The Development of Language

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  • Edition: 9th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2016-03-02
  • Publisher: Pearson

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Featuring a multi-disciplinary approach–and chapters written by outstanding scholars known for their expertise in the areas they discuss–The Development of Language focuses on language acquisition throughout the lifespan, with new coverage of linguistic achievements in the first year of life and through the middle school years. It examines what we know about language development using biological, social, and cultural contexts, while also investigating individual differences, atypical development, literacy, and language development in adults. Each chapter is written by world-renowned scholars and cutting-edge researchers, and each chapter provides a helpful summary, list of key words, a comprehensive text glossary explaining each term, and extensive links to video resources that help bring the concepts to clarity, through examples of child communication behaviors, insights into how research into child language is conducted, and first person interviews with influential researchers in the field.


The new edition emphasizes language development in children who are learning languages other than English or are bilingual and includes new information about children with risk factors for language delay or disorder. Within each topical area, such as speech production, vocabulary, syntax, pragmatics, and literacy, the authors integrate discussion of potential problems or differences in how children learn the various aspects of language. Cultural influences that lead to group and individual variation in children’s language environments and profiles of language development are addressed throughout. The Enhanced Pearson eText features embedded videos.


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Author Biography

Jean Berko Gleason, PhD. is one of the world’s leading experts on children’s language and one of the founding mothers of the field of psycholinguistics. She created the famous “Wug Test”, which reveals how children learn the rules of language, such as how to make singular words plural. Her current work investigates parents’ speech and the interactive nature of language acquisition.  She is the author of leading textbooks in her field and many influential studies of aphasia, language development, gender differences in language, and language in the Roma community in Hungary.


Dr. Berko Gleason is Professor Emerita in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University.  A member of the Academy of Aphasia, she is past president of the International Association for the Study of Child Language and of the Gypsy Lore Society, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  Her classic work in child language development is frequently cited in the professional literature and featured in the popular media. She is a featured scientist in the award-winning PBS online Nova Science Now series The Secret Life of Scientists.


Nan Bernstein Ratner, Ed.D., C.C.C. is Professor, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, University of Maryland at College Park and participating faculty in the Maryland Language Sciences Center and Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience, and a Board-Recognized Specialist in Child Language and Language Disorders. Dr. Bernstein Ratner is the editor of numerous volumes, and author of numerous chapters and articles addressing language acquisition and fluency in children. Many of her research reports can be found in the Journal of Speech and Hearing Research and other major journals, with chapters in major texts on child speech and language development. With Jean Berko Gleason, Dr. Bernstein Ratner is the author of the text Psycholinguistics as well as prior editions of The Development of Language. In 2014, Dr. Bernstein Ratner received the Honors of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association; she was made a Psychology Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2015.

Table of Contents

1 THE DEVELOPMENT OF LANGUAGE: An Overview and a Preview 1

Jean Berko Gleason, Boston University

An Overview of the Course of Language Development 2

Communication Development in Infancy 2

Phonological Development: Learning Sounds and Sound Patterns 2

Semantic Development: Learning the Meanings of Words 2

Putting Words Together: Morphology and Syntax in the

Preschool Years 3

Language in Social Contexts: Development of Communicative Competence 3

Theoretical Approaches to Language Acquisition 4

Variation in Language Development: Implications for Research and Theory 4

Atypical Language Development 5

Language and Literacy in the School Years 5

Bilingual Language Development 6

The Structure of Language: Learning the System 6

Competence and Performance 6

Phonology 7

Morphology 7

Syntax 8

Semantics 8

The Social Rules for Language Use 9

The Biological Bases of Language 9

Animal Communication Systems 9

The Biological Base: Humans, Ancient and Modern 14

The Study of Language Development 18

Interest in Language Acquisition in Ancient Times 18

Studies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 18

Research in the Modern Era 19

Research Methods 20

Childes 23

Summary 23

Suggested Projects 25



Rochelle S. Newman, University of Maryland, College Park

Perceptual “Tuning” to Speech 27

Segmentation 28

Statistical Learning 29

Early Communicative Attempts 30

The Expression of Communicative Intent before Speech 31

Characteristics of Intentional Communication 31

The Forms and Functions of Early Communicative Behaviors 32

The Assessment of Communicative Intent 33

The Social Context of the Preverbal Infant 34

The Sound of the Caregiver’s Speech: “Listen to Me!” 35

The Conversational Nature of the Caregiver’s Speech: “Talk to Me!” 36

Contexts for the Emergence of Object Reference: “Look at That!” 38

Talk in Structured Situations: “Here’s What We Say” 39

First Words 40

Enhancing Early Development: A Summary 40

When Learning to Communicate Is Difficult 41

Summary 43

Suggested Projects 44


3 PHONOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT: Learning Sounds and Sound Patterns 45

Carol Stoel-Gammon, University of Washington

Lise Menn, University of Colorado

English Speech Sounds and Sound Patterns 45

IPA Symbols for Consonants 45

Classifying Consonants 46

Place of Articulation 47

Manner of Articulation 47

Voicing 48

Classifying Vowels 48

Contrast: The Phoneme 49

Phonotactics: Constraints on Possible Words 49

Prosodic Aspects of Speech: Stress and Intonation Contour 49

Production: The Prelinguistic Period 49

Sounds of Babbling 50

The Relationship between Babbling and Speech 51

Learning to Make Words 51

The Beginning of Phonological Development: Protowords 51

Words and Sounds: Vocabulary and Phonology Interact 52

A Cognitive Approach to the Acquisition of Phonology 53

Learning to Pronounce 54

How Real Children Pronounce Words 54

How to Describe Regularity in Children’s Renditions of Adult Words 55

Rules, Templates, and Strategies 58

Phonological Development: Norms and Measures 60

Phonetic Inventories of Young Children 60

Accuracy of Production 61

Ages and Stages of Acquisition 62

When Phonological Development Is Difficult 63

Phonological Disorders of Unknown Etiology 63

Articulation and Phonological Disorders Associated with Identifiable Causes 64

Effects of a Phonological/Articulation Disorder 66

The Acquisition of English Morphophonology 66

Parents’ Role in Phonological Development 67

Phonological Awareness and Reading Readiness 67

Language Variation in the United States: Languages, Dialects, and Speech Styles 67

Spanish in the United States 68

Consonants of (Mexican) Spanish, by Manner Class 69

Regional and Ethnic Dialectal Differences in English 70

Pronunciation in Conversational Speech 71

Summary 72

Child Phonology Problems 73

Suggested Projects 75

Suggested Websites 76


4 SEMANTIC DEVELOPMENT: Learning the Meanings of Words 77

Paola Uccelli, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Meredith L. Rowe, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Barbara Alexander Pan, Harvard Graduate School of Education

The Relations between Words and Their Referents 78

Mental Images 79

Theoretical Perspectives on Semantic Development 80

Learning Theory 80

Developmental Theories 81

Fast Mapping 82

The Study of Early Semantic Development 83

What Are Early Words Like? 84

Unconventional Word/Meaning Mappings 87

Invented Words 88

Differences between Comprehension and Production 89

How Adult Speech Influences Children’s Semantic Development 89

Individual Differences in Vocabulary Development: Home and School Factors 92

Vocabulary Development and Assessment in Bilingual Children 93

Later Semantic Development 95

Connections between Research and Practice 96

Metalinguistic Development 97

Word-Concept Awareness 98

Word-Meaning Awareness: Humor, Metaphor, and Irony 98

Word Definitions 100

When Learning New Words Is Difficult 100

A Life-Long Enterprise 102

Summary 102

Suggested Projects 103


5 PUTTING WORDS TOGETHER: Comprehension and Production of Morphology and Syntax in the Preschool Years 104

Andrea Zukowski, University of Maryland, College Park

Children’s Early Comprehension of Syntax 105

Studying Syntactic Development 106

Entering the Complex Linguistic System 107

Two-Word Utterances 108

Telegraphic Speech 109

Semantic Relations 110

Early Grammar 110

The Nature of Syntactic Rules 111

Measuring Syntactic Growth 116

Developing Grammatical Morphemes 119

Brown’s 14 Morphemes 119

Order of Acquisition 120

Optional Infinitives 121

Productivity of Children’s Morphology 122

Crosslinguistic Data 123

Different Sentence Modalities 124

Negatives 124

Questions 125

Later Developments in Preschoolers 127

Passives 127

Coordinations 129

Relative Clauses 129

Beyond the Preschool Years 131

Anaphora 131

Interpreting “Empty” Subjects in Infinitive Clauses 132

Knowledge versus Processing 132

Summary 134

Suggested Projects 134


6 LANGUAGE IN SOCIAL CONTEXTS: Development of Communicative Competence 137

Judith Becker Bryant, University of South Florida

Language in Social Contexts 138

Non-egocentric Language 139

Requests 140

Conversational Skills 141

Choices among Language Varieties 143

The Challenge of Acquiring Communicative Competence 146

How Do Children Acquire Communicative Competence? 147

Family Influences 147

Schools’ and Peers’ Influence 151

Children’s Cognitions and Efforts to Achieve Communicative Competence 152

Why Does Communicative Competence Matter? 155

Summary 157

Suggested Projects 157


John N. Bohannon III, Butler University

John D. Bonvillian, University of Virginia

Distinguishing Features of Theoretical Approaches 158

Structuralism versus Functionalism 159

Competence versus Performance 159

Nativism versus Empiricism 159

Evaluating Research Methods 160

Classic Behavioral Approaches 160

General Assumptions 160

Behavioral Language Learning 161

Evaluation of the Behavioral Approaches 163

Linguistic Approaches 164

General Assumptions 164

LAD and Development 166

Evaluation of the Linguistic Approaches 167

Interactionist Approaches 172

General Assumptions 172

Cognitive Approaches: Piaget’s Theory and Information-Processing Models 172

Information-Processing Approach 176

Social Interaction Approach 180

Gestural and Usage-Based Approach 187

Gestural and Sign Origins 187

Usage-Based Theory 190

Evaluation of Gestural and Usage-Based Theory 191

Summary 192

Suggested Projects 194


8 VARIATION IN LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT: Implications for Research and Theory 196

Beverly A. Goldfield, Rhode Island College

Catherine E. Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Ingrid A. Willenberg, Australian Catholic University

The History of Variation in Child Language Research 197

Variation in Early Words 198

Segmenting the Speech Stream 199

Variation in Early Sentences 201

Stability of Style across Words and Sentences 202

Sources of Variation 204

Child Factors 204

Input Factors 205

Socioeconomic Status 206

Linguistic Factors 208

Bilingual Language Learners 209

Context: The Interaction of Child, Caregiver, and Language 211

Implications of Variation for Theories of Language Acquisition 212

Summary 213

Suggested Projects 214



Nan Bernstein Ratner, University of Maryland, College Park

What Causes Atypical Language Development? 216

Communicative Development and Severe Hearing Impairment 217

Language Development 219

Lexical Development 220

Grammatical Development 220

Reading and Writing Skills 220

Pragmatic Skills 221

Educational Approaches to the Development of Language in Children Who Are Deaf 221

Acquisition of ASL as a First Language 223

Teaching Sign Language to Typically Developing and Developmentally Delayed Babies with Typical Hearing Skills 223

Sign Language and the Brain 224

Are You at Risk for Hearing Impairment? 224

Intellectual Disability and Communicative Development 224

Cognitive Disability and the Language-Acquisition Process 224

Language Development 227

Teaching Language to Children with Intellectual Disability 229

Autism Spectrum Disorder 230

General Characteristics 230

Causation 232

Specific Social and Communicative Weaknesses in Autism Spectrum Disorder 233

Language 234

Echolalia 234

Treatment 235

Specific Language Impairment 239

General Identity and Prevalence 239

Language Profiles of Children with Specific Language Impairment 239

Lexicon 240

Morphosyntax 241

Pragmatics 243

Concomitant Problems 244

Causative Explanations 244

Models of SLI 245

Is SLI Universal? 247

Language Intervention with Children Who Are Specifically Language Impaired 247

Atypical Speech Development 250

Childhood Stuttering 251

Evaluation of Suspected Speech and Language Disorders in Children 252

Summary 253

Suggested Projects 255



Gigliana Melzi, New York University

Adina R. Schick, New York University

Learning to Share Oral Stories 259

Sharing Oral Stories at Home 259

Oral Stories across Cultures and in Different Languages 263

Sharing Oral Stories in the Classroom 264

Playing with Language and Using Verbal Humor 266

Beyond Language Play: Types of Metalinguistic Knowledge 267

Developing Metalinguistic Awareness in Two Languages 269

Learning to Read 270

Engaging with Print at Home and in the Community 270

Reading Components 273

Reading Development 274

Approaches to Reading Instruction 275

Learning to Read in a Second Language 277

When Learning to Read Is Difficult 277

Learning to Write 279

Development of Spelling 279

Developing Writing Skills across Genres 280

Learning to Write in a Second Language 282

Summary 283

Suggested Projects 283


L. Quentin Dixon, Texas A&M University

Jing Zhao, Sun Yat-sen University/Harvard Graduate School of Education

Perspectives on Bilingual Language Development 287

The Child Language Perspective: Input and Interaction as Factors in Bilingual Acquisition 287

The Linguistic Perspective 287

The Sociocultural Perspective 289

The Psycholinguistic Perspective 290

Key Questions in Bilingual Language Development 290

Q1: What Are the Best Conditions for Acquiring Two Languages? 290

Q2: Are You Ever Too Old to Learn a Second Language? 293

Q3: Why Are Some People Better at Learning a New Language than Others? 294

Q4: How Much Does Bilingual Development Resemble Monolingual Development? 296

Q5: Is It Possible to Become a Perfect Bilingual? 299

Q6: Is Bilingualism an Advantage or Disadvantage? 301

When Learning a Second Language Is Difficult 304

Summary 305

Suggested Projects 306

References 308

Glossary 369

Name Index 383

Subject Index 398

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