Language acquisition, English

Language Acquisition

Learning a primary language is core to what makes all of us human and it is an expected and natural development that is built into the human species (Bruer 1999). The process of becoming competent in a first language requires very young children to master: phonol- ogy (the sounds of the language); vocabulary (the words of the language); grammar (the way the words are ordered and put together); discourse (the way the sentences are put together); and pragmatics (the rules of how to use the language) (Tabors 1997; Siraj- Blatchford and Clarke 2001). Though complex, a child's initial foray into language development begins at birth as the child interacts with others, building both a receptive vocabulary and a phenomenal ability to express all of the other important pieces of their language in a fairly competent manner by the age of five. Once children have at least 50 useful words at about 18 months and the understanding that objects have particular names, there is often a language 'explosion' or 'word spurt' (McMurray 2007) where toddlers begin their journey toward owning the approximately 6,000 words they will have at school entry and the 60,000 words they will use in adulthood for the following: to satisfy needs and wants (instrumental), to control others (regulatory), to create interactions with others (interactional), to express personal thoughts and opinions (personal), to create imaginary worlds (imaginative), to seek information (heuristic) and to communicate information to others (informative) (Stewig and Jett-Simpson 1995; Kostelnik, Soderman, and Whiren 2007).

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