Language Acquisition

Investigating the grammatical features of a child’s language and influences in a three year longitudinal study The topic under investigation is child language acquisition. I plan to use home videos of myself at the ages of three through to five, studying the linguistic features of my spoken language. I am interested in seeing how my language developed throughout this time; beginning at playschool and ending in having started school.

Carrying out a longitudinal study will be beneficial when researching language development, as it will give the opportunity to demonstrate how a child’s language improves and develops over time; any mistakes that become inevitably rectified, and how the language develops from simple sentences, to complex structures. I am also interested in looking at child directed speech; that is, how others direct their speech at a child. According to Frank Myszor in his book ‘Language Acquisition,’ there are three purposes of child directed speech and thirteen methods that can be used to demonstrate these purposes.

Part of my study will involve looking at how a caregiver (i. e. parent) and sibling affect and/or influence the way a young child uses language themselves. Will I copy my brother/mother/father? Will I react to what they say to me? Will my language become dependent on their languages choices? The source of the idea for this piece of work came largely from a topic discussed in the A2 English Language for AQA B textbook. I was initially inspired by the concept of a longitudinal study to see specifically how language develops and changes over time.

Subsequently, having begun the A2 Child Language Acquisition topic for Unit 6, I became fascinated with child directed speech and how an important figure in a child’s life can influence how the child speaks and develops their own language skills. I would like to see what exogenous factors play a role in a child’s language choices; whether social aspects have any impact and whether language used in different situations is entirely context dependent. As language acquisition is such a wide ranging topic, I have chosen to narrow my sights and concentrate on three aspects:

Grammar Lexis CDS (child directed speech) Aim: How does a child’s language develop grammatically and lexically over a period of three years, and how much impact do a caregiver / sibling have on the child’s language choices? Methodology Over the last few months I have been collecting my research necessary for the completion of this investigation. This involved watching videos of myself from the age of three to five and then sifting through to find qualitative and valuable data. This data was then transcribed. Following on from this, I began to analyse my data.

It was then necessary to choose an appropriate form of analysis. After transcribing the data, I decided an appropriate step would be to create a series of sub-questions to enable me to concentrate on each aspect of the investigation at the relevant time. These questions will be referred to at various points throughout the investigation, and I will be attempting to answer them in the findings of the study. Sub-questions 1. How much of a child’s language is dependent on the language used by those around them? Does a caregiver / sibling affect the utterances chosen by a child?

What evidence is there that a caregiver / siblings’ influence increases or decreases as the child grows older? 2. What grammatical terms are used by a child at the age of three and what evidence is there of these choices becoming refined by the time the child reaches five? 3. Does a child display confusion on a particular grammatical aspect of language at the age of three but fully understand the concept by the time they reach five? 4. Are there any gender differences in language between a boy and a girl of the same age? Is there any obvious difference between the mistakes made, or in the advancement of language acquisition?

5. How does a child use language to react to insults / criticisms made by an older sibling? Is there any proof of a sibling ‘bond’ through language use, evident in the data? Does an older sibling show jealousy of his younger sister through language or prosodic features? 1. How much of a child’s language is dependent on the language used by those around them? Does a caregiver / sibling affect the utterances chosen by a child? What evidence is there that a caregiver / siblings’ influence increases or decreases as the child grows older?

To analyse and conclude an answer to this question effectively, I will first discuss the aspects of child directed speech, proposed by Frank Myszor in his book “Language Acquisition. ” Myszor suggested that there are three purposes of child directed speech (the following are directly quoted from Myszor’s book, as mentioned above): 1. attract and hold the child’s attention; 2. help the process of breaking down language into understandable chunks; 3. make the conversation more predictable by keeping the conversation in the ‘here and now’ and referring to things that the baby can see.

In order to fulfil these purposes, Myszor proposed thirteen different features / methods of CDS: – Higher pitch and exaggerated intonation and stress – Repeated sentence frames – Repetition and partial repetition of adult’s own words – Questions and commands – Frequent use of the child’s name and an absence of pronouns – Absence of past tenses – A large number of one word utterances (holophrases) – Use of simple sentences – Omission of inflections e. g. plurals and possessives – Fewer verbs, modifiers (adjectives in front of nouns) and function words (such as ‘at’ ‘my’)

– Use of concrete nouns – Use of expansions – the adult fills out the child’s utterance – Use of re-castings – child’s vocabulary put into a new utterance When analysing the data for this sub-question, I will be mildly following Myszor’s ideas on child directed speech, as I am very keen to find out how much strength there was in Myszor’s arguments, or indeed, whether the data I have collected fits Myszor’s hypotheses. However, I am going to look at the data as a whole, without any preconceptions of previous theories or ideas. ANALYSIS 11/03/92.