LLED Group H 401
Article from:
Mabel Rice; Children’s Language Acquisition
The article is divided into four sections. In the first, the language acquisition literature is summarized according to some of the major current questions. In the second section, consideration will turn to children who do not master language readily. The third section will address how to teach language to children. In the final section, suggestions for educational policy will be presented.
Over view of Language Acquisition
Language acquisitions entails three components: One is the language to be acquired, or mastered; another is the child and the abilities and predispositions that he or she brings to language acquisition; and the third is the environmental setting, that is, the language that the child hears and the speaking context.
The Nature of Language
*Dimensions of Communicative Competence: the language consists of four major dimensions: the sounds system (phonology), the system of meanings (semantics), the rules of word formation (morphology), and the rules of sentence formation (syntax).
*In addition to these dimensions, language has important social aspects. The social setting requires adjustment of both the topic and the style of language used, and it also determines how language is interpreted.
Theoretical Models
*Linguist’s goals are to find satisfactory description of linguistic structures.
*Linguistic theorists have attempted to model the outcome of language acquisition, that is, the linguistic knowledge of the mature speaker.
*Several models have been proposed, but currently there is no consensus of support for any one of them.
*Many of the models had differences, but the one dimension of particular importance for studies of language acquisition is the extent to which syntax is seen as independent of semantics.
What the Child Brings to Language Acquisition
The information about what children know about language, the sequence in which they come to learn language, and how they use language can be the answer to many problems.
Cognitive Underpinnings
*The emergence of words and word combinations are strikingly consistent across children and languages, because children talk about what is important to them.
*The acquisition of word meanings is a matter of great interest given the prominence accorded to the mapping of meanings and the centrality of meanings in current linguistic models. (Fast Mapping)
Social Skills
*Language skills emerge from prelinguistic communicative needs.
*The social contexts of children’s development are not universal but instead demonstrate enormous variability.
Individual Variability
*Language tends to appear at about the same age; the same sorts of meanings are encoded in early words and sentences; and basic meaning relations are mastered before formal grammatical devices.
What the Environment Contributes to Language Development
*Children must hear language in use in order to master the system. There is evidence about which features can enhance or facilitate a youngster’s language development.
*Features of “motherese” are not universal but instead reflect cultural practices for addressing infants and young children.
*Among the features of “motherese” are an emphasis on the here and now, with a restricted vocabulary and much paraphrasing; simple well-formed sentences; frequent repetitions; and a slow rate of speech with pauses between utterances and after-content words.
*Semantic contingency refers to an immediate matching of the adult utterance to the topic or content of the child’s utterances.
*There are indications that some input styles may not be helpful for a child’s language development, such as one widely cited finding that is a directive adult style, consisting of many commands, requests, directions, and instructions, that is associated with a slower rate of acquisition of naming words.
How Do the Three Factors of Language, Child and Environment Interact?
*A comprehensive psychological model was proposed by Nelson with his RELM, rare event learning mechanism, which is applicable to all complex, symbolic, rule-governed systems.
*In this model language acquisitions does not proceed in a steady linear progression of increasingly accurate responses but, instead, encompasses four phrases: preparation, analysis, assessment, and consolidation.
*These phases occupy unequal and sometimes overlapping times during the acquisition process.
Summary of Normal Language Development
*There is remarkable similarity in the general acquisition sequence for language skills across language and cultures, although there is considerable individual variability in learning strategies and rate of acquisitions.
Impaired or Delayed Language Development
*All children learn at different rates and traditional teaching methods are based on the assumption that a learner can process language readily and use verbal language as a means of conveying ideas.
*Language learning difficulties can be secondary to another handicapping condition, such as hearing loss.
*Language-disabled children are not necessarily from environments with insufficient of inappropriate input, although that can sometimes be the case.
Teachability of Language
*For children who do not have language skills there is a chance for enhancing their social worlds, increase their learning capability, contribute significantly to their chances for academic success, and help ensure their eventual functioning as independent, self-actualizing adults.