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How do adults contribute to infant lexical development? Discuss.

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Introduction

How do adults contribute to infant lexical development? Discuss. In order to full answer the essay question the antithetical question of 'how do adults not contribute to infant lexical development?' should be answered. How adults contribute requires a response based on the childs acquisition of empirical knowledge (knowledge existing outside of the individual) compared to innate knowledge (that which exists within us, independently of our environment) Holistically, though children seem to develop speech on their own initiative, interaction with adults provides them with the nuances of their cultural lexicon. Trevarthan (1974a) found that babies from birth to six months behaved in a way which was termed pre-speech, or pre-lexical communication. They seemed to move their mouths in what appears as an imitation of speech. When they are about two months, they make almost indistinct vowel sounds to communicate with others. Which is probably the foundation for the turn taking skills found in later conversations. Gelman & Shaltz (1977) found that adults and older children (+4 years) simplified their speech to talk to younger children, for instance by using shorter sentences, placing greater emphasis on certain words and speaking in a higher pitch. The Baby Talk Register is thought to enhance language acquisition. Cazden's (1965) 3 month studies on effective language acquisition in children showed that it was nearly enough for language to be expanded upon and corrected, but that they child acquired more complex syntax if the child's language was corrected in the context of a reply to what the child was trying to communicate. ...read more.

Middle

The theory also seems to suggest that LAD is divorced from other intellectual mechanisms, therefore simplifying what language is. The learning theory is empirically slanted, and emphasizes the role of the environment and therefore the adult in the child's lexical development. The learning theory stresses the way children are operationally conditioned to learn, through reinforcement and imitation. Skinner (1957) identified three key ways that children learnt speech: echoic responses, production of mands and tact responses. Echoic responses were the result of a child imitating sounds, which would elicit a positive response, therefore reinforcing this behaviour. A mand was a random sound that a child would produce, but which, if having some meaning for the parent, would be encouraged for future use. A tact is were a child uses an imitated word in front of a given object or entity and is rewarded. Eventually, the child's language is conditioned to be like those of the parents. However there are many flaws in with the theory, for instance, Language acquisition occurs at a high rate, the child far longer however, if they were only reinforcing and imitating what they had heard. More so, as Herriot (1970) argued children make 'virtuous errors' when applying grammatical rules which were unlearnt but creative uses of language, such as 'I swammed' or 'I ated', this he believed, was probably a result of trying to learn irregular morphemes. ...read more.

Conclusion

Reproductive assimilation is the childs ability to interact with objects and then distingiush their characteristics.When objects were being accomodated and assimilated a balancing act took place called equilibration, which much resembled homeostasis. Developmental language disorders, show that linguistic structures are to some degree innate and that a child with normal linguistic skill will benefit more from tutoring than a child who has a language disorder. However, as not all children have fixed linguistic ability, it is a mistake to assume that all children will benefit from the same types of tutoring. Therefore adults will most positively influence lexical development if they are able to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of a child in question, in this way, the Piagetian approach to recognising the limitations of a child is not wrong. However, as Vygotsky sought to show, nor is wrong to try and challenge the child with tasks that are not usual for them, as this can accelerate language development. Though it still proves controversial, it is generally acknowledged that there are some innate lexical mechanisms that manifest themselves with increased maturation. However, though an organized lexicon can be found in all human societies, there are differences, such as in dialect, and vocabulary, which are considered culture specific. This suggests that those who have already mastered a comprehensive lexicon transmit their knowledge to those who are learning, such as infants. ...read more.

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