Thinks animals are able to learn things by
imitation and reinforcement. Therefore,
humans learn language by these methods too.
language use and
Obviously this theory
is unlikely to be the
only way children
learn language, and
many objections exist.
Developmental milestones - children learn language at the same rate, no matter race, sex, culture, and
even if they're spoken to less than another child
Logical mistakes - if this theory was true, why would
children create words they've never even heard?!
Exceptions - Lenneberg (1962) conducted research to show that even people that couldn't imitate can still
write and use language. Likewise, deaf people can often speak relatively well and also use language
Critical period - feral children cannot imitate if after the critical period. If this theory was true, why
can't they learn language?
Caretaker reinforcement - parents do not reinforce the child every single time they get something wrong or
praise them every time they get it right so how could the child be sure?
Resistance to correction - if
children are susceptible to
changing their language through
parent reinforcement, why do
some never change their
language after millions of
only used to
get what the
child wants or
David Crystal, however, argues that language has a phonological use. It's used just because it's fun and the love of the sound of it!
(1973) - One Word
parents will have
than those who
Instrumental = language used to identify biological needs (e.g. water)
Regulatory = language used to control others (e.g. shut the door)
interactional = language with no actual meaning, mainly to form friendships (e.g. you alright)
Personal = emotional language which relates to pain, fear, stress and emotions (e.g. OUCH)
Heuristic = language seeking information (e.g. why do we exist?)
Imaginative = the language of creative writing, poetry and roleplaying. (e.g, I'll be the doctor and you be the patient)
Representational = langage that communicates information (e.g. the sky is blue)
Performative = language that attempts to control reality (e.g. curses,
charms, prayers, magic)
We talk to children in
different ways than we
talk to adults in order to
help them understand
and learn language.
Phonology = speak
slowly with longer
1973, says we
time of 3.7
with open tag
Pragmatics = more
physical gestures, fewer
utterances per turn,
supportive language and
questions to ensure the
adult has correctly
understood the child.
The belief that we all
have an internalised
system of rules that
relate sound and
meaning in a particular
way and allow us to
The theory that in the first 18 months of language learning, children see themselves at the centre of the universe and think and
speak about everything in relation to themselves. They learn language as they begin to identify that other things exist except
themselves and they then recognise these other things have words.
Ruth Weir (1972)
Conducted research on her son and
found that his pre-sleep dialogues
showed hum going though linguistic
drills in order to try and learn language.