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Language Development from Infancy to Teen Years Essay

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Updated: Oct 19th, 2021

Introduction

Language development is an essential process that a person needs to go through because it determines how well he or she imbibed communicative capabilities from infancy to adulthood. As the ability to communicate a spoken language is a uniquely human behavior, it is well studied because it is one of the most complicated behaviors in which humans engage as a species. By the time babies have learned to walk, they can already develop language and their knowledge will continue swiftly until they reach adulthood. By looking into the development of a language from infancy to adulthood, we can deem how this process can be quite astounding because this ability can be the result of nature and nurture working together.

Main body

During infancy, parents can first notice, at around three or four months, that their children begin to gurgle and coo. Cooing consists of series of vowel sounds that babies tend to make and that—at least American parents—respond to. Just a couple of months later, at about seven months, these same infants start to babble. The first consonant sounds (e.g., “ba,” “ga”) enter into the language, and the product sounds much more like speech. In this period, children seem to carry on conversations with consonant-vowel sounds that only they can understand (e.g. “ba ga ga ga ba ba?”) (Hirsh-Pasek and Michnick Golinkoff, p. 228). By 9 to 12 months, it is said that infants can now learn how to listen, they can seem to understand what “no” means and it is also the time they can associate a certain voice with a particular person.

During the toddler years, children can now have at least 50 words they can utter. Their grammatical development becomes refined and children may put together an actor and a verb, “Mommy go,” or a verb and an object, “eat lunch.” They are still limited by how much they can produce at a given time. If, for example, they wanted to say that they would not eat lunch, they could not utter “No eat lunch” in the early stages, but rather would have to limit their output to “No eat” or “No lunch.” Shortly, however, this window expands and the number of words they can use in a sentence increases. During the middle of the third year, children become sophisticated grammar users who can speak in longer sentences and who begin to include the small grammatical elements that they omitted before. For the first time, they use “ing” on their verbs, saying “running” whereas before they could only say “run.” They begin to add tense to their verbs (e.g., “walked”) and parents can even see evidence of grammatical “rules” (Hirsh-Pasek and Michnick Golinkoff, pp. 229-230).

In preschool, children have now expanded their vocabulary to about 900 to 1,000 words and they may now have attained the ability to use pronouns. Also, they can now construct up to six word sentences, which they can use to tell stories to their parents or peers. Yet, at this age, these children can stutter which is normal for this age. Upon reaching the age of five, children normally has the ability to tell a story and stay on the topic. They can even answer a question that is related to the story they heard (Alic, 2006).

The development in language acquisition is more advanced during middle school years, when children can now follow at least three consecutive commands. Also, they can now have the ability to use adjectives and construct more complex sentences. Grammar usage during the middle school age is usually more accurate and they now have the ability to correct themselves when they mispronounce or used any word ungrammatically (Alic, 2006). Lastly, during the teen years, language development should have already been in full bloom. Teenagers should have gained an appropriate knowledge of syntax and understand better how to use language in culturally appropriate ways. Their analysis and logic have also fully developed and they can apply this when answering questions or telling stories in class.

Earlier theories that explained language development deemed that language is attained through imitation, but this theory was later scrapped because imitation alone cannot explain language acquisition, like for example a child can create new words like “I goed” or “I eated”. Thus, two new theories have appeared to explain the real nature of language development: the nativist and constructivist theories. Nativist theorists argue that much of what the child needs for learning language is built into the organism. Early nativist theorists such as Noam Chomsky (1988) were especially struck by two phenomena: the extreme complexity of the task the child must accomplish, and the apparent similarities in the steps and stages of children’s early language development across languages and among all children. Newer cross-language comparisons make it clear that there is more variability than at first appeared, yet nativist theories are still increasingly accepted.

On the other hand, constructivist theorists argue persuasively that what’s important is not the built-in biases or operating principles but the child’s construction of language as part of the broader process of cognitive development. One prominent proponent of this view, Melissa Bowerman, puts the proposition this way: “When language starts to come in, it does not introduce new meanings to the child. Rather, it is used to express only those meanings the child has already formulated independently of language” (Bowerman, p. 372). Even more broadly, as noted earlier, Lois Bloom (1991) argued that from the beginning use of language, the child’s intent is to communicate, to share the ideas and concepts that are in his head. He does this as best he can with the gestures or words he knows, and he learns new words when they help him communicate his thoughts and feelings. One type of evidence in support of this argument comes from the observation that it is children, not mothers, who initiate the majority of verbal exchanges (Bloom 111). Indeed, we can see that language development is a complicated process and cannot be simply explained by a single theory entirely. Thus, language development is a product of an interactive and dynamic system that has components of instinct and of input—of nature and of nurture

Works Cited

  1. Alic, Margaret. “Language Development.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Children’s Health: Infancy through Adolescence, 2006. Answers.Com.
  2. Bloom, Lois. Language Development from Two to Three. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  3. Bowerman, Melissa. “What Shapes Children’s grammar?”, In Slobin, D.I. (Ed.). The
  4. Chomsky, Noam. Language and Problems of Knowledge. The Managua Lectures. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1988.
  5. Cross-Linguistic Study of Language Acquisition, vol. 2 Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1985.
  6. Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy and Michnick Golinkoff, Roberta. “Language Development.” In Salkind, Neil (Ed.), Child Development, New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002.
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