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What Is Language? How Language Develops Biological and Environmental Influences. Language Development. What is Language?. Defining Language. Form of communication, whether spoken, written, or signed, based on system of symbols.

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what is language how language develops biological and environmental influences
What Is Language?

How Language Develops

Biological and Environmental Influences

Language Development

defining language

What is Language?

Defining Language
  • Form of communication, whether spoken, written, or signed, based on system of symbols.
  • Infinite Generativity: Ability to produce an endless number of meaningful sentences using a finite set of words and rules
language s rule systems

Sound system of language; how the sounds are used and combined – phoneme is smallest unit of sound


morphemes are units of meaning involved in word formation


Ways words are combined to form acceptable phrases and sentences



Meanings of words and sentences

Appropriate use of language in context; can be very complex


What is Language?

Language’s Rule Systems
how language develops
How Language Develops
  • Infancy
  • Early Childhood
  • Middle and Late Childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Adulthood and Aging

How Language Develops

  • Babbling, gestures, and other vocalizations:
    • Crying - from birth
    • Cooing - 1 to 2 months
    • Babbling - around 6 months
    • Gestures - 8 to 12 months
  • Recognizing Language Sounds:
    • ‘Citizens of the world’
    • Newborns recognize sound changes.
    • Can recognize own language sounds at 6 months.
  • First Words :
    • Receptive vocabulary considerably exceeds spoken vocabulary.
    • Timing of first word and vocabulary spurt varies.

How Language Develops

  • Two-Word Utterances:
    • Begins between 18 to 24 months
    • Child relies heavily on gesture, tone, context
    • Telegraphic speech-Use of short and precise words without grammatical markers.
early childhood

How Language Develops

Early Childhood
  • Understanding Phonology and Morphology:
    • Children know morphological rules-
      • Plural and possessive forms of nouns
      • Third-person singular and past-tense verbs
    • Children abstract rules and apply them to novel situations-
      • Sometimes over generalize rules
  • Understanding Syntax:
    • Preschoolers learn and apply syntax rules.
    • Children show growing mastery of complex rules for how words should be ordered.
    • By elementary school years, children become skilled at using syntactical rules to construct lengthy and complex sentences.
family environment

How Language Develops

Family Environment
  • Mother’s education level is positively Correlated to number of books in home.
  • Single-parent and welfare families had fewer books than two-parent and affluent families.
  • Kindergartener had better language skills if parents read to them 3 or more times a week.
advances in pragmatics

3 Years Old

Improve ability to talk about

things not physically present,

improved displacement

4 Years Old

Develop remarkable sensitivity to needs of others in conversation

4 to 5 Years Old

Change speech style to

suit the social situation

How Language Develops

Advances in Pragmatics
advances in semantics

How Language Develops

Advances in Semantics
  • Speaking vocabulary: (Ranges from 8,000 to 14,000 words for 6-year-olds)
    • Rate of 5 to 8 words per day from ages 1 to 6
    • Some estimate 6-year-old learns 22 words a day
    • Entering elementary school with small vocabulary places child at risk for reading problems
    • Quantity of parent talk linked to child’s vocabulary growth and SES of family
middle and late childhood

How Language Develops

Middle and Late Childhood
  • Vocabulary and grammar:
    • Reading and writing assumes prominent role
    • Preschoolers usually respond with one word first
    • Elementary school children
      • Increasingly understand, use complex grammar
      • Metalinguistic awareness greatly improves

How Language Develops

  • Before learning to read, children learn
    • To use language to describe things not present
    • The alphabetic principle: letters represent sound
  • Whole language approach
    • Instruction should parallel child’s natural language

learning; reading should be whole and meaningful

  • Basic-skills-and-phonics approach
    • Instruction should teach phonics and its basic

rules; reading should involve simplified materials



  • 2- to 3-year-olds emerge from scribbling to begin printing letters
  • Most 4-year-olds can print their names-
    • Reversed letters may not predict literacy problems
    • Children often invent spellings
    • Adults should encourage early writing
    • Literacy gets better with repeated practice

National Reading Panel:

  • Most effective phonological awareness training-
    • Has two main skills: blending and segmentation
    • Best when integrated with reading and writing;

small groups more beneficial than whole class

  • Children benefit from guided oral reading
middle and late childhood1

How Language Develops

Middle and Late Childhood
  • Bilingualism(Ability to speak two languages)
    • Learning second language easier for children.
    • Children’s ability to pronounce second language

with correct accent decreases with age; sharp drop

after age 10 to 12.

    • Has positive effect on children’s cognitive



How Language Develops

  • Increased use and understanding of:
    • Sophisticated words
    • Analysis and abstract thinking
    • Metaphors-Implied comparison of unlike things
    • Satire-Use of irony, derision, or wit to expose folly or wickedness.
    • Dialect-Variety of language distinguished by vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation.
      • Adolescent dialect with peers often uses jargon or slang
      • Usually used to indicate group membership
  • Adolescents are much better at organizing ideas and writing.

How Language Develops

  • Distinct personal linguistic style is part of special identity.
  • Vocabulary often continues to increase throughout adult years until late adulthood.
    • Little decline among healthier older adults.
  • Non-language factors may be cause of decline in language skills in older adults.
  • Some decrements common in late adulthood:
    • Inability to distinguish speech sounds.
    • Alzheimer’s disease.
biological influences

Biological and Environmental Influences

Biological Influences
  • Evolution and the brain’s role in language:
    • Human language about 100,000 years old.
    • Particular regions of brain predisposed for language acquisition.
    • Most comprehend syntax in left hemisphere; emotion and intonation comprehended in right hemisphere.
    • Aphasia-Language disorder resulting from brain damage; loss of ability to use words.
  • Evolution and the brain’s role in language:
    • Broca’s Area-Area of brain’s left frontal lobe involved in speech production.
    • Wernicke’s Area- Area of brain’s left hemisphere involved in language comprehension.
language acquisition device

Biological and Environmental Influences

Language Acquisition Device
  • Chomsky:
    • Humans biologically prewired for language
    • Language acquisition device (LAD): Biological endowment to detect features and rules of language.
    • Theoretical, not physical part of brain.
    • Evidence of uniformity in language milestones across languages and cultures.
environmental influences

Biological and Environmental Influences

Environmental Influences
  • Behavioral View:
    • Language is complex learned skill, reinforced
  • Problems with behavioral view:
      • Cannot explain people creating novel sentences
      • Children can learn syntax of native language without reinforcement
      • Fails to explain language’s extensive orderliness
  • Environmental influences:
    • Mother’s language linked to child’s vocabulary
    • Child-directed speech- Higher pitch for attention
      • Parents, older children modify their speech
  • Other strategies:
      • Recasting- rephrasing
      • Expanding- restating
      • Labeling- identifying objects by names

Influencing A Child’s Language Development

  • Infants
    • Be active conversational partner
    • Talk as if the infant understands
    • Use a comfortable language style
  • Toddlers
    • Continue being active conversational partner
    • Remember to listen
    • Use a comfortable language style but expand utterances
    • Avoid sexual stereotypes
    • Don’t make normative comparisons
an interactionist view of language

Biological and Environmental Influences

An Interactionist View of Language
  • Language
    • Has biological foundations
    • Acquisition influenced by experiences
    • Children acquire native language without explicit

teaching; some without encouragement

  • Bruner: parents and teachers help construct language acquisition support system (LASS)
    • Resembles Vygotsky’s ZPD