Language is the form of communication which is based on the system of written or signed symbols.It consists of words used by community guided by rules for varying and combining them.

Language is important in many ways:

      Speaking, listening, reading and writing

      Describing past events and planning for the future

      Cultural heritage in which information are passed to generations


      Infinity generativity: producing endless number of meaningful sentences by rules and words)

      Language is progressive development from simple (nouns, verbs) to complex (structures and components)

      Language is a learned complex behaviour and therefore requires efforts/actions, guidance/instruction and practice/exercise.


      Phonological rules: sound system which guided how we pronounce words.

      Morphological rules: units of meaning involved in word formation.

      Grammatical rules which guides how words are combined to form acceptable phrases

      Semantic rules: meaning of words and sentences to make sense of syntactically correct sentences.

      Pragmatic rules: use of appropriate conversation with others which guides how to effectively use language in relevant context.


          Where do language rules such as phonology, grammatical rules, semantic rules etc come from?

         Do we learn them from our social environment or do they come by default?



      Views language as a complex learned skill resulting from behavioural learning such as association, imitation, practice and reinforcement.

      Some studies have shown that the more children are exposed to the social environment, the more they master their mother language.


1.      Child directed speech

adult use of shorter and simple words with exaggerated intonation pattern to capture children attention and therefore reinforces children use of the language. For example, a father saying to the child, ‘aaaba!, aaaba!’

2.      Recasting

 rephrasing child’s sentences in a different way to elaborate the intended meaning.  Involves commenting, demonstrating, explaining and changing child’s sentences into a question.

    For example, ‘Bot’ is recast into ‘I want my bottle? Yes, here you are’

3.      Expanding

restating what the child said by adding better/clear meaning to the intended ‘childish’ meaning to teach the better use of language.

    For example, the child says, ‘dad coming’, the adult expands, ‘ Yes, dad is coming’ to help the child to construct a simple meaningful sentence.

4.      Labeling

Helping the child to identify the names of objects by associating words to the relevant objects.

    For example, saying, ‘kikombe’ while showing a child the cup to make her associate the object ‘cup’.    Language appears to follow extensive orderliness in its acquisition which does not appear to require explicit teaching or aid.


      The major assumption is that language is too complex to be explained by reinforcement, association and imitation.

      All languages appear to be guided by similar or related rules.

      A similarity of language acquisition is an evidence for biological basis of language (acquired by innate ability which is genetically determined)


      Humans have innate knowledge of language guided by Language Acquisation Device (LAD).

      LAD predetermines how the child uses the language and allows the interpretation of language and generation of sentences.

      Enables children to detect certain language categories such as phonology, syntax and semantics.

      The theory argues that language has two stages of acquisition:

    1) surface structure which includes words to express whatever is desired

   2) deep structure in which messages are expressed through the surface structure.

   Suggests that language is innately constructed

      Biological approach emphasizes that humans have critical periods where there is learning readiness of which beyond, learning is difficult or impossible.

      Preschool years are critical period for language.


      The approach combines the influence of biology and experience in language development.

      The major assumption is that language acquisition cannot be satisfactorily explained by either biological approach only or environmental/behaviorist approach only.

         The fact that children who are surrounded by very good language role models may not develop good language skills implies that there is also the role played by biological basis of behaviour.

      Language acquisition support system (LASS) which resembles ZPD is necessary for language acquisition.

      LASS includes the presence of the language skilled person in structuring and supporting the child’s language development.

      Skilled individuals are such as children’s significant others such as parents and siblings who help young children learn language.


      Before the child develops language, she uses crying as a way of communicating with others.

      Crying signals dissatisfaction, distress or significant others’ attention.

      By the 1 or 2 month, the child reduces crying and cooing replaces.

      Cooing is the infant expression of emotions by use of meaningless repetitive sounds which are not specific to certain languages.

      Before six months we can say infants are universal linguists (they speak the same language universally)

      By the sixth month, the child begins the process of acquiring her mother’s language in four main stages: babbling, imitation, creative and expressive stages.


      The child begins to use simple words which may not be meaningful in the adult language but resemble the mother language.

      Words such as ‘mma’ in Kiswahili are uttered to imply ‘maji’ or ‘water’ in English.

      The child struggle to master the language although language is associated with actions than words.


      Children attempt to imitate what others are saying in order to express themselves.

      Child’s vocabulary depends on how adults stress/emphasize, correct and demonstrate to her.

      The child recognizes language sounds and the comprehension becomes more noticeable.

      Overextension: tendency to misuse words by extending one words meaning to include unrelated objects such as ‘dada’ for father.

      Under extension: the child knows more than she can express and therefore fails to use a word to name a relevant event or object that she actually knows.



      The child struggles to put language in practice to test their ability to communicate. For example, they report about their experiences to adults.

      Through telling what they have seen, done and by asking questions, children acquire more vocabulary and adopt to speech style according to social situations.

      Adults’ instruction and direction enhances children’s language use.


      The child uses the language to express their feelings, emotions and experiences in different need situation.

      The child becomes analytical in her approach to words and categorizes her vocabulary by parts of speech.

      Improvement in logical reasoning and analytical skills leads to the advancement of grammar.


      Behaviourism views language as an external tool for communication with social environment and makes to attempt to relate language with internal use (thinking and reasoning).

       Biological approach focuses on how language is used for thinking and reasoning.

      Piagetian theory of cognitive development explains how language acquisition relates to thinking and reasoning.

The four stages of cognitive developments are explain language development as follows:

 1) Sensory motor stage: thinking is based on actions meaning that child’s body activities illustrate the child’s thinking

2) Preoperational stage: actions and language come together but actions dominate the child’s behaviour.

3) Concrete operational stage: language plays the dominant role in child’s thinking but the child uses language with concrete references.

4) Formal operational stage: learning relies entirely on language and an individual is able to talk about things she has not seen.


 Organization of our thoughts

    Language facilitates how we categorize ideas into manageable groups.  For example, to establish similarities and differences between a house and a school one needs to use language.

Conceptualization of ideas

    Language enhances abstraction/imagination of non-concrete things/objects. For example, we are able to think of Simanjiro even when we have never been there because of language.

Concept formation

   Language facilitates the way we present ideas in our minds. For example, students explain an animal cell by the use of language

 Storage of ideas

    Information is easily stored in memory by use of language. For example, we can easily encode and later retrieve the story if we read in the language that we understand. 


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