By reference to the data and to ideas from language study, write about how Tom uses language. You should take account of context in your answer. The written transcript between Tom and his mother reveals the ways in which Tom’s linguistic development is achieved through techniques used by his mother, such as reinforcement and covert correction. Tom’s mother speaks to Tom using ‘child directed speech’, and relies on asking Tom direct questions in order to prompt speech. She used simple lexis and grammar as an extension of Tom’s speech, in order to allow him to understand. Tom is in a developed stage of telegraphic phase of language acquisition.
His vocabulary is limited, but he seems to understand a range of lexis that his mother uses. Some of his sentences, although simple, are grammatically correct – although others have grammatical features missing. By using direct questions such as “Where do they go? ” Tom’s mother is encouraging Tom to reply and therefore develop his speech. Because she is using the demonstrative determiner (grammar), it can be assumed that she is pointing at something and using visualisation in order to advance Tom’s learning. His mum also asks him to interact by asking him ‘how many chickens are there?
‘ By counting the chickens Tom is learning both numerical and linguistic skills. By focusing Tom’s attention on objects, she is increasing his word meanings. His mother also asks; Mother: and we saw some chickens this morning, didn’t we? ” Tom: we did By using a tag question (lexis), she is informing Tom of the correct answer, but still allows him to understand the question and reply in his own time. By doing this, Tom’s attention is drawn to the memory of seeing chickens instead of the question. He therefore learns to attach the title ‘chicken’ to the animals he has seen, which avoids overgeneralization.
Tom and his mother mostly use interactional language in order to make contact with each other and build their relationship, as well as encouraging Tom’s language development. Although Tom sometimes struggles with lexis and semantics, he is able to place words in a grammatically correct order; Tom: I squashed it Berko (1958) carried out experiments on children, which reveal that they are able to use accurate grammar from a very young age. This could be through imitating ‘adult speech’ but it also has been suggested that children are able to grasp grammatical rules even at such a young age.
Tom simplifies the pronunciation of harder words by using deletion and substitution (phonology). For example Tom substitutes the ‘th’ sound with ‘d’ in order to simplify the word ‘that’. He also deletes the ‘eep’ from ‘sheep’ to make ‘sh’. Tom’s mother often uses covert correction to show Tom the ‘correct’ way to pronounce a word. For instance, when Tom asks; Tom: is dat your talker? Mother: Yeah that’s a tape recorder. By correcting Tom, it is likely that he will remember his mother’s correction and begin to pronounce ‘dat’ as ‘that’ or refer to a ‘talker’ as a ‘tape recorder’.
Tom’s word order is often correct; however, he still struggles with plurals and tenses. Tom is trying to talk about a past event when he states “they feel feathers. ” His mother corrects him and replies “they felt like feathers. ” By reinforcing the correct tense, Tom’s mother is ensuring Tom’s language development is successful. Imitation and reinforcement (Skinner 1957) claimed that a child learns a language by imitating adults and older children. When the child gets the word or sentence correct, they are praised and therefore usually will repeat the correct word in future.
Also, an adult will often reinforce correct usage of words or grammar by repeating it back to the child. Tom imitates his mother, and in return she uses reinforcement, throughout the conversation; Tom: I need to fix dad’s bike Mother: you need to fix dad’s bike Tom: I need to fix dad’s bike This turn taking of imitating and reinforcing plays an important part in phonological and grammatical development as it strengthens a child’s knowledge and confidence in the use of language. Both Tom and his mother use instrumental language here in order to express their needs or wishes and inform the other of them.