How Children Learn Language. Lec. 3

The development of speech comprehension
Fetuses & speech input
 Research experiments
 The mother’s speech sounds were found to be able to
reach the ear of the fetus above the background
sounds. But whether the ear of the fetus is developed
enough to send such significant sounds to the brain is
not proved yet.
Speech comprehension without speech
production: The case of mute-hearing
 While the ability to utter speech in appropriate
situations is a good indicator of language knowledge,
the absence of the ability to produce speech may not
indicate a lack of language knowledge.
 Christopher Nolan
 Anne McDonald
 Rie
Speech comprehension without
speech production
 Persons who are mute but hearing can develop the
ability to comprehend speech without their being able
to produce speech, so long as their basic intelligence is
 Mute people can develop a grammar, a mental
based on speech comprehension; that
enabled them to understand the speech to which they
were exposed.
Speech comprehension with
speech production
 In normal children speech comprehension develops in
advance of speech production.
 If children did not first learn to understand the meaning of
words and sentences, they wouldn’t be able to use words or
sentences in a meaningful way.
 speech understanding always precedes production, which
is the pattern that continues throughout the acquisition
 The two systems of comprehension and production do not
develop separately in the normal child.
Speech comprehension with
speech production
 Pre-speech normal infants:
Most of the research on comprehension indicated that it
was 8 to 10 months of age when kids started to attach
language labels to particular objects.
Comprehension and production processes develop in a
parallel mode with production always trying to keep up
with comprehension.
The relationship of speech production,
speech comprehension, & thought
 I. speech comprehension necessarily precedes speech
 II. Thought as the basis of speech comprehension
Speech production lags behind
speech comprehension
 The Huttenlocher study
 The Sachs and Truswell study
 A reading before speaking study
The relationship of speech production,
speech comprehension , & thought
 Speech comprehension necessarily precedes speech
 Thought as the basis of speech comprehension
Child-Directed Speech
What is child-directed speech?
It is the sort of language that children receive when they
are young. It is also referred to as ‘Motherese’, ‘Parentese’,
‘Child-Directed-Speech’ (CDS), ‘Care Giver Speech’, and
‘Adult-to- Child Language’.
Child-Directed Speech
 Characteristics of child-directed speech:
1. Immediacy & concreteness
2. Grammaticality of input
3. Short sentences & simple structures
4. Vocabulary: simple & short
5. Pauses at the end of utterances
6. Slower rate
7. Repetitiousness
8. Exaggerated intonation, pitch, & stress
9. Older children, too, adapt their speech
Functions of child-directed speech
 Getting the addressee's attention
 Keeping and holding the addressee's attention
What role does CDS play in
 CDS offers potential lessons in how to take turns and
in what to say when.
 It also offers potential mapping lessons/ information
on how to talk about different kinds of situations,
which words to use, and for what.
Baby Talk
 Baby Talk is a form of parentese or motherese but
with its own characteristics [lexical & syntactic]
 Baby Talk involves the use of vocabulary and syntax
that is overly simplified and reduced
 Baby Talk is something that adults learn from other
adults and involves standardized vocabulary. It is
standard in the sense that such vocabulary is culturally
transmitted over generations
Baby Talk
 English examples
[C + V + (c)] × N
 bow-wow  barking dog
 pee-pee  urine
 choo-choo  train
 Japanese examples:
 shee-shee  urine
 wan-wan  barking dog
 bu-bu  car engine
Baby Talk
 Syntax plays a less prominent role in Baby Talk than
does vocabulary.
 Substituting proper names for personal pronouns
feature of baby talk.
 Parents & use occasional use of standard syntax in
Baby Talk [children’s telegraphic stage]
 E.g.
 Mommy give Tony banana
NOT, I will give you a banana
The effect of Parentese & Baby Talk in
language learning
 A positive but small effect and for very young children

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