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The Stages of Language Development in Young Children, Reaction Paper Example

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This chapter seeks to explore the stages of language development in young children. By examining how children enter into and utilize the four main aspects of language-phonology, meaning, grammar, and communication–this chapter illustrates that language acquisition in young children is both unique and complementary to other forms of learning. The biological basis of language development helps to explain why and how children understand language and use it to communicate with others.  A greater awareness of the complexity of language development in young children allows for parents and educators to play a crucial role in supporting and facilitating children’s active engagement in the communicative process.

Unlike other forms of learning, language develops in children regardless of whether they are in an environment which encourages or discourages communication. Part of this is due to the self-motivating properties of language acquisition and the desire to imitate the people around them. Biology plays a large part in this process, as demonstrated by localization regarding the relationship between specific cognitive functions and parts of the brain. The plasticity of the human brain also contributes to language development, allowing children who have suffered brain injuries to continue to develop communicative skills by redirecting  the brain areas which control these functions.

Even as very young infants, children are aware of how the production and comprehension of speech sounds contribute to communication. Regardless of native language, phonology involves producing vowels and consonants and is the foundation to later language development. It allows for children to acquire the skills to grasp meaning and grammar, which allows for children to understand how words relate to what they describe and how words can be arranged into sentences for clarity of speech.  These aspects all work together to allow children to express their desires and needs through communication.

Given the absence of any cognitive or developmental problems, all children tend to speak their first words between the ages of 12 and 18 months. Regardless of nationality or socioeconomic conditions, children’s first words share a common desire to describe the elements of their world that interest them. This includes words meant to refer to parents and caregivers, animals, toys, and food. Although children begin to speak slowly, their acquisition of new words develops quickly around the age of 18 months.  This demonstrates the relationship between their cognitive and physical development in other areas, as well as their social experiences and the encouragement and support they receive from others regarding language.

There is a symbiotic relationship between children and their caregivers in which the responses of even young infants encourages adults to speak in ways that they will understand.  In turn, adults motivate young children to listen and mimic speech by using a style of conversation known as infant-directed speech.  This facilitates the language acquisition process and demonstrates to young children that speech and language are integral facets of all social relationships.

Although educators and theorists continue to debate whether children possess, as Noam Chomsky claims, a “language organ” that facilitates speech in all children, it is clear that there are aspects of language acquisition that are universal.  Children are capable of learning phonology, grammar, and word meaning in order to communicate with those around them, even when they’ve experienced physical or emotional trauma.  However the process of language acquisition is greatly assisted by social relationships. Thus, it is crucial that parents and educators understand the complexity of this process and the stages of development so that they may encourage language development in very young children and set the groundwork for communication skills in later life.

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