Language is the fundamental means of communication in everyday life; it begins at birth, even though children are not able to speak words. While there are five parts to language development, people develop language skills and acquisition at different rates from one another.
Phonology is the first stage of learning language. The phonology system consists of English sounds with 44 different sounds. Using the smallest unit of sound, children learn how to pronounce and read words. In this stage of language development, dialect is formed. In different regions and cultures, letters and words are pronounced differently. For example, American English is different than the English spoken in the United Kingdom or Great Britain.
The second part of language develop is morphology. A morpheme is the smallest unit of language. This entails grammar and using words that form sentences. At an early stage, children learn smaller, more common words while beginning to form sentences. As the child grows, the level of syntax improve to where the child can then combine more complex words and sentences, including punctuation and adding root words, prefixes and suffixes.
The rules of language are governed by syntax. The way a sentence is structured and the parts of speech fall under syntax. Correctly formed sentences improve with one's age and vocabulary. Whereas a child would not know about sentence structure (subject, noun, verb) format, it is through speaking that they can realize if something doesn't sound correct. An older person would be able to do the same as well, but may have a better understanding of the parts of a sentence and speech, along with the order in which words are used.
The fourth part of language development is learning the meaning of words, or semantics. Recognizing that words have various meanings and can be used in sentences, yet have different connotation, is a learning process. As young children are learning language, they may find it more difficult to choose appropriate words to convey their message. They may use a word that is be similar to what they are trying to convey. For example, the child may call a worm a snake. Snake and worm would most likely mean the same thing to him. As children age and their vocabulary improves, they begin to use correct or more precise words.
The last part of language development is pragmatics. This is the way people use language in various settings. We all learn to use certain language based on our environment. Language in a church setting would be different than that on a sports team, for example. Children begin to learn that language in school is often different from that at home. This is especially true if the child is immersed in a different culture at home.
- Language Acquisition - The Basic Components of Human Language, Methods for Studying Language Acquisition, Phases in Language Development
- "Language Arts: Content and Teaching Strategies"; Gale E. Tompkins; 2002
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Social Language Use (Pragmatics)
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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