This article is about the acquisition of language by children. For the development of languages for official or educational purposes, see language planning. This article needs the language development of children literature 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. Evolutionary biologists are skeptical of the claim that syntactic knowledge is transmitted in the human genome. However, many researchers claim that the ability to acquire such a complicated system is unique to the human species. One hotly debated issue is whether the biological contribution includes capacities specific to language acquisition, often referred to as universal grammar. For fifty years, linguist Noam Chomsky has argued for the hypothesis that children have innate, language-specific abilities that facilitate and constrain language learning.
Researchers who believe that grammar is learned rather than innate, have hypothesized that language learning results from general cognitive abilities and the interaction between learners and their human interactants. It has also recently been suggested that the relatively slow development of the prefrontal cortex in humans may be one reason that humans are able to learn language, whereas other species are not. Language development and processing begins before birth. Evidence has shown that there is language development occurring antepartum.
When the infants were born, they were then tested. Throughout the first year of life, infants are unable to communicate with language. This phenomenon is known as prelinguistic gestures, which are nonverbal ways that infants communicate that also had a plan backed with the gesture. Examples of these could be pointing at an object, tugging on the shirt of a parent to get the parent’s attention, etc.
18 months of age, language acquisition flourishes. There is a surge in word production resulting from the growth of the cortex. Infants begin to learn the words that form a sentence and within the sentence, the word endings can be interpreted. It appears that during the early years of language development females exhibit an advantage over males of the same age. When infants between the age of 16 to 22 months were observed interacting with their mothers, a female advantage was obvious. The females in this age range showed more spontaneous speech production than the males and this finding was not due to mothers speaking more with daughters than sons.