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Chapter 6

Psychology 2040A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Phonological Development, Language Development, 6 Years

Course Code
Laura Reid

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Chapter 6 Language Development
Language Development
-By 5 years of age, children have mastered the basic structure of their
native language, whether spoken or manually signed
-Using language involves both language comprehension, which refers to
understanding what others say or sign or write, and language production,
which refers to actually speaking or signing or writing to others.
-Language comprehension precedes ( 领 领 ) language production: children
understand many words and linguistic structures before they are able to
include them in their own utterances (领领)
The Components of Language
Generativity: using the finite set of words in our vocabulary, we can generate
an infinite number of sentences, expressing an infinite number of ideas.
Phonemes : the elementary units of sound used to produce languages, and
they distinguish meaning
The first step in children’s language learning is phonological development,
the acquisition of knowledge about the sound system of their language.
Morphemes领领领are composed of one or more phonemes
The second step in children’s language learning is semantic development,
learning the system for expressing meaning in a language, including word
Syntax 领 领 of the language: set of rules specifies how words from different
categories can be combined
The third step in children’s language learning is syntactic development,
learning the grammar of a language.
The fourth step is pragmatic development, which involves acquiring
knowledge about how language is used
A full understanding of what the stranger in our example said to you world
necessitate some knowledge of the cultural rules for using language
Adults have considerable metalinguistic knowledge (元元元元元) about the
properties 领领领领 of language and language use that young language learners do
What Is Required for Language?
A Human Brain
-Language is a species-specific behavior, in that only humans acquire
language in the normal course of development in their normal
-Language is specie-universal, in that virtually all young humans learn
-Only human brain acquires a communicative system with the complexity,
structure, and generativity of language.

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Brain-language relations
-left-hemisphere specialization: for both adults and children, listening to
speech is associated with greater electrical activity in the left hemisphere
than in the right
-Aphasia (shi yu zheng), result from damage to some, but not other, parts
of the left hemisphere.
a. Broca’s aphasia: difficulty producing speech; they say a single word
over and over or haltingly produce short strings of words with little or no
grammatical structure
b. Wernicke’s aphasia: no trouble producing speech, but what they say
makes no sense
-Left hemisphere is actually specialized for the kind of analytic, serial
processing required for language, not for the specific modality (spoken
words or signs) in which it is expressed
Critical period for language development
It is a hypothesis that the early years constitute a critical period during
which language develops readily. After this period (sometime between
age 5 and qing chun qi), language acquisition is much more difficult and
ultimately less successful
1. Adults, who are well beyond the critical period, are more likely to suffer
permanent language impairment from brain damage than are children,
presumably because other areas of the young brain are able to take
over language functions
2. People who learned English at 4 years or later showed less left-
hemisphere localization of those aspects of brain organization related
to grammatical processing English than did people who learned the
language at a younger age
3. Perceptual and memory limitations cause young children to extract and
store smaller chunks of the language they hear than adults do
For deaf children, they should be exposed to sign language as early as
For foreign-language training in the schools, should begin in the early grades
A Human Environment
Children must also be exposed to other people using language. As children
get older, they are increasingly involved in interactive conversations with older
siblings and adults
Infant-directed talk (IDT)
Adults adopt a distinctive mode of speech when talking to babies and
very young children. (motherese) Even young children adopt it when
talking to babies.
Characteristics of IDT
-Emotional tone
-Exaggeration, higher voice, extreme changes in intonation patterns,

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swooping abruptly from very high-pitched sounds to very low ones.
-Infants use the intonation of their mothers’ messages to interpret meaning.
Infants play with the toy more when their mother’s tone of voice was
encouraging, regardless of what she actually said
-Infants prefer IDT to speech directed at an adult
-Infants (and even adults) learn more new words in a foreign language if
the words are presented in IDT than if they are presented in adult-directed
-But this is not universal
The Process of Language Acquisition
Listening and talking (or looking and signing)
Comprehending what other people communicate to you and producing
intelligible language of your own
Speech Perception
-Language learning begins in the womb
-The basis for the very early learning is prosody
-The difference of prosody is the reason why languages sound so different
from one another.
-One must be able to distinguish among the speech sounds that make a
difference in a given language. Eg., distinguish between bat and pat, dill
and kill. But infants do not have to learn to hear these differences.
Categorical perception of speech sounds
-Both adults and infants perceive speech sounds as belonging to discrete
phonemic categories
-This refers to as categorical perception (/b/ and /p/). Infants show this
perception of numerous speech sounds.
-Infants make more distinction than adults do.  adults simply do not
perceive most differences in speech sounds that are not important in their
native languages, which partly accounts for why it is so difficult for adults
to learn a second language
-Infants distinguish among phonemic differences in all the languages of the
world  infants can discriminate between speech sounds they have never
heard before  this capacity for categorical perception of speech sounds is
enormously helpful to infants, because it essentially primes them to start
learning any language in the world
-The crucial role of early speech perception in learning language is reflect
in the relation between infants’ speech perception skills and their later
language skills
Developmental changes in speech perception
-By the end of their first year, their speech perception is similar to that of
their parents
-Infants are born with the ability to discriminate among speech sounds in
any language, but they gradually begin to specialize, retaining their
sensitivity to sounds that are their native language and becoming
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