Language
Development
Theories: Practical
Implications
I. INTRODUCTION**
• Children begin developing
language at birth as they
interact with their
caregivers.
• Children from culturally and
linguistically diverse
backgrounds are exposed
to diverse experiences; this
diversity creates the
concepts to which children
attach symbols, or words.
II. THE ROLE OF THE ENVIRONMENT IN
LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT**
• Development of language rests
upon several major variables
that interact with one another
• 1. The child’s cultural and
linguistic environment is a big
influence upon language
learning
• 2. Each child has unique
characteristics that she brings
to the language learning
situation
For a child to develop language
optimally…
For example…
Youtube video:
• Archer likes motherese
III. Theories of Language
Acquisition**
• A. Behaviorist Theory:
– B.F. Skinner
– Explains acquisition of verbal behavior
– Verbal behaviors are learned under
appropriate conditions of stimulation,
response, and reinforcement
– Breaks verbal behavior down into echoics,
mands, tacts
In therapy, clinicians who use
principles of the behaviorist theory:
For example:**
• Target: The child will use the word earth in
a sentence.
• Appropriate antecedent event “What
planet do we live on?”
• Child: “We live on planet Earth.”
• SLP: Right! Great! Here’s a
Youtube
• Sheldon trains Penny
B. Social Interactionism
Theory**
• Language function, not structure, is
emphasized
• Language develops as a result of children’s
social interactions with the important people in
their lives
• Vygotsky (Russian psychologist): language
knowledge is acquired through social
interaction with more competent and
experienced members of the child’s culture
According to social interactionism theory:
Clinical Implications:
How would you motivate the
following clients to talk?
• C. Cognitive Theory**
– Jean Piaget
– Emphasizes cognition, or knowledge and
mental processes
– Language acquisition is made possible by
cognition and general intellectual
processes
– Two forms: strong cognition hypothesis
and weak cognition hypothesis
Strong cognition hypothesis:**
• Cognitive abilities are
prerequisites to language skills
language
• Language will absolutely not
develop without these cognitive
abilities
• Page 41--stages of cognitive
development; for the exam, just
know what is on the
PowerPoint for this chart
Cognition
Weak cognition hypothesis:
Piaget’s stages of cognitive
development:
• Sensorimotor (birth-2 years)
Youtube video:
• Lucille Piaget’s sensorimotor
Preoperational (2-7 years)
Mommy!
Concrete Operations (7-11
years)**
• Acquires conservation and classification
skills
• Child less egocentric, has ability to see
others’ points of view
Youtube
• A typical child on Piaget’s conservation
tasks
Formal Operations (over 11
years)
Clinical implications of the cognitive
theory:
language
cognition
Also….**
• If cognitive skills are low, why bother with
language therapy? It won’t help, because
the foundation (cognition) is not there
• Thus, children with (low) cognitive skills
that are commensurate with their (low)
language skills are denied therapy
Lastly…**
• Clinicians must assess and treat cognitive
precursors to language and facilitate
development of these precursors before
working on language itself
• So, with a very young child, you would work on
symbolic play and object permanence before
you tried to have a child say her first word
• D. Nativist Theory:**
– Noam Chomsky
– All children are born with a
Language Acquisition Device
(LAD)
– This is a specialized
processor that is a
physiological part of the brain
--Children have an innate
capacity to acquire language
Hulit et al. 2015:
Chomsky introduced
the concepts of:
surface
structure
Deep
structure
Clinical implications of the nativist
theory are scant:
Drawbacks:
• E. Information Processing Theory
Phonological processing:**
• Concerned with
processes involved in a
child’s ability to
mentally manipulate
phonological aspects of
language
• These include word
rhyming, syllabication,
etc.
Temporal auditory processing:**
• Child’s ability to perceive the brief
acoustic events that make up speech
sounds and track changes in these
events as they happen quickly in the
speech of other people
• Child’s capacity for and speed of
processing
• Children with problems can’t remember
and repeat back digit strings, lists of
real or nonsense words, etc.—esp. if
fast
IV. Education, Language, and
Literacy in the School-Age Years**
• When a child enters kindergarten, she should have
solid auditory-oral skills
• These are strongly related to learning to read and
write
• A child’s emergent literacy skills or preliteracy skills
are foundational to later reading and writing in
school
Common Core State Standards--4
major goals:
**The overarching
goal is to create
students who are
ready to succeed
in a globally
competitive, 21st
century society
 **Unlike No Child Left Behind (2002), there are
no fiscal or other punitive consequences in the
standards.
 Despite this, many professionals nationwide are
trying hard to figure out how to help children
achieve the standards
**The Common Core State
Standards, enacted in 2010,
have been adopted by 46 out
of 50 states.
The standards address
English Language Arts and
Math
English Language Arts Consists of
4 Areas:
In grades 4-6:
New research is finding that for many children,
esp. those who are at risk: (Clark, 2012,
“Research on all-day kindergarten”
www.education.com)
If we can provide early
intervention for children with
language impairments…**
• We will prevent many future problems
and help these children achieve their
social, academic, and professional
potential
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Language Development Theories