Discussion: Language Acquisition and Symbol Weaving—Conflicting or Complementing Views?

  

Families everywhere get excited when their baby begins to talk. As you read in your texts, infants’ verbal communication skills become increasingly complex in the short span of only a couple of years. “Da-da” or “ma-ma” soon becomes “daddy” or “mommy,” and approximately at the end of the second year, young children communicate in short sentences.
This week, you also learned that scientists have developed a number of different theories about how (and for what purpose) children learn to speak. Two seemingly contrasting proposals emerge from these theories:

When it comes to language, infants teach themselves, and they do this primarily so they can make sense of the world around them. From this point of view, language acquisition is primarily a cognitive task.
Infants learn the language as a creative, emotional, and interactive endeavor through social interaction with peers, and primarily for the purpose of social interaction.

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As you review the readings for this week, focus and reflect on the following questions:

In which ways do child development theorists explain the process of language acquisition?
In what ways do these theories differ from each other?
What is the difference between defining language learning as “language acquisition” and defining it as “symbol-using and symbol weaving”?
What does each of these theories imply about the role of the young child in the acquisition of language?

By Day 3
Post your response to the following scenario:
One of your friends is expecting her first child. She is part of a small group of first-time parents who are eager to learn all they can about child development. Knowing that you are currently enrolled in a child development course, your friend asks you to provide the group with information about language development.
Considering all that you read this week about children and language development:

Which theory or combination of theories would you use for your presentation, and why?
Which position or combination of positions about the goals of language learning and use would you incorporate, and why?

Be sure to support your response with specific references to and/or examples from the readings.

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