Boring for You, Studious for Me

27 Sep

I’m posting on an off-day, but it doesn’t really count, b/c it’s actually studying.  I’m going to attempt to write key features (from memory) of important language development theories that I have to know for my exam tomorrow.

Nurture (Environmental) Influence:

1.  Behaviorist Theory

Language is not special or innate, it’s just another behavior.

Operant conditioning-Positive reinforcement strengthens correct forms, while punishment represses wrong forms.

Example is swearing.  The curse word might be initially reinforced/strengthened by a parent that swears often.  When the child utters the bad word in front of the wrong person the resultant punishment will supress the curse word.

2.  Intentionality Model

The tension between wanting to share intentions with others, and the ability to do so drives language learning.

Example I used is a child who asks someone to zip them up.

3.  Competeition Model

Multiple forms of language compete, and the reinforced forms are strengthened.

Evidenced by over-generalization (applying the rules too much).

My group talked about language developing normally in a positive communication environment that strengthens correct forms by singing, story-telling, and chants vs. disordered/non-exsistent language in cases of neglect.

4.  Social-Interactionist Model

Language emerges through social interaction with a more capable person, then is internalized on a psychological plane.

Example is a teacher scaffolding with a child to walk them to to correct answer.

Book example was a mother asking what rhymes with cat and the child couldn’t answer.  So mom said, “Does cat rhyme with book?  Suit?  Hat?  And the child could say cat rhymed with hat.

Zone of Proximal Development-The difference between the childs current development (based on individual problem solving) and the potential level of development (collaborative problem solving with a more capable person).

5.  Cognitive Theory

Cognitive development milestones must precede language learning.  

This makes sense when you think of the order of acquisition of phonemes.  The bilabials are first because the infant has control of their lips at an early age.  The alveolars are later, because they require more precision and children’s motor skills can’t handle that until later.

Children’s speech moves from egocentric to dialogue.

6.  Usage-Based Theory

Children attend to, and understand intention, and mimic communication actions to learn language.

Example is a baby that laughs (even though they don’t understand what is being said) just because two adults are laughing during an adult conversation.

Nature (Genetic):

1.  Modularity Theory

Language is innate and localized in specific structures of the brain.

Example is people that have a stroke in the left hemisphere (language side) but still have speech and language skills.

Another Example is when a child has a language impairment in one area, but excels in another area of language.

2.  Universal Grammar

Children are born knowing general rules of grammar and catagories common to all languages.  Input gives them parameters of own language that supplements their innate knowledge.

Example is comparison to Alex the talking bird.  Alex was taught a lot of phrases through years of training and work.  Still, his language skills are equal to a young elementary-aged child, AND he does not put together sentences, have syntax, or understand grammar.  Children know these things without formal instruction.

3.  Semantic Bootstrapping

The child uses contextual words to figure out an unknown word.

Example:  Gaven will figure out medical jargon based on other words in the sentence.

4.  Syntactic Bootstrapping

The child ascertains the unknown words part of speech based on its position in a sentence and uses that grammatical context to learn the new word.

Example is when Gaven was given a comparison of the verb, spayed, to figure out what neuter meant.  He used contextual grammar to learn the unfamiliar word.


1.  Connectionist Theory

The brain is composed of connections and nodes.  Input strengthens connections.



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