The process of acquiring new language skills is essential for the proper development of a young learner. According to Chomsky, the age of one to three years is considered critical for a young learner; unless a child develops a proper language basis, further development is barely possible. It is imperative that the parents and instructors should facilitate the process of language acquisition for the child, as even minor changes in the environment may disrupt it (O’Grady & Archibald, 2012, p. 357).
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Young Thomas (1.5) has been having issues with acquiring new vocabulary. Even though both parents encourage the child to develop the “baby talk” that could be as close to the actual language as possible, the young learner prefers onomatopoeic methods of demoting the objects and people around him, as well as voicing his concerns with exclamations and noises instead of using actual words.
It is suggested that a set of exercises combined with active engagement in communication with Canadian children of the same age will allow Thomas to develop the required skills. Also, parental involvement and encouragement are imperative for a successful intervention.
The information provided below was retrieved by recording the dialogues between the child and the members of his family, as well as the utterances that the child made in the course of playing or interacting with the people and objects around him.
Body parts and functions
Stomach – tummy
Buttocks – bum
Cold – cole
Pretty – pwiti
Disgusting – yuck(y)
Kin terms and nicknames
Mother – mommy
Father – daddy
Grandmother – nana
Familiar objects and creatures
Cat – kitty
Dog – bow-wow
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Bird – boid
Teddy bear – deddy
Rain – wain
To eat – yum-yum
To urinate – peepee
To give – gi; variation: “give me” – gimme
Dissatisfaction – ugh!
Delight – yay!
Annoyance – uhm!
Attention getter – da!
Frustration – nuh!
Pain – ouh!
(When playing games) Boo!
(When expressing something that he does not know the word for) Gaga!, Nana!
Morphological and Phonological Analysis of the Data
One of the key characteristics of Tommy’s speech concerns the fact that in a range of situations he assimilates the consonants in the words that he pronounces. One of the most graphic examples is the word “gimme,” which the child says quite often. In addition, such examples as “daddy,” which is a “teddy (bear)” with the first “t” being assimilated to “d,” show that Thomas needs a long practice in pronouncing sounds, particularly, learning to differentiate between the sounds that may seem similar.
Speaking of the sounds that may seem similar or appear to be too hard for Tommy to pronounce, active use of clusters can be spotted instantly when listening to the child’s speech. For example, the word “pwetty,” which the child uses instead of “pretty,” is a clear-cut example of a cluster or a particular case of a phonological substitution.
The phenomenon in question is fraught with serious consequences, as the child does not make any attempts at training to pronounce the letter “r” properly and, instead, searches for the means to substitute it with an appropriate sound. A similar phenomenon can be observed in the case when the child pronounces the words “bird” and “rain” – obviously having problems with pronouncing the letter, Thomas replaces it with “w” or “i” depending on the position of the letter in a word.
Apart from having problems with pronouncing particular sounds, Thomas clearly avoids calling objects their vocabulary names and instead invents his own interpretations of what the objects and phenomena in question should be named. On the one hand, such linguistic creativity deserves to be distinguished and praised; on the other hand, the child needs to be corrected so that he could learn the English language properly.
While there is nothing technically wrong with the word “kitty,” which the child uses to denote a cat, the word “bow-wow,” which means “a dog,” is an obvious signal of possible lexical issues. In fact, the amount of onomatopoeic elements in the child’s speech is disturbingly high.
Though it would be unreasonable to assume that a child of 1.5 years can avoid using the specified elements in his speech, it is still expected that Thomas should be able to name basic elements of his environment in an appropriate manner. The unwillingness to accept and learn new ways of expressing himself may occur due to stress caused by the recent move to a different country; however, the child still obviously needs to learn to express his ideas and emotions more coherently.
Speaking of which, Thomas’s vocabulary for denoting emotions is unbelievably scarce; as the information provided above shows, he is incapable of expressing his feelings I any other way except the onomatopoeic one.
The aforementioned characteristics of the learner are the first details to pay attention to when defining future models for boosting his early childhood development. The fact that the child’s vocabulary consists of the words that contain mostly labial sounds (e.g., “n,” “m,” etc.) shows that Thomas may need assistance in training the pronunciation of other sounds.
It is quite peculiar that the child displays the ability to incorporate polysemy into the words that h uses in order to get his message across. For instance, the word “nana,” which Thomas defines as “grandmother,” is also used by the boy in order to locate the object that he does not know the name for.
A closer look at the specified phenomenon, however, will reveal that the case in point is an example of homonymy rather than a clear-cut case of polysemy; indeed, the objects that the word determines have little to no elements in common, and the word itself resembles the attempts of an infant to form a sound rather than a legitimate process of creating a polysemantic word, as “polysemy occurs where a word has two or more related meanings” (O’Grady & Archibald, 2012, p. 185), the word “related” being the key to the definition.
In addition, the repetitions, which the child uses in order to form a word from a specific exclamation or an onomatopoeic word, should be mentioned as one of the key features of Thomas’s speech. Indeed, the boy seems to form quite a number of words with the help of a reiteration of the first syllable.
For instance, such words as “peepee” and “bow-wow” display the tendency to form the basic vocabulary with the help of the repetition of syllables. Though this cannot be technically defined as linguistic laziness, there is a certain concern for the child to be capable of learning the actual vocabulary that he will use in communication later.
Overall, the analysis has shown that Thomas’s vocabulary is rather scarce for a child of his age. Despite the fact that the child shows some skills of forming his own vocabulary and be creative in naming the objects and phenomena that make an integral part of his reality, he still needs the training to acquire the skills required for a more advanced speech and the use of more sophisticated vocabulary.
Although the speaking abilities, which the child displays at present, leave much to be desired, it can be assumed that the development of vocabulary and speaking skills he been impeded by the recent change in location and that Thomas will restore his capability to learn new lexemes soon.
The analysis of the so-called “baby talk” of one-and-a-half-year-old Thomas has shown that the child may be experiencing certain difficulties in adjusting to the change in the environment that he is developing in. The fact that the child still prefers onomatopoeic names of the corresponding objects instead of their vocabulary names shows that tom may be having certain developmental issues at present, which, again, can be explained by the change in the conditions that he used to lie in (O’Grady & Archibald, 2012, p. 370).
The focus on his self, however (i.e., the use of words “me,” “my,” “Gimme!” etc.), shows that Tommy is ready to discover the world around him and his place in it. Though the vocabulary basis, which the child has at present, is quite scarce, it can be assumed that, with the help of activities aimed at learning new words, Thomas will be able to become an active learner. Developing specific language exercises targeted at training the sounds “r,” “t/d,” “i/e,” etc., will be quite helpful in the process of improving the child’s speaking skills.
O’Grady, W. & Archibald, J. (2012). Contemporary linguistic analysis: An introduction. (7th ed.). Toronto, CA: Pearson Education.