Notes from the reading:

Chapter 2 Reading

Language acquisition theories

  1. Behaviorist perspective
    • Nurture plays the dominant role in children's language development. Through imitation and reforcement
    • 2 basic processes--classical conditioning; operant conditioning and imitation
  2. Nativism
    • inborn ability to learn language (Noam Chomsky in this camp)
    • language acquisition device (LAD) triggered by language in the child's environment
  3. Social Interactionism
    • Lev Vygotsky (1978)
    • child plays intentional and active role in language acquisition & constructing meanings
    • interaction with more knowledgeable people confirm construction of language (from early age)
  4. Biological
    • neurological activity responsible for language acquisition, starting with newborns
    • supports elements of other 3 theories

Key terms

  • phonology : units of sounds
  • prosody : stress, intotation
  • morphology : units of meaning (ex. cats has two-- cat + s)
    • lexical: the individual meaning that a word carries
    • bound: units of sound that hold meaning but must be attached to something else, like prefixes and suffixes
    • derivational and inflectional: usually suffixes that change the class of the word, like dust-->dusty
    • compound: two words together, like football, rainbow
    • idiom: expression that has a meaning different from its individual words
  • syntax: how morphenes, or words, are arranged in a sentence
  • semantics: deals with the slight differences that language allows for, such as: happy, content, thrilled, pleased, etc...
  • pragmatics: how to use language, how to engage in conversation, cues on tact, etc...

Language development

  1. Birth to 1 month -- crying, different types for different messages--high-pitched, throaty, whining, fussy
  2. 2 to 3 months -- make sounds in response to stimulus, control voice, mimic tongue/mouth movement of others
  3. 3 to 6 months -- make cooing sounds, mimic nonverbal language, range of sounds, sound play, most vowels/consonants
  4. 6 to 9 months -- echolalia , or babbling that sounds like conversation, goal-oriented language such as "dada"
  5. 9 to 12 months -- speaking, listening and comprehending, responding to basic questions
  6. 12 to 18 months -- building vocabulary
  7. 18 to 24 months -- building sentences
  8. 24 to 36 months -- still using approximations for words, "I lub you" "I want ride bise"

Influential conditions

  • Gender differences in language acquisition? Some evidence says girls talk earlier than boys, but may be social
  • Socio-economic conditions may hinder language acquisition, if there is less linguistic input from family
  • cultural influences: Some cultures utilize more non-verbal language and may influence a child's language development

Medical concerns

  • congenital language disorders--physical or neurological disorders, sometimes ear damage
    • disfluency: rate of speech affected, such as stuttering or speaking too slowly
    • otisis media: when there is something wrong with the ear canal that results in damaged hearing
    • pronunciation: lisps, etc...

Chapter 3

Guiding questions:

  • How can parents facilitate oral language development? By scaffolding their language, encouraging them to tell narratives, read stories
  • Initiation, response, evaluation (IRE) class talk: teacher asks, student answers, teacher accepts or rejects. Problematic because it does not present as many opportunities to talk and develop rich oral language.
  • Group activities, learning centers and drama promote oral language acquisition by creating language content
  • Language-rich play can be encouraged with themed props, culturally relevant props, being involved with play, and have long play periods
  • Sharing and show-and-tell is a valuable language activity by allowing children to tell narratives, encouraging questions and answers
  • Teachers can assess language through interaction and observation while child is engaged in language activity
  • Teachers can encourage bilingual and second language learners by giving them opportunities to use language, tell narratives, ask questions, etc...


  • active listening
  • anecdotal record: brief note describing a child's behavior
  • checklist: observation tool for teachers to check off when a certain behavior is observed
  • dramatic play: children take on roles and act out stories
  • imitation, response, evaluation (IRE): pattern of classroom talk, teacher asks, students answers, teacher accepts/rejects
  • metalinguistic awareness: making connections with the forms of the words, for example, a child notices that two words rhyme
  • metaplay language: specific language used in dramatic play "I'll be the driver, and you be the biker"
  • personal narrative: story about someone told by that person (I was in Texas last year...)
  • pretend language: words used to take on a role: "mooo! moooo!)
  • rubric: scoring tools for teachers to evaluate proficiency
  • scaffolding: temporary assistance from teacher, parent to help a child when they could not do it on their own

Home talk

    • a child's natural learning environment, supported by parents, siblings
    • encouraging personal narratives
    • Expanding child's language skills
      • Child says "Kitty eat," parent responds with "Kitty is eating his food," or "Kitty is hungry"
    • Reading storybooks, repetition especially effective, allows for evaluation and reflection
      • open-ended questions
    • TV as a language tool: programming appropriate, active viewing (watch television together)

School talk

    • teacher discourse -- some problems:
      • too much time talking to children, rather than with them
      • dominate discussion by controlling who gets to talk and about what
      • children spend most of the time listening to teacher
      • children talk as response to teacher's questions, usually closed questions with one right answer
    • three recommendations:
      • allow for reciprocal conversations
      • activity centered language opportunities, where students accomplish something
      • language activities that draw attention to one specific aspect of language
    • context for encouraging language:
      • group activities
      • learning centers -- computer labs, going to the zoo to learn about animals
      • dramatic play, acting out situations, stories, etc...
      • play settings: stick with what they know. Children love to play house, or with baby dolls, domestic scenes
    • language-centered activities
      • sharing, show-and-tell: allows for speaking in front of class or in smaller groups with participation. Something with a good narrative behind it, something homemade with explanation or description; something funny or interesting that requires explanation
      • storytelling: retelling stories, make-believe stories, make up stories to go along with pictures, link storytelling and writing
      • language play: messing around with language, humor, trying it out
    • three suggestions:
      • allow play to flourish, teacher and students can laugh together
      • serve as a model by sharing
      • value each child's contribution
    • songs and finger plays
      • using song to encourage language, repeated choruses, repeated phrases, sound effects, tell stories, ask questions

Older children

    • cooperative learning groups:
      • need to communicate to accomplish goal
      • taught to encourage one another
      • students are interdependent
      • frequent groups allows for more language opportunities
      • redundancy--students learn if they speak repeatedly on the same topic
      • developmentally appropriate
      • feedback rich
    • dramatic simulations
      • different forms of media

ESL students

    • teachers must adjust their own speech
    • provide context for language learning, rich with materials and objects aiding in learning
    • create opportunities such as reciprocal questions
    • acknowledge and allow for mistakes, provide feedback
    • be sensitive to cultural differences, allow native language as way to express oneself