Language Development


Language Development Essay, Research Paper

Nicholas Filling

Gen. Psy. 101

July 14,1999

Language Development

Language development is a very special process. There are three steps in the

development of the human language. There is phonological development, semantic

development, and finally grammar development. I will explain to you what these

steps consist of and how two gorillas learned language and who taught them.

Phonological development is one of the first types of human language development. According to the text Essentials of Psychology. “Phonological Development is the development of the ability to produce recognizable speech.”(pg.262) When a baby is first born he or she babbles. When the baby gets older the babbling narrows and consists mainly of sound used in the language. When the baby gets to this step, the baby’s production of the first spoken word is very soon. The baby’s first word should be said before he or she reaches their first birthday. When the child gets to the ages of one and two his or her vocabulary increases rapidly. Many average toddlers have a vocabulary of fifty words or more. The words toddlers generally have in their vocabulary are that of family member’s names, familiar objects such as ball or ninny, and some of their favorite foods. Children use most of these words as a holophrase. Holophrases are single words utterances that communicate meaning.

Semantic development is the second language development that we get when we get older. According to the text Essentials of Psychology “Semantic development is the development of understanding of the meaning of spoken or written.”(pg.262) Vocabulary increases very quickly after the age of two. Many toddlers learn new words each day. When a child reaches the age of six his or her vocabulary is about several thousand words. At the age of six they understand negatives such as “no” and how to use these words in a correct sentence. Also when they are six they acquire words that allow their being more specific in describing they’re own thoughts and the world around them. They also learn to use question words, which allows them to ask for information specific ways. When children increase their vocabulary , they often demonstrate several errors. Accordingly to the text Essentials of Psychology one error is over extensions that is a tendency to extend the meaning of a word beyond it’s limiting the meaning of word more than appropriate.

Grammar development is the last of the development stages and poses little problem for humans to development. Every language has grammar, a set of rules dictating how words can be used in a sentences. A child must understand these rules as well and know how to say the words correctly. When children get to the age of two, they talk in two word sentences and use a pattern out textbook calls a telegraphic speech. Children’s grasp of grammar continues to increase as they move to longer sentences. When the children get older they add inflection words to their vocabulary. In the English language this includes the letter “s” to indicate more than one object and endings that change the tense of a verb. From this, children increase their language and start to link two or more ideas in the phrase. They also generally learn to understand, and use sentences in which ideas are implied or understood rather than directly said.

After hearing all the information about human language development do you think animals can develop language human language? I say yes and here is a one study that I am going to talk about.

The Gorilla Foundation web site describes how they taught American Sign Language to two gorillas named Koko and Michael. The Gorilla Language Project is the longest continuous inter-species communication project in the world. This project serves as a unique resource for all psychologists who wonder if animals can really learn human language. Studying gorillas’ intelligence and behavior will lead to a greater understanding of the species physical and psychological needs. Through this knowledge we can take the necessary steps to improve the treatment of captive gorillas and protect free living gorillas from extinction. Koko is a female gorilla born in 1971 and Michael is a male gorilla both in 1973. Koko is participation in this study began when she was one year old. Their intellectual, physical, and linguistic development has been studied since they were infants. Before the Gorilla Language project with Koko little has been know about gorilla intelligence.

The Gorilla Language Project is both an effort to gather data about gorillas’ language and a case study to observe behavior. During the course of the study Koko has developed a working vocabulary of over 500 signs and has shown over 400 more signs. Koko’s conversations with her human friends are about three to six word sentences. Koko has a tested IQ of between 70 and 95 on a human scale. The average for is 100. Michael can also sign about 350 words. In addition to studies of vocabulary the project has investigated spontaneous gorilla language use. By demonstrating the intelligence of gorillas. The Foundation hopes to protect them from captive and mistreatment. The project Koko has proven that the stereotypical image of gorillas as bloodthirsty animals is inaccurate. The study of gorillas’ language sheds light on the vital connection between human and gorillas.

We had known little about how animals could understand our language. The gorillas’ have the ability to learn and understand phonological development, semantic development, and grammar development which all are basic compounds to human language. One day all animals will be able to talk by using the human language.

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