Parental Feedback into Children’s Acquisition
Parental Feedback into Children’s Acquisition
One of the most remarkable characteristics of human beings lay in the fact that, virtually, every single one acquires language at a very young age (Crain & Martin, 1999, p. 4). This is because what lies at the heart of what it means to be a human person is an innate predisposition towards the acquisition of “the most intricate forms of knowledge we will ever acquire…early on in life” (Sigelaman & Rides, 2008, p. 277).
In view of such contention, it merits to make mention that, according to Crain and Martin, there are two telling truths that define language acquisition: that on the one side of the spectrum, language is universal (within the human species) and that, on the other side of the spectrum, there is a considerable latitude in the kind of environmental inputs that permit children to develop language (1999, p. 7). Put simply, a person’s acquisition of language is characteristically both universal – i. e.
, that all persons, in all places, at all times and defined by whatever circumstances has to, one way or another, learn a language or two – and conditioned – i. e. , that language acquisition is influenced by the particularities of one’s own facticity. Particularly, this paper seeks to underscore the telling importance of parental feedback in the development of linguistic skills of human persons; specifically of children. Herein, it merits noting that parental presence and interaction during the crucial stage of language acquisition are components that present cases of no little importance to the growth and development of a child.
Furthermore, this study takes keen interest into how the different theories of language acquisition do frame the importance of parental feedback and interaction to a child’s journey towards assimilating language. This early, it is insightful to already affirm that whilst there is a universal recognition of the supreme importance of parental presence during a child’s language acquisition months, how different theories understand the degrees and extent of such fundamental importance nevertheless varies. Scope and Methodology
The foregoing central thesis having presented, it may help to further underscore that this study does not and will not attempt to present an exhaustive treatment of the subject matter. In fact, this study focuses merely on presenting three language acquisition theories, whose respective programmes, arguably, already constitute substantial themes so as to lend points for worthwhile discussions. The three theories which are to be delved into include: the Behaviourist, the Innatist and the Interactionist paradigms.
Be that as it may, this study weaves together the expository and argumentative approaches in presenting the discussions; being that this study does not merely aim at presenting different learning acquisition theories, but also gleaning how such theories take parental feedback as a constitutive component of language acquisition process. The Process of Language Acquisition Essa notes that language does not begin when babies speak their first words around the end of their first year (2003, p. 329). Instead, it is a process which, whilst contiguous, is nonetheless wholly distinguishable in stages.
Wasserman is of the firm belief that there are at least two different stages involved in language acquisition: i. e. , pre-language that begins before birth and lasts until the age 10 or 12 months, and the linguistic stage from the ages of 12 to 36 months (2007, p. 416). To both stages, it must be argued, a requisite range of mental progression is conveniently assumed. This is because it is reasonable to assume that children’s grasp of their surroundings come way ahead of their ability to express them.
If truth be said, children are said to undergo their respective language acquisition stages in a manner being contemporaneous of the progression of their cognitive, affective and personality aspects. Santrock contends that language acquisition is a particular stage which brings into play the process of acquiring not only the contours of language, but also the rules that are inherent to language acquisition itself. The learned author states: As children go through the early childhood years, their grasp of the rule systems that govern language increase.
These rule systems include phonology (the sound system), morphology (the rules for combining minimal units of meaning), syntax (rules of making sentences), semantics (the meaning system), and pragmatics (the rules for use in social meanings). (Santrock, 2004, p. 254). On account of such programme, it thus makes sense to claim that language acquisition “can be assessed in multiple ways”, insofar as “it is a multifaceted system that used for social communication and for individual mental representation” (Milligan, et.
al. , 2007, p. 623). Put in other words, since the process of language acquisition is distinguishable (albeit not separable) into construable parts, then it is certainly something that can be assessed according and relative to its constitutive stages. Additionally, language is measured by way of observations of naturalistic conversation, learning from standardized inventories, as well as evaluating the performance on language-ability tasks (Milligan, et.
al. , 2007, p. 623). The Roles of Parental Feedback as Gleaned from Three Language Acquisition Theories To be sure, one can find an array of truly insightful theories that seek to shed light into the process of language acquisition specifically pertinent to children. Consistent with the reasoned limitation set initially in this paper, three theories – the Behaviourist, the Innatist and Interactionist – shall be discussed for the sole purpose of this study.
First, the Behaviourist paradigm considers the environment as primary molder of the circumstances of human persons. In the same manner, those subscribing to this theory believe that the external environment, more than anything else, is chiefly influential in directing the behavior of children. Skinner, as the foremost proponent of learning theory, suggested that language is a special case of behavior being that it is largely determined by training based on trial and error, and not by maturation (Minami, 2002, p. 14).
Fundamentally, this theory proposes that whilst children would pass through different but contiguous stages, the environment and specific experiences of the children are what primordially affect their development and growth (Wasserman, 2007, p. 416). Indeed, language learning is embedded from the outside, nay from social contingencies, where everything from phonology to syntax, comprehension and production, are all part of complex dynamics among caregivers, the wider social environment, and the language-learning of a child (Dale, 2004, p. 337).
Under the lenses of a Behaviourist paradigm, the role of parents could nowhere be under-appreciated. As a matter of fact, they ought to be considered as chief personalities that belong atop the list of those whose influence to children’s language acquisition development is of paramount importance. Sigelman and Rides, for their part, has this to say: Behaviourist B. F. Skinner (1957) and others have emphasized the role of reinforcement. As children achieve better approximations of adult language, parents and other adults praise meaningful speech and correct errors.
Children and also reinforced by getting that they want when they speak correctly. (Sigelman and Rides, 2008, p. 282). Parental feedback, therefore, acts as the primary reinforcement of an infant’s language development. And this is precisely because children are acutely responsive to the positive reinforcements – such as smiling, cuddling and conversation – done by their parents (Essa, 2003, p. 327). It must also be cited that children learn to speak by imitation and they reproduce the sounds (words) that they hear from around them.
Additionally, parents are the ones who provide a language model, by talking to and around children (Crain &Martin, 1999, p. 4). Two facets of learning acquisition come into the fore in view of the Behaviourist perspective: the content of language and the motivation to learn. And as far as the Behaviourist theory is concerned, the importance of parental feedback falls more under the parameters of motivating children develop their linguistic skills. This runs quite consistent with the general theory of Behaviourism which takes all learning largely as a motivational issue latched, as it were, to the entire learning process.
It helps to moreover appreciate the fact that the Behaviourist model gives too much emphasis on acquiring correct linguistic skills on account of healthy motivations provided for by parents, if not by the adults within the immediate surroundings of the children. Thus, where healthy motivation wants, learning acquisition suffers correlatively. At the very least, lack of parental feedback and provision of encouragement may frustrate a child’s natural inclination to adopt, appropriate, imitate and learn from the conversations he or she hears from parents and other older companions (Sigelman and Rides, 2008, p.
282). Surely, it is important for parents to ensure that children are significantly reinforced at a time when they are becoming “increasingly capable of producing the sounds of their language” – things that they acquire through confident adaptation and imitation (Santrock, 2004, p. 254). The aforesaid paradigm was challenged by Chomsky and Pinker. They, along with those who subscribe to the Innatist theory, argue that since patterns in language development are similar across different languages and cultures, the environment plays a minor role in the children’s of language.
They moreover emphasized that human persons possess an intrinsic biological endowment that enables them to discover the framework of principles and elements common to attainable human languages (Minami, 2002, p. 14). As a consequence, the Innatist approach takes children as essentially wired to know without being taught, notwithstanding the role of communication in providing meaning, eliciting affirmation or negation, proffering critical questions and eliciting a force to command and direct (Essa, 2003, p. 327).
At the very least, the Innatist approach insists that children are able to learn language on their own innate ability. Once more, Sigelman and Rides suggest: Chomsky proposed that humans have inborn mechanism for mastering language called the language acquisition device (LAD). The LAD was conceived as an area in the brain equipped to identify certain universal features of language…To learnt to speak, children need only to hear human speaks; (and) using LAD, they (can) quickly grasp the rules of whatever language they hear.
(Sigelman and Rides, 2008, p. 283). In view of what Sigelman and Rides have to say, it is therefore not without good reasons to surmise that parents play a lesser role in the child’s language development. Parental feedback, as a consequence, is essential only insofar as children are able to use it as a welcome reference for their otherwise innate predisposition towards language acquisition. Parents thus need only to let their children be.
This is because, according to Chomsky, language is a product of the young human brain, such that virtually, any exposure to conditions short of total isolation and vicious mistreatment will suffice to bring children forth a successful language acquisition all the same. In the ultimately analysis, there is really nothing much to do with a child to help him or her properly acquire the content and the corollary rules attendant to human language; for a child is essentially set up for language, and need not necessarily or extensively use the exigencies of his or her external environment to acquire it (Dale, 2004, p. 338).
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 30 December 2016
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