This article is about the acquisition of language by children. For the development of the language development of children in activities for official or educational purposes, see language planning.
This article needs additional citations for verification. Language development is a process starting early in human life. Infants start without knowing a language, yet by 10 months, babies can distinguish speech sounds and engage in babbling. Typically, children develop receptive language abilities before their verbal or expressive language develops. Receptive language is the internal processing and understanding of language.
Usually, productive language is considered to begin with a stage of pre-verbal communication in which infants use gestures and vocalizations to make their intents known to others. According to a general principle of development, new forms then take over old functions, so that children learn words to express the same communicative functions they had already expressed by proverbial means. Language development is thought to proceed by ordinary processes of learning in which children acquire the forms, meanings, and uses of words and utterances from the linguistic input. Children often begin reproducing the words that they are repetitively exposed to.
The nativist theory, proposed by Noam Chomsky, argues that language is a unique human accomplishment, and can be attributed to either “millions of years of evolution” or to “principles of neural organization that may be even more deeply grounded in physical law”. Rather than a LAD evolved specifically for language, empiricists believe that general brain processes are sufficient enough for language acquisition. Other researchers embrace an interactionist perspective, consisting of social-interactionist theories of language development. In such approaches, children learn language in the interactive and communicative context, learning language forms for meaningful moves of communication. An older empiricist theory, the behaviorist theory proposed by B. Skinner suggested that language is learned through operant conditioning, namely, by imitation of stimuli and by reinforcement of correct responses. This perspective has not been widely accepted at any time, but by some accounts, is experiencing a resurgence.