Chapter 9: Language and Communication
Language: system that related sounds (or gestures) to meaning
Differs from simple communication because:
It has arbitrary units and is therefore symbolic, it is structured and meaningful, shows
displacement (can communicate past then and there) and characterized by generativity
Spoken Language involves five distinct and interrelated elements:
Phonology: refers to the sounds of a language
Morphology: refers to rules of meaning within the language. Smallest unit of language – morpheme.
Free morphemes – cat, dog, etc…stands alone. Bound morpheme change the meaning of a word, such as
adding an –s or –ing.
Semantics: study of words and their meaning.
Grammar: refers to the rules used to describe the structure of language. Syntax – the most important
part of grammar, rules that specify how words are combined to form sentences.
Pragmatics: study of how people use language to communicate effectively.
The basic building blocks of language are phonemes, unique sounds that can be joined to create
Infants can distinguish different sounds and consonants : Researchers play sounds such as that of the
“p”, the rapid suckling of the plastic nipple would play the sounds more frequently. Found that infants
stop suckling once they become habituated, however when the sound changed, they would suckle
Research shows speech perception at six months is strongly correlated to later language skills.
Infants can also distinguish speech from non-speech.
Impact of Language Exposure
- Japanese doesn’t distinguish between the r and l --- > At about 6 months of age infants can
distinguish between the two (in an English and Japanese speaking environment). But around a
year, only infants in the English speaking environment can. By 10 to 12 months, the perception
of r and l improves for North American children but declines for Japanese babies
- The ability to distinguish between the phonemic contrasts is usually lost by 12 months of age
- Phonemic distinctions can be lost due to both environmental and innate factors.
Identifying Words - When 7 to 8 month year olds hear a word repeatedly in different sentences, they pay more
attention to it that they do to words they haven’t heard before.
- Infants more readily identify the first and last word of a sentence
- Infant directed Speech – adults speak slowly and with exaggerated changes in pitch and
- Infants use different stress patterns to identify language
First Steps to Speech
- At 2 months, infants begin to produce vowel-like sounds, such as “oooo” or “ahhh” – known as
- Cooing becomes babbling – speech like sounds that have no meaning
o Shows linguistic development as the infant’s babbling beings to sound more like speech
- Intonation – pattern of rising or falling pitch
Learning the Meaning of Words
Fast Mapping Meanings to Words
- Naming Explosion: at about 18 months, many children with experience a period where they
learn new words much more rapidly than before.
- Fast Mapping: Children’s ability to connect new words to their meanings so rapidly that they
cannot be considering all possible meaning for the new word
Joint Attention : Infants are more likely to learn the words when parents label objects for them
Constraints on Word Names: Children follow simple rules that limit their conclusion about what labels
Sentence Cues: Using known words and sentence structure to figure out the meaning of an unknown
Underextension: defining a word too narrowly
Overextension: Between 1-3 years, children define a word too broadly (anything with four legs as
Phonological Memory: the ability to remember speech sounds briefly – usually measured by saying a
nonsense word and then asking them to repeat it immediately after
Referential Style: their vocabularies consist of words that name objects, people or actions
Expressive Styles: includes some names but also many social phrases that are often use as a single word
Encouraging Word Learning: When adults ask questions while they read, it encourages children to learn
and understand. Beyond Words: Other Symbols – at nine months, the infant will try and grab the object in the picture,
but by 18 months, the infant realizes that it is just a representation of objects
Speaking in Sentences
Forming Two Word Speech in Complex Sentences
Telegraphic speech – consists of only words relative to meaning; daddy eat, my truck, etc
Grammatical Morphemes – sentences that are grammatically correct by adding the –ing and -s
Over-Regularization – applying rules to words that are exceptions to the rule-- further proof that
children learn language through rules
How Do Children Acquire Grammar?
- Skinner and other learning theorists claim that it’s through imitation and reinforcement. Flawed
because children would produce sentences that they had never heard before
- Chomsky and other linguist said that children are born with mechanisms that simplify the task of
o Semantic bootstrapping theory: children are knowing that nouns usually refer to people
or objects and that verbs are actions; they use this to infer grammatical rules
o The theory that children are born with this mechanism is indirectly supported:
Specific regions of the brain are known to be involved in language processing
Only humans learn grammar readily: if it is learned through imitation, than any
animal should be able to speak in full and complex sentences
Children will develop linguistic communication with little or no language input
In Nicaragua, deaf children who were brought together developed their own
sign language spontaneously
There is a critical period for learning language. Period is from birth to about 12
The development of grammar is tied to the development of vocabulary. As
children learn words, they learn the sentences that they would appear in as
- Cognitive theorists believe that children learn grammar through cognitive skills that allow them
to pick up on regularities in their environment
- Social- Interaction answer says that much learning comes from child and adult interaction
Using Language to Communicate
- Kaluli people of Papau New Guinea don’t believe that children will be able to speak, thus they
just speak for their infants.
- Children will change the way they explain and communicate things depending on whom they
are trying to explain to