Relationship Between Cognition and Language Development Learning New Words Term Paper

Pages: 11 (3138 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children

Language and cognition is relatively new, given the fact that Jean Piaget only began his research the theories in the mid-1900s. Toward the end of the 1900s and more so now, increasing numbers of studies are being conducted to determine the relationship between language and cognition. As can be seen by the articles below, in many cases the rudiments of language development are started very early -- some even in the first few months of birth. Such studies are of interest to educators and parents, as well as those who are working toward the betterment of such illnesses as autism. Although much has been learned about the interrelationship of language and behavior, much still will not be determined until the study of the brain becomes more advanced.

How do children learn to speak? For decades, psychologists, anthropologists, philsophers and linguists have debated this question. The cognitive theory of learning, first theorized by Piaget in the mid-1950s concerns the development stages when babies and children acquire new ways of mentally representing information. Since then, a wide variety of different and competing ideas of this relationship have been proposed, which continue to stimulate a large body of research. Although the results of these studies have brought researchers closer to the "truths" behind language development, it will not be until the construct and activity of the brain is thoroughy understood that the final answers concerning language will be known.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Relationship Between Cognition and Language Development Learning New Words Assignment

McGregor, Sheng and Ball (2007) note that children are usually seen as "word learning machines" They have no specific direction, yet add about eight to ten new words each day do their receptive vocabularies. By high school, most students have 60,000 words. Even with this many words acquired in such a short period of time, it just barely represents all that is learned during the first 18 years. The ability to learn words is extremely complex and multisided, and involves at minimum the mapping of the lexicon, or phonemes, syllables, and stress patterns, for example; word semantics, or its referent and the way that the two are connected.

Words are not normally learned immediately when heard. Instead, the child needs acquires necessary exposure of the word over time in meaningful contexts. McGregor, Sheng and Ball provide the example of a child experiencing his birthday party. Mom says, "Let me light the candle"; a few seconds later, Dad says, "Let's blow out the candle." Now the child has heard the lexical form two times at the same time as observing the candle at this point in time is minimal. Perhaps he will recognize the word or the object when he going to a friend's birthday party which will strengthen the memory trace will Each time the boy observes more candles, he will learn to label them with characteristics such as hot, colors, sizes and wax material. It is an extended process until the word is actually known.

Through this process the child is learning that words correspond to referents in their environment (Olswang et. al, 1983, p. 192). That is, a child's ability of first learning words relies in part on being able to recognize this relationship between what people are saying and the nonlinguistic context being observed. Normally in the language-learning process, parents encourage the child to focus on here-and-now objects and events to which they attach a verbal label. Studies show that parents are quite skilled at following a child's line of visual and/or motor attention to an environmental object. They simultaneously identify the essential features of that object and provide the correct verbal label in a linguistic manner the child can understand. Piaget suggested that from birth to about two years of age, or during the sensorimotor period of development, is the critical time when children first acquire language and most information about his/her environment through action. (Piaget, 1952, 1954).

In other words, by associating the word with the environment, the child is learning to identify essential defining features of objects and events that will eventually be linguistically coded. Research supports this theory by noting that first words and word combinations produced by children reflect this activity on the environment. Stewart and Hamilton (1976) characterized four different models of categories of words to normally developing children and the children's subsequent spontaneous production of words was monitored. They found the following hierarchical order in production of the four-word categories: (a) edibles, (b) manipulative objects (e.g., wind-up toy), - self-activated objects (e.g, lightbulb), and (d) passive category objects (for example., a picture or poster). They believe that this data suggest that those objects acted upon are then learned more readily.

The relationship between thought and language is basically known with these referents in the environment, but there is little agreement about how much of language acquisition is controlled by pre-linguistic concepts and in what ways. According to one widely held view by researchers such as Huttenlocher, Smiley and Charney (1983, as quoted in Papafragou, 2007), the relationship between developmental linguistic and nonlinguistic categories is rather evident: Acquiring language depends on conceptual development, but also reflects it to a rather precise degree. or, the rate of emergence of various linguistic expressions in a child's language development more or less directly indexes the degree of their conceptual complexity.

Another position by Benjamin Whorf instead suggests that language has the power to shape non-linguistic categories. Systematic encoding of certain conceptual distinction s in grammar may encourage to different degrees the speakers of the language to use these distinctions consistently in their non-linguistic thinking. That is, language structure may provide the basis for an individual's "default conceptual representation" (Pederson et al., 1998, p. 586). Educationally, language-specific encoding patterns can impact the salience or availability of some conceptual differentiations in the children's minds. Children learning different languages may develop different concepts at different times depending on the characteristics of the exposure language (Bowerman & Levinson, 2001).

Language ability changes in the second year, however, as noted by research. Researchers have long been interested by the fast, one-shot word learning that appears in children during their second year of life. Despite limitations of basic attention and memory processes and only the basic rudimentary social-pragmatic skills, the average toddler typically builds a vocabulary of over 500 words before the age of three (Stowe and Hahn, 2007). This ability to learn and retain new words with only minimal exposure is known as fast mapping. Many researchers see children's success at fast mapping as particularly amazing since they lack the conceptual requirements thought to be essential to support the appropriate interpretation of words. Fast mapping has been seen in normally developing children as early as 13 months of age. An investigation by Stowe and Hahn (2007) consisted of a longitudinal study of fast mapping skills in normally developing children, 16 to 18 months of age in order to analyze the impact of practice on the accessibility of words in lexical memory.

In this small study, eight children were taught the names of 24 unfamiliar objects over 12 weekly training sessions. The amount of practice the participants had with individual words varied as a function of session. Data were compared to a control group of children -- matched on productive vocabulary -- who were exposed to the same experimental words at the first and last sessions only. The results showed that for children in the experimental group, extended practice with a novel set of high-practice words led to the rapid acquisition of a second set of low-practice words. Children in the control group did not show the same lexical advantage. Thus, the authors concluded that learning some words primes the system to learn more words. Vocabulary development can thus be conceptualized as a continual process of fine-tuning the lexical system to enable increased accessibility to information. Implications for the treatment of children with word-finding difficulties are considered.

It is not only verbal clues that children get from communicators. Early nonverbal communication skills are believed to provide a basis for later language development as well. Actions such as gaze following, reaching and pointing are abilities that indicate both communicative and social development. For example, joint attention refers to situations where the child and adult together focus on an object or event (Strid, 2006). This behavioral pattern normally develops at about nine to ten months old. It is recognized as critical for social and language development behavior that children use to obtain a desired object. Object requesting is similar to joint attention but is used to regulate someone else's behavior and has been demonstrated to predict later expressive and receptive language.

It is believed that different processes control behaviors emitted in response to another person's initiation and those initiated by the child (Delgado, Mundy, Crowson, Markus,&Schwartz, 2002), because results show that they predict different kinds of later language skills. Behaviors initiated by the child are seen to be associated with expressive language skills and later cognitive competencies; responding to joint attention is similarly believed to be associated with both later expressive and receptive language skills.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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