6. Discuss the main components of language development in children.The language hierarchy involves five systems of rules – phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. (Morphology and Semantics together form Grammar) Therefore, these form the main components of language development in children and are discussed in detail below:
1. Phonology and MorphologyDuring the preschool years, most children gradually become more sensitive to the sounds of spoken words and become increasingly capable of producing all the sounds of their language (National Research Council, 1999). By the time, children are 3 years of age, they can produce all the vowel sounds and most of the consonant sounds (Menn & Stoel-Gammon, 2009).
By the time children move beyond two-word utterances, they demonstrate a knowledge of morphology rules (Tager-Flusberg & Zukowski, 2009). Children begin using the plural and possessive forms of nouns, appropriate endings on verbs, prepositions, articles, and various forms of the verb to be. Overgeneralization of rules, ex: “foots” instead of “feet,” or “goed” instead of “went” serves as evidence of children’s use of morphological rules.
2. Syntax and SemanticsPreschool children also learn and apply rules of syntax (Lidz, 2010; Tager-Flusberg & Zukowski, 2009). They show a growing mastery of complex rules for how words should be ordered, but they take much longer to learn the auxiliary-inversion rule. Thus, preschool children might ask, “Where Daddy is going?” and “What that boy is doing?”
Gains in semantics also characterize early childhood. Vocabulary development is dramatic (Diesendruck, 2010; Pan & Uccelli, 2009). Between 18 months and 6 years of age, young children learn approximately one new word every waking hour (Carey, 1977; Gelman & Kalish, 2006)!
It is estimated that first graders know about 14,000 words (Clark, 1993). Children who enter elementary school with a small vocabulary are at risk for developing reading problems (Berninger, 2006).
3. PragmaticsChanges in pragmatics characterize young children’s language development (Bryant, 2009; Siegal & Surian, 2010). A 6-year-old is simply a much better conversationalist than a 2-year-old is. Young children begin to engage in extended discourse (Akhtar & Herold, 2008).
They become increasingly able to talk about things that are not here (ex: Grandma’s house) and not now (ex: what happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow).
At about 4 years of age, children develop a remarkable sensitivity to the needs of others in conversation.
At around 4 to 5 years of age, children learn to change their speech style to suit the situation. They speak differently to an adult than to a same-aged peer, using more polite and formal language with the adult (Shatz & Gelman, 1973). And they speak differently with a child.
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To summarize, during pre-school years, improvements in phonology lead to children becoming sensitive to speech sound and start producing all sounds of their own language. They also demonstrate a knowledge of morphology rules. They learn and apply rules of syntax to arrange words into sentences. They develop semantics to accurately express themselves. By 6 yrs, children have gained reasonable pragmatic ability for proper language use.
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