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Language acquisition in its developmental context

Bloom, Lois

At the close of the 20th century, several influential theories of language acquisition had emerged out of nativist theories in linguistics or logical arguments in the philosophy of language. This review of this last generation of theory and research in language acquisition emphasizes, in contrast, explicitly psychological theories of language development. Acquiring language is always a psychological task for the child, not a logical one, and the linguistic problems to be solved are always embedded in personal and interpersonal contexts. Developments in affect, cognition, and social interaction provide the driving force for acquiring a language: Affect promotes engagement with the physical and personal world for learning and for sustaining intersubjectivity with other persons. Cognitive development yields conceptual knowledge and the symbolic capacity for the mental representations that language expresses and that result from interpreting the expressions of others. Social developments press the child to learn a language to share contents of mind with other persons and thereby assume a place in culture and society. All aspects of development come together for acquiring language. When we put all the effort at explanation, instead, into only one or another aspect of development or into only the words and linguistic structures of the adult language the child needs to learn, the result is a loss of perspective on the psychology of the child. It is also a loss of perspective on language itself and the power of expression it provides as children move from the origins of language in infancy to acquiring a vocabulary of words, combining words in phrases and simple sentences, the beginnings of complex syntax, and learning language in and for conversations.


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Also Published In

Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 2, Cognition, perception, and language
John Wiley

More About This Work

Academic Units
Human Development
John Wiley
Published Here
June 14, 2017