into a question. • Expanding: restating in a linguistically sophisticated form what a child has said. • Labeling: identifying the names of objects, which children are asked over and over—“the great word game.” • Applications in Life-Span Development: How Parents Can Facilitate Infants’ and Toddlers’ Language Development • For Infants: • Be an active conversational partner • Talk as if the infant understands what you are saying • Use a language style with which you feel comfortable • For Toddlers: • Continue to be an active conversational partner • Remember to listen • Use a language style with which you are comfortable, but consider ways of expanding your child’s language abilities and horizons • Adjust to your child’s idiosyncrasies instead of working against them. • Avoid sexual stereotypes • Resist making normative comparisonsC. An Interactionist View of Language • An interactionist view of language emphasizes the contributions of both biology and experience in language development. • The interaction of biology and experience can be seen in the variations in the acquisition of language. • Jerome Bruner developed the concept of a language acquisition support system (LASS) to describe how parents structure and support the child’s language development. • While most children acquire their native language without explicit teaching,
caregivers can greatly facilitate a child’s language learning.