Theories of How Children Learn

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‘THEORIES OF HOW CHILDREN LEARN – LANGUAGE ACQUISITION'

ASSESSMENT 03B/4 PART 4

TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION TO LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION2
MAIN STAGES OF LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT5
NURTURE, OPERANT CONDITIONING AND LEARNING THEORY9
NATURE/NATIVIST THEORY13
PIAGET'S COGNITIVE THEORY16
VYGOTSKY AND BRUNER'S COGNITIVE THEORIES19
CULTURAL RELATIVITY24
FACTORS THAT AFFECT LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT25
HOW ADULTS CAN PROMOTE LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT28
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LANGUAGE AND COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT29
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LANGUAGE AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT30
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT31

INTRODUCTION TO LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It endeavours to answer the question – what is language and how is it represented in the mind? Language is a system of symbols and rules; exclusive in its form to human beings that enables us to communicate. Symbols are things that stand for other things: words, either written or spoken, are symbols and the rules specify how words are ordered to form sentences. Language symbols are arbitrary, with no necessary connection between the symbol, be it word or gesture, and the object or idea to which it refers. For example, if one wanted to construct a new word for ‘tree', they could use almost any legitimate combination of sounds that are not already being used for other purposes. However, symbols must be used systematically for effective communication to occur. The arbitrary symbol system must be shared; for communication to take place at least two people must have access to the system.

There are a number of dimensions to language acquisition and development and each stage occurs chronologically. These are as follows: ·Phonology – study of the sound patterns of language. It is concerned with how sounds or ‘phonemes' are organised and examines what happens to speech sounds when they are combined to form words and how these sounds interact with each other. It endeavours to explain what these phonological processes are in terms of formal rules. ·Semantics – is our knowledge of word meanings and how we acquire vocabulary. The semantic component is made up of morphemes, the smallest units of meaning that may be combined with each other to make up words. For example, the word ‘paper' and ‘s' are two morphemes that make up the word ‘papers'.

·Syntax – syntax is the study of sentence structure. It attempts to describe what is grammatical in a particular language in terms of rules. These rules detail an underlying structure and a transformational process. The underlying structure for English, for example, would have a subject-verb-object sentence order (‘James kicked the football') and the transformational process would allow an alteration of the word order, which could produce something like ‘the football was kicked by James.' The syntactic component consists of the rules that enable us to combine morphemes into sentences. As soon as a child uses two morphemes together as in ‘more juice', he or she is using a syntactic rule about how morphemes are combined to convey meaning. Syntactic rules become increasingly complex as a child develops. They progress to combine words with suffixes or inflections and eventually create questions, statements, commands etc. He or she will also learn to combine two ideas into one complex sentence. For example, ‘I'll share my juice if you share your crisps.' ·Pragmatics – an understanding that words can be used to different effect, for example, to be humorous or sarcastic. Pragmatics deals with rules of language use and these rules form part of our communicative competence. In other words, our ability to speak appropriately in different situations, for example, in a conversational way at home or in a more formal way at a job interview. Learning pragmatic rules is as important as learning the rules of other components of language as people are...
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