Understand And Communicate Language During Early Childhood English Language Essay

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Language development is the process by which children come to understand and communicate language during early childhood. The process can be broken down into four key areas: development of speech production, speech understanding and it's importance, parentese and baby talk and imitation and correction.

Development of Speech Production

This aspect again can be broken down into five stages: Vocalisation, the 1 word utterance, 2&3 word utterances, function words and inflections and developing complex sentences. Each stage in the development of speech production forms a necessary prerequisite to the one following.

Vocalisation

Kaplan and Kaplan (1970), have given an outline in the progress of vocalisation in young infants. The first sound that a child makes is crying. This has a useful purpose in that it can be utilised to attract the attention of carers. At a few months old, vocalisation occurs in the form of cooing as well as crying. These sounds give the child practice in the coordination of breathing with the making of sounds.. The child continues on to the 'babbling' stage, whereby they start to use speech sounds, mainly vowels and consonant-vowel syllables, it is the repetitive uttering of these that gives babbling a speech like quality. At about 6 month, the child's babbling will start to sound as though it has an accent, i.e. English children will start to sound English, French children will start to sound French. By around 10 or 11 months, children will often babble in pseudo non-word 'sentences' using declarative, question and exclamatory intonation patterns. It is the melody, flow and intonation pattern that children learn first to recognise and later imitate.

The 1 word utterance

On average, it would seem that children learn their first word at 10 months, but can vary from 4-18 months. Some variability due to physical development of the muscles of the mouth and throat, which is necessary for proper articulation of sounds. Certain brain development would also be involved as creation of speech sound must come under control of speech centre areas in cerebral cortex.

2 & 3 word utterances

Once the child has surpaQssed the 1 word utterance stage, at about 18 months, they may start talking in 2 and 3 word utterances, but this is only an average. At only a year and a half, children use language to request, refuse, warn, boast, question, answer and inform. These 2 and 3 word utterances show just how advanced the child's cognitive process is at this stage (i.e. They are able to request items from a particular location, and be perfectly understood (e.g. The child says: 'Apple chair', in mature speaker terms 'The apple is on the chair')). The child learns to use nouns, verbs and adjectives, in a very basic form before it can move on to function words.

Function words and inflections

Once the 2 and 3 word utterances have been acquired, the child has foundations or block of language strings on which to build it's vocabulary. The child then acquires function words like prepositions, auxiliaries and the article are then learned, along with inflections like tense marking and the plural. (Roger Brown) Brown did a long term study with 3 children in relation to this topic. He focused on their learning of different function words and inflections, later referred to as grammatical morphemes.

Developing complex sentences

Once children have grasped the concept of function words and inflections along with longer utterances, simple structures are typically developed over time into more complex structures. Children begin to speak in negative, questions, relative clauses and other complex structures. The learning of negation, according to Bellugi and Klima develops over 3 periods: Period 1, Period 2 and Period 3.

Period 1

In the first period, a negative marker is put in front of the main utterance in the case of English speaking children( i.e. 'No play'), whereas in French children the same structure would spoken as 'Joue pas'. We therefore see that the children place the negative marker in accordance with the normally observed structure of their own language.

Period 2

In the second period, the negative marker is placed within the utterance. The auxiliary 'do' starts to appear, in combination with the negative marker (i.e 'There no sweets'). The utterances still continue to be as poorly formed as in Period 1.

Period 3

In the third period, the child has a better understanding of when 'do' can/must or can't/mustn't be used (i.e. 'He didn't caught her' or 'Don't hit my ball'). The child continues to make errors, but understands that one doesn't use 'do' and a modal verb together. Once this period has occurred, it is only a matter of months before the child can successfully construct negatives.

In their research with the 3 children (Brown, mentioned above), Bellugi and Klima found that the 3 children all took around 6 months from start of Period 1 to end of Period 3, though there were significant differences in when each of them began the first stage, with one of the children beginning at 18 months and the others not beginning till 30 months.