CHAPTER 9: LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION
THE ROAD TO SPEECH
ELEMENTS OF LANGUAGE
Language= a system that relates sounds (or gestures) to meaning.
It differs from simple communication in 4 ways:
1. It has arbitrary units and is therefore symbolic
2. It is structured (rule-governed) and meaningful
3. It shows displacement – one can communicate about events distant in time
and space not juts here and now.
4. It is characterised by generativity – one can produce an infinite number of
utterances from a language‟s vocabulary provided one follows the structure.
Languages expressed in speech, writing and gesture. Consist of different
Phonology: refers to the sound of a language. Speech sounds
Morphology: refers to rules of meaning within the language.
Semantic: the study of words and their meaning.
Grammar: the rules used to describe the structure of a language.
Morphology (putting phonemes together to make words).The most
important element of grammar is syntax (rules that specify how words
are combined to form sentences).
Pragmatics: the study of how people use language to communicate
HOW WE USE LANGUAGE
Cognition: Representing our thoughts, feelings, and knowledge.
Communication: Sharing them with other people.
LEARNING TO TALK
Receptive Language = understanding/input (Understanding the words) >
easier when younger.
Expressing Language = producing/output (How many words we can produce)
> This is harder when younger.
PRELINGUISTIC PHASE: PERCEIVING SPEECH
Phonemes= the basic building blocks of language. Unique sounds that can be
joined to create words.
Can discriminate phonemes very early = 1 month.
Ability to discriminate foreign phonemes declines: 6-12 months. Habituation: Sucking on a soother to hear new phonemes. Faster when sound
is novel, slower when habituated. OR just observe how long they attend.
Operant Conditioning: Infants turn their heads in response to a certain
phoneme, rewarded with entertainment.
Infants can distinguish different vowels and consonants, and speech from
The impact of language exposure:
Not all languages use the same set of phonemes.
Infants can distinguish phonemes that are not used in their native language.
Werker- the ability to distinguish phonemes not used in the native language
declines across first year of life > due to innate and environmental factors,
New-borns are biologically capable of hearing the entire range of phonemes
in all languages worldwide.
Identifying recurring patterns of sounds-words.
7-8 months: hear word repeatedly in different sentences pay more attention to
this that words they haven‟t heard previously.
6 months: pay more attention to content words (nouns and verbs)
Infants pay more attention to stressed syllables than unstressed syllables.
Learn words more readily when they are at beginning and end of sentences.
Other methods > statistical: infants notice syllables that go together
Aslin, Saffran & Newport- Early perceptual skills important as infants who are
more skilled at detecting speech sounds know more words than toddlers and
overall their language is more advanced at 4-6 years of age.
Infant-directed speech= adults speak slowly and with exaggerated changes in
pitch and loudness.
Werker- Japenese babies were quieter and more compliant, sitting still for the
duration of the study. Canadian babies were fussier.
Cochlear Implants: No evidence that it provides sufficient sensory info. Trying
to fix a child that is fine as they are. Canada prefers teaching sign language.
However > language skills improved more rapidly, however improvements
vary across child.
PRELINGUISTIC PHASE: SOUND PRODUCTION
First Step to Speech
2 months: cooing= infants begin to produce vowel-like sounds (i.e. ooooo). 6 months: babbling= speech-like sound that has no meaning (add
8-11 months: intonation= pattern of rising and falling pitch.
The ability to produce sound and perceive speech sounds sets the stage for
infant‟s first true words.
PHONOLIGICAL DEVELOPMENT: FIRST WORDS
1 recognize words. (their name)
2nd: comprehend meaning (wide range of words in 1 year)t
Joint attention helps
Finally: produce first words (10-15 months). Limited by what they can
pronounce, use simplification strategies, use words creatively, Overextension
(defining a word too broadly).
LEARNING THE MEANINGS OF WORDS (SEMANTIC DEVELOPMENT)
More „concrete‟ words are acquired earlier. Children first learn names for the
objects with which they interact in their environment.
Understanding words as symbols:
Understands speech is more than just entertaining sound > recognised
words are symbols, entities that stand for other entities. Matching sound
patterns (words) and concepts.
Fast Mapping Meanings to Words:
Naming explosion= at about 18 months they learn new words-particularly
names of objects-much more rapidly than before (can say about 50
words). (10+ new words each week). Both receptive and expressive.
Fast Mapping= children‟s ability to connect new words to their meanings
so rapidly that they cannot be considering all possible meanings for the
Whole object assumption: label refers to the whole thing, not a part of it.
Mutual Exclusivity bias: If it‟s called one thing, then it can‟t be called another
Social Pragmatic approach (Joint Attention):
Parents encourage word learning by carefully watching what interests
their children. Both gaze and posture can be used as cues to joint
attention. Parents label objects and youngsters rely on adult‟s behaviour
to interpret the words they hear.
Joint attention helps but it isn‟t required.
Constraints on word names:
Hoff- rules t