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PSYC 250–Chapter 6: Development of Language and Symbol Use

4 Theories of Language Development:
1.) Nativist theories
2.) Learning Theory
3.) Interactionist Theories
4.) Connectionists views
*ALL vary on the extent if influence from nature & nurture*

Nativist Theories
1.) Noam Chomsky

2.) Language is not taught (can’t be learned through reinforcement punishment)

3.) It is produced by a child’s biology
–>Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

4.) Universal grammer:

5.) Modularity hypothesis

6.) Critical period of language development

Language Acquisition Device (LAD)
1.) our biology: innate neural device which enables an infant to acquire & produce language.

2.) imposes order on incoming stimuli

3.) makes it more specific to the language we are speaking

Idea behind why language isn’t learned:
generativity: we can produce words & sentences we have never heard before

Universal Grammar
-proposed set of abstract, unconscious rules common to all languages

Modularity hypothesis
1.) idea that human brain contains an innate, self-contained language module
*specialized mental module for language (and other functions)

2.) separate from other aspects of cognitive functioning

Critical periods for language development:
1.) Between 5 and puberty: during-language develops readily & after-language acquisition more difficult & less successful

2.) Lateralization (second language): harder to learn a language when you get older-as right side becomes more activated, left side inhibited from developing language (left hemisphere responsible for language)
–>1-3yrs: most left side activation
–>4-6yrs: still some left side activation
–>11-13yrs: age where
*bilingual brain–better at executive function & cognitive control

Example that demonstrates critical period of language development:
Genie: parents kept her ties & locked in room from 18 months to 13 yrs
–>physical, motor, & emotional development stunted: no one talked to her, language ability sufficiently impaired and made only little improvement

child abandoned in forest: also found in adolescence and had no language capability

→one shortcoming is that we don’t know if these children had preexisting learning complications (parents did)

Use Nature v. Nurture to discuss a downfall of nativist theory:
1.) need nurture to have language too

2.) animals don’t have ability to speak–but they can learn/have the ability to learn

Learning Theory: Skinner
-Reinforcement can explain language development
→caretaker/parents selectively reinforce adult-like speech
*this positive reinforcement when children use language correctly; this is what helps us learn
-example with pigeons: (they’re originally starving) so they are reinforced with food & are able to learn language

Learning Theory: Bandura
1.) (observational learning) Learning language occurs through observation

2.) imitation (Limitation: sometimes parents reinforce what isn’t correct, get excited they know the word even if it may not be the correct word—raise voice)

3.) mother-ease/baby talk: seen cross-culturally

4.) generalization

Interactionist Views
1.) Language is mainly a social skill

2.) Language Acquisition Support System (LASS)

Language Acquisition Support System (LASS): List 4 of them
-a collection of strategies and tactics that environmental influences provide the language-learning child

1.) Nonverbal games:(ex. Peek-a-boo—teaches how to take turns)

2.) Infant-Directed Talk (IDT) or IDS:
-mother ease; emotional tone & exaggeration, high-pitched, slower
-things may not be said correctly (reinforcement), but language development is aided/influenced
-infants will pay more attention to IDS & learn better
*does not harm language development

3.) Expansion: imitate, expand, add to child’s statement
Child: Daddy juice
Mom; Daddy Drinks juice

4.) Recast: render child’s incomplete sentence in more complex grammatical form

Connectionist Views:
1.) The information needed to learn language is contained in language itself

2.) learning occurs through gradual strengthening and connecting

3.) connectionism: a type of information-processing approach that emphasizes the simultaneous activity of numerous interconnected processing units

-systems for representing our thoughts, feelings, and knowledge & for communicating them to other people

-idea that through use of finite set of words & morphemes (in human vocab) we can:
–>put together an infinite number of sentences
–>express infinite number of ideas

What are the 4 main areas of language?
1.) Phonology
2.) Semantics
3.) Grammar
4.) Pragmatics

1.) The system of sounds of a language
–>physical development

2.) Phonemes: elementary units of meaningful sounds to produce language
ex. rake vs. lake = /r/ vs. /l/
ex. dog vs. log = /d/ vs. /l/

3.) Phonological development: acquisition of knowledge about sound systems of language

1.) Semantic development: the learning of the system for expressing meaning in language, including word learning

1.) structure of language

2.) morphology: forms and structure of words;
–>morphemes: smallest units of meaning in a language, composed of 1 or more phonemes
ex.) dogs contains 2 morphemes (dog = 1, -s = 2)

3.) Syntax: The rules for the ways words can be combined to make sense
ex.) The man drove the car
Negative: The man didn’t drive the car.
Question: Did the man drive the car?
Passive voice: The car was driven by the man

4.) Syntactic development: the learning of a syntax of a language

1.) rules for the appropriate use of language in particular contexts

2.) Pragmatic development: acquiring knowledge about how language is used, such as the rules for conversation

Lateralization and Language:
1.) language seems to be localized in the brain

2.) language primarily controlled in left hemisphere of cerebral cortex

2 types of aphasia:
1.) Wernicke’s aphasia: used to describe patients who have no trouble producing speech but what they say makes no sense.
2.) Broca’s aphasia: used to describe patients who have difficulty producing speech

4 Milestones in Language:
1.) Crying
-present at birth
-signals distress

2.) Cooing
-starts around 1 month
-vowel sounds
-common during social interactions

3.) Babbling
-starts around 6-10 months
-consonant followed by a vowel (“pa” “ba” “ma”)

4.) Gestures
-symbolic gestures: drawing

Semantic Development: FIRST WORDS
Production vocabulary: the words a child is able to say
-for English learners, nouns originally dominate verbs–nouns label & verbs associate (easier to understand meaning of nouns through observation)
-also because nouns have more images associated & that makes it easier

Semantic Development: EARLY VOCABULARY
Children’s initial vocabularies in the US often include:
1.) people, objects, events
2.) routines: “up” “bye bye” “night night”
3.) modifiers: “mine” “hot” “all gone”
4.) nouns

Semantic Development: THE NAMING EXPLOSION
1.) From 1st words-18 months, babies plod along with language
2.) naming explosion: rapid increase in vocab showed by children around 18 months

Variability in Language Development:
1.) Referential/Analytical style: analyze speech into individual words and phonetic elements
ex.) Emilie: 1 syllable words, rapid development of vocabulary

2.) Expressive/Holistic style: more attention to the overall sound of language/rhythmic patterns
-“conversation first”
-ex.) Simon: instead of small units of speech, long “sentences” joined in conversations with adults; words hard to make out, but sound was perfect

3.) Wait and See: children that begin to talk late, but listen carefully until they talk
ex.) Einstein didn’t start talking until age 4

*all styles have little effect on ultimate outcome–everyone will catch up (as long as there are no other disabilities)

Semantic Development: ERRORS IN WORD USE
1.) Overextension of meaning: the use of a word on a broader context than is appropriate
–>most represent an effort to communicate NOT a lack of learning
ex.) moon, half-moon lemon slice, hangnail
ex.) use “Daddy” for any man or “doggy” for every 4-legged creature
2.) Underextension of meaning: learns word, but doesn’t apply it to all cases
ex.) knows “dog” as own dog, but doesn’t apply it to other dogs

How do children learn words?
-aspects of the social contexts that are used for word learning
ex.) infant used relationship between eye gaze and labeling to learn a novel name for an unknown object

Grammatical Development: PHRASES
1.) Holophrastic period:
2.) Telegraphic speech:

Holophrastic period
-the period when children begin using the words in their small productive vocabulary one word at a time; one-word to represent a whole idea
ex.) Juice! = I want some juice

Telegraphic speech
-the term describing children’s first sentences that are generally 2-word combinations/utterances
ex.) “more cookie”

Grammatical Development: SENTENCES
-children rapidly develop the use of sentences containing more words

Grammatical Development: GRAMMATICAL RULES
1.) Even toddlers understand grammatical rules
-use of word endings like “s” “ed” and “ing”
2.) Overregularization: treating irregular forms as if they were regular ex.) “mans” “goed” “foots”

Nonlinguistic Symbols and Development:
1.) Precursors to skills like reading and mathematics
2.) Dual representation: the idea that a symbolic artifact must be represented mentally in 2 ways at the same time–both as a real object and as a symbol for something other than itself
3.) Pretend play: act out scenes like “caring for a baby” or “playing doctor”
-gives infants practice in bidirectional communication/how to converse with others

Language production
refers to speaking, signing, or writing to others

Language comprehension
refers to understanding what others say, sign, or write.

associating words and meaning in language and speech

What are the 4 dominant themes in this chapter?
1.) nature vs. nurture: extent to which language acquisition occurs through abilities specialized for language-learning vs. general-purpose mechanisms for all sorts of learning

2.) Sociocultural context: differences in language acquisition across cultures & communities

3.) Individual differences: some children reach milestones faster than others

4.) Active child: infants & young pay close attention to language & symbols and work hard to figure out how to use them and communicate

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