Language Development Within Infants and Young Children

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Outline some of the theories which seek to explain an area of development in the child. Drawing upon observations that you have made in schools, discuss the significance and evaluate these theories for the teacher in planning effective learning situations. Justify your answer with specific examples from your own experience and your reading.

Theories surrounding language development within infants and young children and how these theories differ in their ideas.

Language is a systematic means of communicating through the use of sounds or conventional symbols. Without language there would be no way of communicating with others. To allow us to be able to use recognisable sounds and symbols to express ourselves, they first have to be taught before humans can utilize them and are continually built upon through ongoing language development. Currently, language development includes a sizeable amount of theory, research, and debate from a variety of fields which include linguistics, psychology, philosophy, sociology, medicine, computers, biology, neurology, speech and language pathology, and education to name but a few. More recently, due to a sudden occurrence of activity in the aforementioned disciplines, there has been a huge leap as far as what is known about language and as a result of the interdisciplinary sharing of information between these groups the quantity of language development theories has increased tenfold.  Theorists and researchers have lined up to either support the more traditional theories or to develop more diverse and unique descriptions of language which may provide insightful clues into answering some of the existing questions. The number of language development theories is extensive in number and range from Chomsky’s nativist theories (universal grammar, principles and parameters, minimalism, etc.), connectionism, optimality theory, Vygotsky’s social interactionism, Piaget’s cognitive constructivism, information processing theory, neural network models, interactionist approaches such as Bruner’s LASS and Bates and MacWhinney’s functionalism, and models that stress pragmatics, such as speech acts theory and Grice’s conversational maxims.  There are then the more philosophical models such as structuralism, semiotics, logical positivism, Frege’s direct reference theory, or Wittgenstein’s picture theory, waning models (such as case grammar, pivot grammar, and the semantic relations approach). There are also many, more recent theories being promoted and debated in specific circles which include Ullman’s dual system’s model, Fodor’s language of thought, Tomasello’s usage based grammar, Jackendoff’s conceptual semantics, and Sperber and Wilson’s relevance theory. All these go to make up a fraction of the theorists database available to the average language student. When thinking in a teaching context it is clear that owing to the copious amount of theories available how, when attempting to use current research and theory in functional practice, any language or class teacher could easily become baffled by the intensity and sometimes complexities contained within the above in addition to the obvious drawback of there being just too vast a number from which to make a decision. Moreover, how one then manages to deliver a single, clearly defined system or theory within their classroom is a task that is far beyond the reach of any typical primary school teacher. However, through personal experiences in addition to past and current teaching trends it is possible to see how language development techniques have progressed from the earliest theories to the most popular and productive techniques in use today. The earliest theory concerning language development assumed that children acquired language through imitation alone as stated by Edward Thorndike (1911) in his connectionism theory which was the original stimulus-response-consequence psychology of learning which has influenced so psychologists today....
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