Timely speech acquisition permeates a person’s successful information exchange behaviors. Studying this process offers insight into normal maturation and warning signs for parents to consider. Language development is a multi-stage process, and there are three distinct explanations of learning, with the nativist theory being rooted in solid research.
Language Development and Prompting/Improving Language
The development of language occurs in clear stages as the child is exposed to human speech. As those aged 1.5-2 months discover they have vocal cords, the cooing stage starts, enabling the child to engage in prelinguistic communication by producing meaningless, simple, and repetitive vowel sounds (Feldman, 2018). Between 4 and 5 months of age, children’s speech production intensifies, allowing them to use simplistic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds or babble (Feldman, 2018). By 5.5-6.5 months, immersion in linguistic environments enables children to vocalize a few syllables, which progresses to repetitive syllables by 7-8.5 months (Feldman, 2018). 10.5-13.5-month-old children manage to apply a combination of syllables to name a fixed phenomenon, which counts as the child’s first word and often represents a holophrase (Feldman, 2018). After that, the young learner’s vocabulary increases quickly, growing to knowing over five words and experimenting with two-word combinations by 16 and 22 months, respectively (Feldman, 2018). By 23-24 months, basic word sequence knowledge emerges, helping children to produce the first sentences that represent the so-called telegraphic speech (Feldman, 2018). The latter declines gradually, promoting more complex and grammatically correct utterances.
Parents can prompt and improve language acquisition by engaging in prelinguistic information exchange and active talking. The first way involves responding to the child’s cooing/babbling attempts by repeating the child’s sounds and showing positive emotions. The second way pertains to maximizing the already-talking child’s exposure to language by naming objects and commenting on one’s actions. Both strategies enable children to learn by imitation and feel safe and accepted.
Theories: Description and Comparison
In the physical/cognitive infancy field, there are three main theoretical schools that anatomize linguistic development and learning. Theories treating language development as an acquired skill apply reinforcement/conditioning principles to talking, explaining speech progression as a reaction to rewarding responses from adults. Nativism, including Chomsky’s research, posits that language use capacities are innate rather than acquired but need time to be activated (Feldman, 2018). Interactionism synthesizes the aforementioned approaches, explaining language learning as the process that occurs due to the combined influences of innate predispositions and external reinforcement (Feldman, 2018). Concerning similarities, all three theories recognize exposure to language to be crucial to speech production. In terms of differences, nativism emphasizes hypothetical internal factors by supposing a complex biological system wired to recognize and reproduce speech, which might represent a form of mechanistic dehumanization. In stark contrast to it, the theory of language as a skill incorporates the complexities of human relationships and mutual reactions into its hypothesis. The interactionist theory shares conceptual similarities with both propositions but, unlike them, accounts for the learned language’s impacts on the path of development, noting differences between languages.
From my perspective, the nativist theory seems to be the most accurate. Concerning the reasons, Chomsky’s discovery of universal grammar suggests the existence of speech comprehension/processing mechanisms that all people have in common, and the speech gene’s discovery also suggests speech’s innate nature (Feldman, 2018). Healthy children from different families tend to demonstrate approximately the same word use patterns and developmental tendencies, which also suggests language’s innateness.
In summary, speech progresses from cooing to simplistic sentences as the child learns the language’s building blocks. Language learning is theorized to result from parental reinforcement, humans’ innate speech production abilities, and the combination of internal and external causes. Nativism finds support in genetic and linguistic research, which makes it a potentially successful explanation.
Feldman, R. S. (2018). Child development (8th ed.). Pearson.