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Chapter 9: Language and Development

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Ella Daniel

Chapter 9: Language and Development Components of Language • Phonology: 1 component. It refers to the rules governing the structure and sequence of speech sounds. • Semantics: 2 component of language. It involves vocabulary – the way underlying concepts are expresserdin words and word combinations. • Grammar: 3 component of language. It consists of syntax (orders) and morphology (magnitude, qualities). • Pragmatics: 4 component of language. It refers to the rules for engaging in appropriate and effective communication. Theories of Language Development The Nativist Perspective • Noam Choamsky—language as a uniquely human accomplishment, etched into the structure of the brain • LanguageAcquisition Device (LAD):An innate system that permits children, once children have acquired sufficient vocabulary, to combine words into grammatically consistent, novel utterances and to understand the meaning of sentences they hear. • LAD consists of a Universal Grammar, which is a built-in storehouse of rules common to all human languages. • Evidence relevant to the Nativist perspective: • Can animals acquire language? • With extensive training, members of certain species can acquire a vocabulary ranging from several hundred symbols and can produce and respond to short, novel sentences, although they do so less consistently than a preschool child • Chimpanzees have been taught artificial languages and sign language—but after years of training common chimps are unable to produce strings of three or more symbols that conform to a rule-based structure • Animals can’t acquire and use language as sophisticated as humans (Kanzi’s mastery of grammar does not exceed that of a human 2-year old) • No evidence exists that even the brightest animals can comprehend and produce sentences that are both complex and novel • Language areas in the brain • Language housed largely in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex • Broca’s area: located in the left frontal lobe, supports grammatical processing and language production • Wernicke’s area: located in the left temporal lobe, plays a role in comprehending word meaning • Broca’s and Wernicke’s area are not solely or even mainly responsible for specific language functions • Language areas in the cerebral cortex develop as children acquire language • If the left hemisphere is injured in the first few years, other regions can take over language functions • 2 ½ old processes sentence structure with the same neural systems as adults do • ASensitive Period for Language Development • Evidence for a sensitive period coinciding with brain lateralization would support the Nativist position that language development has unique biological properties • Age-related decrease in the ability to acquire a second language • The more “committed” the brain is to native-language patterns, the better children’s mastery of their native language and the less effectively they acquire foreign languages • Limitations of the Nativist perspective • Universal grammar cannot be specified—one set of rules cannot account for the multiplicity of grammatical forms • Grammatical knowledge is innately determined does not fit with certain observations of language development—children refine and generalize many grammatical forms gradually, engaging in much piecemeal learning and making errors along the way • Theory lacks comprehensiveness—little attention to the quality of language input or to social experience in supporting language progress The Interactionist Perspective • The Interactionist Perspective: It emphasizes the interactions between inner capacities and environmental influences. • Information-Processing Theories • Tests with certain language sounds, words, and basic grammatical forms show that these networks capture children’s early errors and gradually detect adult linguistic patterns • Children make sense of their complex language environments by applying powerful, analytic cognitive capacities of a general kind rather than capacities especially tuned to language • Statistical Learning Capacity—infants identify basic language patterns by applying the same strategies they use to make sense of their nonlinguistic experiences • Proponents of information-processing approaches draw on biological evidence, point out that regions of the brain housing language also govern other similar perceptual, motor, and cognitive abilities • Social Interactionist Theories • Native capacity, a strong desire to understand others and to be understood by them, and a rich language environment combine to help children discover the function and regularities of language • Children’s social competencies and language experiences greatly affect language development Prelinguistic Development: Getting Ready to Talk • During the first year, sensitivity to language, cognitive and social skills, and environmental supports pave the way for the onset of verbal communication • Receptivity to Language • Learning native-language sound categories and patterns • As adults we analyze the speech stream into phonemes, the smallest sound units that signal a change in meaning—not the same across all languages • Categorical speech perception: the tendency to perceive as identical a range of sounds that belong to the same phonemic class—newborns, like adults are capable of this, for speech and non-speech sounds • Categorical perception is a property of the auditory system, and human languages take advantage of it • In the second half of the first year, infants have begun to detect the internal structure of sentences and words—information that will be vital for linking speech units with their meaning • Adult speech to young language learners • Infant-directed speech (IDS), which is a form of communication made up of short sentences with high-pitched, exaggerated expression, clear pronunciation, distinct pauses between speech segments, clear gestures to support verbal meaning, and repetition of new words in a variety of contexts • By 5 months, babies are emotionally responsive to IDS and can discriminate the tone quality of IDS with different meanings • Mothers exaggerated pronunciation in IDS is strongly associated with 6- to 12- month olds increasing sensitivity to the phonemic categories of their native language and with detection of words in the speech stream • Parents make adjustments in their utterances that enable toddlers to join in and that foster language progress in the second and third year • First speech sounds • Cooing (vowel-like noises) is made around 2 months • Babbling (infants repeat consonant-vowel combinations often in long strings, nananana) occurs around 6 months • For babbling to develop, infants must hear human speech • Early sensitive period exists in which exposure to speech is essential for the brain to develop the necessary organization for normal speech processing • Around 7 months, babbling includes consonant-vowel syllables common in spoken languages , by 8 to 10 months, babbling reflects the sounds and intonations of children’s language community • Becoming a communicator • Newborns initiate interaction via eye contact, by 3 to 4 months, infants gaze in the same direction adults are looking—realize that others focus provides information about their communicative intentions or other goals • Joint attention: Children attend to the same object or event as the caregiver. (non-verbal communication)—infants and toddlers who experience it sustain attention longer, comprehend more language, produce meaningful gestures and words earlier, and show faster vocabulary development through 2 years of age • Between 4 to 6 months, interactions between caregivers and babies begin to include give-and-take--By 12 months, babies participate actively, trading roles with the caregiver • Infant pointing leads to two communicative gestures: • Protodeclarative: Babies points to, touches, or holds up an object while looking at others to make sure they notice • Protoimperative: Babies gets another person to do something by reaching, pointing and often making sounds at the same time. • Soon toddlers integrate words with gestures—gradually gestures reduce and words become dominant • Toddlers use of preverbal gestures predicts faster early vocabulary growth in the second and third years • By the second year, caregiver-child interaction contributes greatly to the transition to language • Parents/Caregivers’ responses to babies’ communications are critical in both cognitive and language developments. Phonological Development • Phonological development is a complex process which depends on the child’s ability to attend to sound sequences, produce sounds, and combine them into understandable words and phrases • Great progress at this task between 1 and 4 years old • The Early Phase • First words are influenced in part by the small number of sounds they can pronounce • Easiest sound sequences start with consonants, end with vowels, and include repeated syllables—mama, bye bye • Toddlers and young preschoolers with more words in their spoken vocabularies can pronounce more speech sounds and syllable structures • Simplified word forms used by parents support the child’s first attempts to talk • Associating words with their referents places extra demands on toddlers limited working memories • Phonological Strategies • By the middle of the second year, children move from trying to pronounce whole syllables and words to trying to pronounce each individual sound within a word • Pronounce words containing patterns from their language more accurately and rapidly • At first, children produce minimal words, focusing on the stressed syllable and trying to pronounce its consonant-vowel combination. Soon they add ending consonants, adjust vowel length, and add unstressed syllables. Finally, they produce the full word with correct stress pattern, although they may still need to refine its sounds • Rate of phonological progress depends on the complexity of a language’s sound system and the importance of certain sounds for conveying meaning • Later Phonological Development • Although, phonological development is largely complete by age 5, a few syllable patterns signaling subtle differences in meaning are not acquired until middle childhood or adolescence • Changes in syllabic stress when certain abstract words take on endings are not mastered until adolescence—humid to humidity Semantic Development • Word comprehension begins in the middle of the first year • By age 6, children understand the meaning of about 10,000 words—learn 5 a day • Children’s comprehension, the language they understand, develops ahead of production, the language they use • Afive-month time lag exists between the time English-speaking toddler comprehend 50 words and the time they produce this many (13 months to 18 months) • The speed and accuracy of toddlers’ comprehension of spoken languages increase dramatically over the second year • The Early Phase • To learn words, children must identify which concept each label picks out in their language • First 10 words usually include important people, common objects and sound effects—action words and social routines often produced within each group • Increase more rapid in comprehension than production • Aspurt in vocabulary—a transition between a slow and a fast learning phase once the number of words produced reaches 50 to 100—most children do not experience this, rather they show a steady, continuous increase in rate of word lear
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