Child Language Acquisition Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 13 July 2017

Child Language Acquisition

Linguistically, both of these infants are at different stages of their language development. The lexical choices made by each child can show what stage they are at in developing their language and applying it to situations and conversations. Sophie’s use of the word ‘Bissie’, meaning biscuit shows that she hasn’t quite been able to pronounce the sound therefore makes an alternative word up that sounds similar, that is understandable by the child’s carer/parent, but is easier to say than ‘biscuit’.

Other lexical choices Sophie uses, tend to be commanding words, such as ‘me want’ ‘No’. As the child is young, she realises to get what she wants; she has to ask for it and by using the commanding words, she is airing the fact that she wants something to her parent/carer. According to Halliday’s functions, this language is regulatory, as well as being instrumental. She is controlling the behaviour of others (telling Fran that she doesn’t want to tidy the dolls house) and she is obtaining material needs (wanting a biscuit).

Katharine has grasped the concept of pronouns. She uses the personal pronoun ‘I’ to refer to herself ‘Now I’ll do Jason’, and she can even use ‘we’ as the collective term for her and her mum together ‘We do Jason again shall we? ‘ Sophie’s sentences have basic structure to them, as she voices what she needs to say, in the simplest way to say it. They are quite short, and to the point. Her language acquisition is at the stage where she knows how to communicate, speak and use words in a simple sentence to voice what she wants.

‘Mary come me’, meaning ‘Can Mary come and play with me’, is a very simple form of the sentence, but still communicates to her mum what she wants to do. She uses ‘me’ instead of ‘I’ to refer to herself. This confusion of pronoun usage is common among young children. Some of the words she uses, she omits the prefixes of the sounds, such as ‘nother’ instead of ‘another’. This makes it easier to say, and shortens what she says. Katharine on the other hand, who is involved in an activity, is communicating with her mum using more structured sentences.

Her mum is constantly questioning what she is doing (Skinners theory of reinforcement and imitation (response)) ‘Where’s his body? ‘ then Katharine replies; ‘Dere’s his legs, touching his mouf’. The pronunciation of the words isn’t as important as the fact that she is constructing sentences and answering questions herself. A word such as ‘there’ has a consonant cluster at the beginning which is hard to say for young children, therefore they change the pronunciation, so it still sounds like ‘there’ but is easier to pronounce.

She understood the question her mum was asking, and actually understood it was a question, maybe because of the intonation her mum would’ve had in her voice. This shows that she is capable enough with language to turn take, in a small conversation with her mum, talking about a subject/activity. This shows that her language acquisition is slightly more advanced than Sophie’s, as Sophie doesn’t turn take, she doesn’t answer questions either, she asks them and is at the stage of using ‘why’ as a questioning word.

Sophie’s conversation with her mum doesn’t flow like Katharine’s, it is full of statements and commands rather than a question – answer structure. Turn taking is apparent in both these conversations as the parents are initiating the conversation and getting the children to talk, causing no interruptions. Sophie’s utterance lengths are longer than Katharine’s on average, but the fact that Katharine is involved in an activity has an affect on her utterances, due to concentration. Comparing the utterance lengths, Katharine’s are more advanced with the syntax structure, as her sentences make more grammatical sense than Sophie’s.

This doesn’t make Sophie incorrect in her structure, she is just at a different stage of language acquisition than Katharine, and she is in the middle of developing her sentences. Age isn’t a factor in language development, as every child is different. Katharine’s mother uses tag questions, such as; ‘isn’t it? ‘ This encourages Katharine to answer her mum. Katharine does also use tag questions herself, to get a response from her mum, ‘shall we’. She has probably learnt how to use tag questions from listening to the way her mum speaks.

This is quite advanced for a child as it shows they use a different way of getting a response, rather than just saying ‘why’ or using commands. She also uses encouraging sounds, which is back channel behaviour; ‘uhuh’ and ‘mmhu’, to show she is listening and taking in what Katharine is saying. Sophie’s carer/parent however doesn’t use tag questions and neither does Sophie. The conversation between the child and parent/carer is very simple and uses statements rather than questions, encouraging Sophie to talk.

It is just a short conversation, with Sophie controlling it, rather then the parent/carer trying to encourage her to talk and say things. Of course, the pragmatics behind the conversations are for the parents/carers to get the children to speak and further their knowledge and understanding of the language. It is merely to get them to practice speaking, so they acquire language. There is a large difference between the two conversations, as they are in different environments (the contexts are different), with the children taking part in different situations.

This is a factor which affects their language use and the way they use it in the context. After considering all of the factors to do with both conversations, I have come to the conclusion that Katharine is more linguistically developed and seems to be at a more advanced stage of language acquisition than Sophie. Katharine has a wider knowledge of the language and applies it to a conversation better than Sophie, as her sentences are constructed better and flow well.

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