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Studying The Theory Of Language Development

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    Write out each question AND provide a description of the major points of all three. The three important questions to consider when examining language development theories are: What do infants bring to the task of language learning? It is important for theorists to understand how infants acquire language, as this is the core for developing where their theory stems from and provides further understanding. There are two points of view: nature vs nurture.

    Some theorists believe infants are born with the innate ability to learn language, also known as “nature-inspired” (nativist) theories. Where our biology gives rise to language development. While on the other hand there are theorists that propose that is not something we are born knowing how to do, but we develop language from interactions with our surroundings and other stimuli. These theories are called “nurture-inspired” (empiricist) theories. Although those theories tend to be at two different ends of a spectrum, most theories contend that there are multiple factors involved with language development, which tend to fall between both. What mechanisms drive language acquisition?

    This question delves into trying to understand the mechanism and process by which language develops after birth. Theories on the process of language development mainly revolve around being domain specific or domain general. The underlying concept here is modularity, and how the human mind is organized into structures of the brain. Domain specific theories suggest that the mechanisms, by which these processes occur in the brain, are dedicated to specific tasks of comprehension and production of language. They propose the brain contains specific modules responsible for carrying out a particular type of information, known as domain specific modules. On the other hand domain general proposes that all parts in the brain work in tandem to process information, and the brain contains very large domain regional modules that process general information, as well as domain specific modules.

    What types of input support the language-learning system? Finally, theorists try to identify what type of input is responsible for the continual development of language as an infant grows. Some theorists suggest that increasing knowledge in social convention and child’s desire to want to interact with others support a language learning system. This will allow the child to through interactions with others. On the other hand, other theorists suggest the best support is exposure to language, where assumptions can be made based on the more language they hear from other people, through “positive evidence”, to aid in language structure.

    Explain the difference between “nature-inspired” and “nurture-inspired” and present the extreme position for each perspective.The difference between “nature inspired” and “nurture inspired” theories lies with how infants acquire language. With respect to “nature inspired”, the driving force behind this concept is nature, or in other words something that comes naturally and is present at birth. Some theorists believe that infants are born with the innate ability to acquire language. This is more biological approach that argues language is an outcome of our genetic makeup, which is uniquely present in our species due to the complexity of the human brain. The more extreme notion is that children are born with an existing language system rather than it being learned.

    Whereas “nurture inspired”, proposes that infants acquire language through their experiences rather than being born with an innate ability. This point of view proposes that infants are born as blank slate and the interactions they have with their environment and other stimuli influences language development. Summarize and describe one major NURTURE-inspired theory of language development. The Behaviorist Theory of operant conditioning was proposed by Harvard professor by B.F. Skinner. In this theory he suggests behavior is directly related to consequences and children are not born with innate knowledge of language. Rather, language is like any other behavior, one that is learned through their interaction with environmental stimuli. Behaviors that are rewarded are developed and those that are not rewarded are suppressed, operant conditioning. Stimuli encourage verbal responses from children that are either rewarded or not which help them learn.

    For example, a toddler mimicking a word an adult says to express they want a certain object resulting in the adult smiling at them, or immediately offering them object of desire, would be positive reinforcement. If the child says the incorrect word, they would receive nothing, and eventually abandon that approach, resulting in negative reinforcement. As a child begins to develop more and more language, it stimulates successive behavior in a step process that allows for growth, known as complex behavior. Summarize and describe two major NATURE-inspired theories of language development. Noam Chomsky proposed universal grammar, a system of grammatical rules and constraints present in all languages of the world. He proposed that language acquisition was dependent on an innate domain specific module, uniquely present in our species that was solely dedicated to language and nothing else. This language model was coined the language acquisition device. In this theory, infants are born with a basic set of grammatical rules and categories existent in all languages that depend on input to set parameters for their native language.

    This implicit knowledge children have is known as linguistic competence as opposed to linguistic performance, which is comprehension and production of language in particular situations. He argued that since children are born with linguistic competence, any poor language performance can be credited to performance difficulties rather than competence. In this theory modularity is the underlying drive for cognitive development. Fodor proposed that the brain’s organization of cognitive structure consisted of a series of domain specific modules where language is an innate capacity localized to domain-specific processors that are independent of others, operating on their own neural system. This allows modules to process highly specific information but also allows interactions to accomplish a combination of functions at a higher level. Due to this modularity different type of input develops independently from another and thus language development occurs in various different areas.

    This model proposes children are responsible for catalyzing language development, and differs from other interactionists theories because it contends the major influencers are the child’s environment and peers. According to this model language, emotional expression, cognition and social interaction develop alongside each other. So a child drives their development in their need to interact with these two factors in order to express their intention to share information. So, language acquisition depends on intent, where the child has to construct a representation of what they want and express it. The child must want to express themselves in a way which helps their needs be met. For example, if a child is hungry, he/she must be able to ask the caregiver for food, otherwise the caregiver will not be able to guess their intent.

    This theory as developed by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, which revolved around genetic epistemology, or the study of the development of knowledge. This theory emphasizes on the stages of learning and development. Piaget proposed a series of cognitive stages children experience, where certain cognitive achievements must occur that resulting in language achievements before the child to move on the next, cognition hypothesis. He believed language was not domain specific, instead domain general that follows a child’s cognitive development, that also developed in stages. He contended children tended to view the world through their own egocentric perspective and contrasted their language understanding as such, therefore are only initially able to provide egocentric speech. In this type of speech children do not add to the conversation or exchange monologue with another but instead only monologue in relation to themselves because they cannot see other’s perspectives. According to this the do not engage in true dialogue until develop the ability to view other’s perspective, where cognitive development leads to language development.

    Explain Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. How does it relate to enrichment practices discussed at the end of the chapter? Vygotsky’s Social-Interactionist Theory is an interactionist theory that proposes social interaction is fundamental for language development by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. He viewed language as a domain general ability where language development as being intertwined with cognitive development until the age of two where the two, where they begin to develop independently from each other. This theory argues that all concepts are introduced twice, first in a social context (social plane) or through people and later are internalized to the psychological plane, through the child themselves. Social interaction between the infant and a more capable, developed person was critical to language acquisition. This theory suggests humans use tools developed from a culture such as speech and handwriting to mediate their social environments and child initially develops these to communicate their needs or for social functions.

    One of his most important concepts proposed through this theory is the zone of proximal development (ZPD), the difference between a child’s actual developmental level (independent problem solving) and their level of potential (through collaboration with an adult). This is the distance between a child’s ability to perform a task independently or under the guidance of an adult, and it is in this zone where learning occurs. This concept characterizes development by describing abilities children are in the process of nurturing rather than those that have already matured. What a child can do with mediated assistance, potential, is fundamental in identifying those maturing capabilities which provides correlates to development. The ZDP is important for clinicians such as speech language pathologies because it can help determine goals for intervention.

    Enrichment is defined as the process through which teachers, clinicians, and other adults provide children with an enhanced language-learning environment that both builds upon existing skills and promotes the development of new and more advanced language abilities. In relation to the practices discussed at the end of the chapter such as Learning Language and Loving, where preschool educators are trained in order to promote children’s learning early, social and literacy development. If they can identify what ZDP the child is in, they can determine proper interaction to help language development progress. The child can then be put into an appropriate environment that would increase exposure to a rich setting by capable adults appropriately trained. This type of environment increases the learning potential of a child under the adult’s guidance by developing new functions learned from this adult, that in the future could facilitate learning thus increasing both learning potential and actual developmental level.

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