Putting the Child (Back) into the Study of Language Acquisition

Bloom, Lois

A cold wind has blown down from the Northeast, casting a chill on the study of language acquisition: In research driven by adult linguistic theory and, in particular, the linguistic theories of MIT, it is a device that acquires a language, not a child, and language is separate from the rest of cognition and human development. The purpose of my presentation will be to 'put the child back into the study of language acquisition' by showing how language is integrated with other behaviors, and the development of language connects with other aspects of children's development. I begin with a brief review of how the focus shifted from a child to a device in the last generation of language acquisition research and theory. I then present a developmental model of language acquisition based on the young child's intentionality (Bloom,1993a, 1997, Bloom & Beckwith, 1989) and use the model to interpret results from some current research. The research findings show how children's language connects with their affective, social, and other cognitive behaviors–both in the real time of everyday events and the developmental time encompassed by the 2nd year of life. The conclusions are that language is not special and is not separate from the rest of a child's life and development. Therefore, theories of language acquisition that do not consider the larger developmental context in which language develops cannot be truly explanatory.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Human Development
Published Here
November 20, 2017


Address on Receiving the G. Stanley Hall Award for Distinguished Contribution to Developmental Psychology from the American Psychological Association, Division 7, Chicago.