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English Language: Child Acquisition

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Texts A to F are short excerpts consisting of conversations with children between the ages of three months and four years.

Discuss the following statement with reference to three texts and ideas from language study; 'Although adults often imagine they are teaching their children how to speak there is no convincing evidence they need such instructions."

Text A is a portrayal of a three month year old child, crying. Whilst the parent is interacting with the child, as aforementioned, she assumes she may be teaching her child how to speak or merely making statements which the child may pick up on at a later developed stage, however children do not simply reproduce as-is whatever they are exposed to, firstly because they are developing physically, it will take them a set time to use speech organs in a precise way. Both children from texts A and B are at very early stages of acquisition, and are too young to talk as of yet. So although Mother poses questions and speaks to the child, at such an early stage, they cannot begin to adhere to such language; rather there are influenced by factors such a cognition and maturity.

The age of three, if a child begins to go to a nursery, he/she may well know how to speak but they find ways to make sense of their environment, by adapting the input they receive from others to their own emerging cognitive abilities. Text C is a reflection of this, as the child refers to brown slush on the road as "lorry poo", most likely he has not heard this from parents, thus disapproving Skinner's theory of imitation. "It's raining in my glass" referring to lemonade and "titty knickers". The child is creative in the sense that he uses his experiences of roads, raining to apply them to context. Piaget's idea of object permanence states that a child must become aware of each individual object before they are able to use it in speech. Since the child verifies the theory, and supposedly the expressions were not heard from adults, the child is emerging through his own cognitive abilities and maturity by creating such expressions rather than being taught this from parents.

Children's language often contains errors, the child in text D is a clear example of this. When corrected from saying 'want other one spoon Daddy?' to 'I want another spoon' he comprehends what is being said but is not made privy to the change of grammatical function in the sentence. Once again, Skinner's theory of imitation is opposed as the child cannot imitate the grammatical function even after he has repeatedly broken down the sentence for him. This goes hand in hand with Berko and Brown's 'fis phenomenon', where the child is wary of what is correct and incorrect but is unable to imitate the correct form of sentence. So it can be argued, parents do not offer instructions to their children on how to speak appropriately.



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