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Theories of language development attempt to explain how humans, especially children, learn language. This course focuses on first language development (regardless of whether a child has one or multiple native languages) and not on second or foreign language development. The theories you explore may be categorized into three primary groups: behavioral, linguistic, and interactionist. The first approach, behaviorism, may be familiar from other areas of developmental psychology. Within the study of language, behaviorists view language as a learned skill like any other, albeit a very complicated one. Stimuli from the environment (parents and other language inputs) condition children to make connections between concepts and exhibit verbal behavior.

The second category of approaches is known as linguistic or nativist. These approaches propose that language could not possibly be a set of acquired behaviors. Instead, proponents of this school of thought suggest that humans have an innate language component in their brains, called a language acquisition device (LAD), that allows them to process the language around them, much like a computer. Development of this faculty must occur over a period of time but is evidenced by the fact that any infant has the capacity to develop any language.

The third group, interactionist, lies somewhere between the former two groups. Theories within the interactionist paradigm include Piaget’s theory of language and cognitive development, the information processing approach, and the social-interactionist approach. Each of these proposes differing views on the influence and interaction between innate cognitive processes and social environments in which children hear and use language.

For this Discussion, you examine a case study of hearing-impaired children who developed their own language system. To do this, you will apply one theory from the behaviorist, linguistic, or interactionist approaches as a lens through which to interpret the phenomena present in the case.

To prepare:

· Review this week’s Learning Resources and consider the different theories and their approaches to explaining language development.

· Read the article “A Linguistic Big Bang” and consider the language developed by the children in the case study.

· Select a theory from one of the following categories to apply to the case study: behaviorist, linguistic (e.g., Chomsky), or interactionist.

With these thoughts in mind:

By Day 4

Post an explanation of how your selected theory would explain the language development of the children in the case study and why.

Note: Be sure to identify the theory you selected in the subject line of your post.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources. Use proper APA format and citations.

Resources for this week, make sure to use resources when answering question. 

Gleason, J. B., & Ratner, N. B. (2017). The development of language (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

  • Chapter 7, “Theoretical Approaches to Language      Acquisition” (pp. 158–195)

Osborne, L. (1999). A linguistic big bang. New York Times Magazine, 84–89

Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Weisleder, A., & Fernald, A. (2013). Talking to children matters: Early language experience strengthens processing and builds vocabulary. Psychological Science, 24(11), 2143–2152. doi:10.1177/0956797613488145

Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Optional Resources

Serious Science. (2014, February 17). Language design – Noam Chomsky [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLk47AMBdTA

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