Monday, 28 September 2009

Theorists List



Noam Chomsky stated that children are born with an innate knowledge of language when they are born and learning of their native language is at high speed when hearing it from others (Plato believed it too).
This links to children over regularising and putting grammar into utterances when they are not needed. Chomsky is one of the most famous theorists on child language acquisition and his theories were based on his own intuitions about English and not actually studied on real children.
Chomsky created the LAD - Language Acquisition Device
1. Baby already knows about linguistic rules, as they are born with an innate knowledge of language.
2. Baby hears examples of his/ her native language
3. The linguistic rules help Baby make estimations and presumptions about the language it is hearing.
4. From these estimations and presumption Baby works out grammatical sets of rules. As more language is heard the grammar becomes more and more like adults.


B.F. Skinner bases his theory of children acquiring language through behaviourism. Skinner states that all behaviour is conditioned through:
Positive Reinforcement – Rewards, repetitions, following through of requests and demands
Negative Reinforcement – Punishment, ignoring, denial of wants
This happens again and again until the behaviour is learned and becomes natural and automatic. So, babies imitate their parents/carers and are either reprimanded or praised according to their accuracy. Skinner believes that biology plays almost no part in the way children learn language.


Piaget's theory on children learning language is mainly focused around “cognitive development,” meaning language is controlled by the development of thinking. If a baby can use sentences involving phrases such as, "more than", "less than" it is obvious that the concepts of "more than" must have been grasped, before the child uses the phrase in an utterance.
Put simply, until the child thinks of a concept, they cannot vocalise it and the higher their thinking the more they vocalise.


Bruner created and argued for the Language Acquisition Support System (LASS). Bruner states through LASS that parents often use books and images to develop their child’s naming abilities and their ability to get involved in conversation.
1- Gaining attention- drawing the babies attention to a picture
2- Query- asking the baby to identify the picture
3- Label- telling the baby what the object is
4- Feedback- responding to the babies utterances
This is also called SCAFFOLDING, where the child is supported in their learning of language by carers and once they have learnt it, the support is taken away.

Other Theorists

• John Macnamara - said that rather than having an in-built language device, children have an innate capacity to read meaning into social situations. It is this capacity that makes them capable of understanding and learning language, not the LAD.
• Bard and Sachs Studied a boy called 'Jim', who was son of two deaf parents. Although he was exposed to TV and radio, his speech development was severely retarded until he attended sessions with a speech therapist, implying that human interaction is necessary to develop speech.
• Berko and Brown found that a child who referred to a plastic inflatable fish as a ‘fis’ substituting the ‘s’ sound for the ‘sh’ sound, couldn’t link an adult saying ‘fis’ as the same object (only responded to adult saying ‘fish’).
• Cruttenden had adults and children to predict football results from the intonation used by the announcers. Children found it more difficult.
• Jean Aitchison came up with stages of lexical development
1- Labelling – Linking words to objects to which they refer, understanding labels
2- Packaging – Exploring labels and where they can apply, over/underextension occurs in order to gain meanings.
3- Network-building – Making connections between words, understanding similarities and opposites in meaning. They start with a HYPERNYM (a general word that can have more specific words under it) and explore HYPONYMS (words that fall under a hypernym’s category)
• Katherine Nelson - found that 60% of children's early word phrases contained nouns, then verbs, pre-modifiers and phatic. She also said that the nouns were more commonly things that surrounded the children i.e ball, mum, cat. Nelson also said that in Re-casts (e.g. Ben: "me ball" Mum: "pass me the ball") children whose sentences were re-cast performed better at imitating sentences.
• Bellugi explored negatives and negation and identified three stages:
(1) Uses ‘no’ or ‘not’ at the beginning of end of the sentence – “No shoes!”
(2) Puts ‘no’ or ‘not’ inside the sentence –“I no wear shoes!”
(3) Attaches negatives to auxiliary verbs and to the copula verb “be” - “I won’t wear shoes!”
• Bellugi also explored children’s pronoun use and found three stages
(1) Uses their own name – “Katherine play.”
(2) Recognises I/me pronouns – “I play”, “Me up”
(3) Uses pronouns according to whether they are the subject or object position – “I play with the toy.”/ “Give it to me.”
• Brown found that morphemes were acquired in an order: -ing, in/on, -s, past tense irregular, possessive ‘s, is/was, the/a, past tense regular, 3rd person regular, 3rd person irregular, uncontractible auxiliary verb (were), contractibles (she’s), contractible auxiliary (she’s running).
• Berko found that children gradually developed pluralisations through the “wug” test
• Brown and Levinson suggested that politeness in children centred around two aspects of ‘face’
o Positive – where the individual desires social approval and being included.
o Negative – where the individual asserts their need to be independent and make their own decisions
• Catherine Garvey found that in play, children adopt roles and identities, acting out storylines and inventing objects and settings.
• Halliday is just the functions of child language. The most commonly used is instrumental and regulatory, which are learnt, along with interactional and personal, at a young age. Representational is used by 6-8+ year olds.
o Representational - "I've got something to show you" - language showing how they feel, declarative
o Regulatory - "Do as I tell you" - requesting/asking for things
o Instrumental - "I want"- expressing needs/wants
o Interactional - "Me and you" - speaking to other, establishing personal contact
o Imaginative - "Let's pretend" - imaginative language, used with play, to create imaginary world. Crystal talks of 'phonological' function as playing with sound.
o Personal - "Here I come"- child expresses their feelings/expressing personal preferences
o Heuristic - "Tell me why"- uses language to explore environment/ seeking information
• John Dore also describes language functions that focuses more on individual utterances
o Labelling – Naming a person, object or thing.
o Repeating – Repeating an adult word or utterance
o Answering – Responding to an utterance of another speaker
o Requesting Action – Asking for something to be done for them
o Calling – Getting someone’s attention
o Greeting – Greeting someone
o Protesting – Objecting to requests from others
o Practising – Using language when no adult is present.

Children Learning Words

* For children, a new word usually refers to a whole object, not part of it or a quality the object possesses.
* This corroborates Katherine Nelsons theory that most of a child's first words are nouns.
* There is some logic to this as most concrete nouns fit into the four categories that Spelke noted: cohesion, continuity, solidity, contact. Basically, children like objects that are clearly defined in shape, that don’t disappear, which are solid, and which don’t have a life of their own (unless they’re animate – animals or people).
* Children also apply a couple of other strategies: the type assumption and the basic level assumption.
* The type assumption prevents children from underextending most new words. In other words, if they are told that the new thing they have seen is a dog, they don’t assume that only that particular dog is a dog and every other dog isn’t.
* The basic level assumption prevents the child from overextending meanings too far. So, once a child has recognised what the noun ‘dog’ refers to, they seem to understand that it also refers to things with similar properties (appearance, behaviour, size).
* So a dog shouldn’t be a horse, a cat or a meerkat… But it doesn’t always work that way, and the mistakes children make seem to shed some light on the processes they’re using to distinguish these differences.
* This is where network-building comes in, when a child learns about the hierarchical nature of words (E.g Dog - Collie/Labrador)

Halliday’s Functions of Language in the Child Language Acquisition Debate

(by Nick Christodoulou)

Several attempts have been made to catalogue the different functions of language, and to chart child language development in terms of the increasing range of these functions to be found in the growing child’s repertoire. Michael Halliday’s taxonomy is documented below:- Instrumental: Language used to fulfil a need on the part of the speaker. Directly concerned with obtaining food, drink and comfort.
- Regulatory: Language used to influence the behaviour of others. Concerned with persuading / commanding / requesting other people to do things you want.
- Interactional: Language used to develop social relationships and ease the process of interaction. Concerned with the phatic dimension of talk.
- Personal: Language used to express the personal preferences and identity of the speaker. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Here I am!’ function – announcing oneself to the world.
- Representational: Language used to exchange information. Concerned with relaying or requesting information.
- Heuristic: Language used to learn and explore the environment. Child uses language to learn; this may be questions and answers, or the kind of running commentary that frequently accompanies children’s play.
- Imaginative: Language used to explore the imagination. May also accompany play as children create imaginary worlds, or may arise from storytelling.

Should you want further reading on language acquisition, these websites are very helpful and explain all the relevant hypotheses and theories:

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Phonological Mistakes

Phonological Mistakes


Omitting the final consonant


Substituting one sound for another


Adding an extra vowel sound to the ends of words, creating a CVCV pattern


Changing one consonant or vowel for another


Repeating a whole syllable

Consonant Cluster Reductions

Reducing groups of consonants into one

Deletion of unstressed syllables

Omitting the opening syllable in polysyllabic words

Questions and Negatives

Bellugi and McNeil (1960s-1970s)

They theorised that there are distinct stages to how children develop and apply rules to negatives and questions.

The basic syntax of a question: Where (question word) is (auxiliary verb) Daddy (object) going (main verb)

Stages of Question Formation
1. Use of intonation to signal a a question is being asked (remember Cruttenden with his children recognising intonation) .
2. The use of question words. (What, where, why)
3. Manipulating syntax to create more detailed questions?

Stages of Negative Formation
1. The use of the negative alone (such as the infamous NO! or NOT! Stage)
2. Combining a negative with others in the 2-word and telegraphic stages, usually at the beginning. (Not me, no want, no beddy)
3. Using the negative in the middle of the utterance (I not want that, Me no like that)
4. Increasing accuracy of negative words and the use of contractions with auxiliary (She isn't going, I don't want to)
5. Increased complexity and range of negative words. (I haven't got any. There isn't anything. I have not got my juice.)
6. Saying no without using negatives (inflection and adjusting intonation).

Parents and CDS

Mummy and Daddy
* What do parents/carers provide a child with?
- Food
- Emotional support
- Models
- Guidance
* How does this stimulate Language Acquisition?
- Correct syntax
- Heed demands
- Provide network-building opportunities
* Which theorists do we know include the role of the parents?
- Skinner
- Chomsky (to realise the correct rules)
- Bruner (LASS)
- Nelson (Recasts)

Lexemes in CDS
* Reduplication - Bye-Bye
* Deletion and Substitution - Jim-Jams
* Addition - Doggie

How is baby talk (CDS) pronounced?
* Simple features
* Exaggerated prosodic features
* Exaggerated pauses with turn-taking cues.
* Higher pitch

What features are there of CDS

* Repetition or repeated sentence frames
* The child’s name rather than pronouns
* Present tense
* One word utterances or ellipsis
* Slower speech
* Few verbs or modifiers
* Concrete nouns
* Emphasised phonemes
* Expansions (the expanding of a child’s utterances)
* Recasts – the extending of and rephrasing of an utterance.
* Yes/no questions

- Bruner and his LASS
- Bruner said that ritualised activities help parents make rules and meanings predictable and explicit.
- What does peek-a-boo teach children? (Piagets Object Permanence)
- What about hickory-dickory-clock?
- One, two, three, four, five?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Data from the Telegraphic Stage

Child Language Grammatical Development – Telegraphic Stage

Data Extract 1
Context: girl watching train go by a few minutes after her mother has left for work
Age: 2 years 4 months
Ruby: Mummy go work on train.

Data Extract 2
Context: imaginative play with teddy bears and figures.
Age: 2 years 8 months
Adult: What are you doing?
Stan: I giving blanket to monkey.

Data Extract 3
Context: looking over balcony and finding fisherman who’s been there for the last 3 mornings isn’t there
Age: 1 year 10 months
Mattie: Where man gone?

Data Extract 4
Context: watching TV with father and asking questions about girl on Cbeebies.
Age: 2 years 6 months
Mattie: What her doing?

Ciaran Transcript

These are a selection of utterances from Ciaran over the course of nine months from the ages of 11 Months to 1 Year 8 Months. Discuss how Ciaran’s language has developed over the time referring to his lexical, semantic, pragmatic and phonological development.

C – Ciaran
Ch – Charlie, Ciaran’s Mother
D – Charlie’s Partner

CH: You want a biscuit? (offers a biscuit)
C: Ah-Ah! (hands out, reaching for the biscuit, is given it)
CH: What do you say?
C: Taa

CH: You dancing?
C: Mmmm (moving back and forth to the music)
CH: Time to put your socks on then?
C: Sock
CH: Your socks
C: Sock
CH: Now say bye-bye (waves to friends)
C: Bye-bye (waves)

D: You gonna score a goal, Ciaran?
C: Ahh (toddles after Dave)
D: You gonna kick the ball?
C: Kii-Kii-Kii (makes kicking motions)
D: Kick the ball
C: Day! (points to the point, then kicks it)
D: Yay! Goal, Ciaran. Goal! (puts hands in the air)
C: Goal! (puts hands in the air)

CH: What are you doing?
C: Doggie
CH: What’s the doggie doing?
C: Doggie up (lifts toy dog in the air)
CH: You want me to pick up the doggie?
D: I’m going to steal Doggie (takes the toy dog away from Ciaran)
C: No!


Welcome to the NFGS A-level English Language. Here you find your resources and homeworks from the various weeks.