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This presentation introduces the four main stages and explains the terms phonemes and morphemes.

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Unit 3a Child Language Acquisition

LO what phonemes and morphemes are and how they relate to the topic.

The four major stages of child language acquisition:


One word stage

Two word stage

Telegraph to infinity


The phonemes are the 44 sounds in the English language

They are listed on the website below:

Children in the pre-linguistic stage produce phonemes

To begin with, these phonemes are same no matter what the language but by 9 months deaf children have stopped and children are beginning to sound different from each other according to the language(s) spoken around them.

Echolalia occurs at around 11 months where children expand and repeat phonemes – e.g. mama.

How many phonemes are there in:







Morphemes –



ish, un, ly

Boy, happy, run


Morphemes – the smallest units of grammar



ish, un, ly

Boy, happy, run


Working with morphemes.

  • Look at the words below – split them up into free morphemes and bound morphemes. (The word list is taken from p.23 of Mastering Advanced English Language (Thorne, 1997). Bound morphemes can be prefixes or suffixes and are collectively known as affixes.
  • Unjustifiable
  • Summative
  • Midnight
  • Negativity
  • Unlikely
  • Pitiful

Children in the one word stage produce morphemes

These can be holophrases – single words or morphemes that express more complex meanings.

For example:

“Mine!” – could mean “This food belongs to me and I would like you to go away now.”



In the two word stage (usually around 18 months) children begin to produce two word sentences that focus on the main words and miss certain classes of words out.

e.g. Subject + object; verb + object; subject + complement

Look at the three sentences below. There is one of each type. Which is which?

Me hungry; cat window; drink juice – what is the possible meaning of each?

Can you convert Cameron’s speech into what might be produced by an 18 month old?

I’ve done the first paragraph for you:

Had election. Heard message. Want different. Want good. Do good.

Which type of sentence is each one? Admittedly, some of the vocabulary above is unlikely . .

Full transcript | David Cameron | Speech on immigration to party members | Hampshire | 14 April 2011

“For too long, immigration has been too high.”

A year ago, we were in the middle of a general election campaign. And there was one message I heard loud and clear on the doorstep: we want things to be different. People said they wanted a government that didn't just do what was good for the headline or good for their party but good for the long term and good for our country. That's what we're engaged in.

Clearly, cutting public spending isn't popular, but it's right to bring sense to our public finances. People said they wanted a government that actually trusted them to use their own common sense. That's the kind of government we want to be – giving neighbourhoods and individuals a whole range of new powers . . . scrapping so much of the bureaucracy that drove us mad.

People said they were sick of seeing those who did the right thing get punished and the wrong thing rewarded. Again, that's what we're acting on. In welfare we're ending the system that took money from hard-working taxpayers and gave it to people who refused to work. These are the differences we are trying to make – listening to people, doing the hard and necessary work of changing our country for the better.

But there was something else we heard on the doorstep – and it was this: "We are concerned about the levels of immigration in our country . . . but we are fed up of hearing politicians talk tough but do nothing." Here, again, we are determined to be different.