Language development is in the mind and action of the child. Plenary Address, Fourth International Congress for the study of Child Language, Lund, Sweden, July 1987

Bloom, Lois

The theory of language development described here explicitly addresses the contents of the young language-learning child’s conscious states of mind, with the proposal that language is acquired to express contents of mind and to interpret what others have in mind. The theory is a mental theory of expression and interpretation, in contrast to theories centered on support from adults in the environment or on the instrumental function of language to get things done in the world. The major thrust of a theory of language development that takes such an Intentional stance is the emphasis it places on the mind and actions of the child in development. This mental perspective provides the foundation for the various functions of language, including but not limited to its social and instrumental functions. Preliminary results are presented from research in progress with 14 children and their mothers, who were observed every month beginning before they began to say words until they began to combine words in simple sentences. The practice of rich interpretation of children’s words and sentences in language acquisition research was extended to interpret what a child had in mind when expressing affect and saying words, with the children equated for language development, at First Words (FW) and a Vocabulary Spurt (VS), rather than age. The psychological attitudes and propositional contents attributed to their speech and affect expressions form the preliminary results of the studies described here.


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Academic Units
Human Development
Published Here
May 31, 2017