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Language Development from Psychological Perspective

How can the study of aphasia patients advance our knowledge of language processing and language development?

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According to Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams (2011), aphasia is “the neurological term for any language disorder that results from brain damage caused by disease or trauma” (p. 6). People with aphasia rarely experience total language loss; instead, certain aspects of speech may become difficult for them (Fromkin et al., 2011, p. 7). Examining the speech of aphasia patients can point out the aspects of language that are impaired if certain brain areas are damaged, which is why the study of aphasia patients is essential to fully understand the connection between the human brain and speech. As an example, the authors found that studying patients with Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia helped to prove the modular structure of the brain, whereas looking at word substitutions that aphasic patients produce show the organization of words in the mental lexicon, i.e. that the words are not merely listed in our lexicon but rather represent a complex network with either phonetic or semantic connections.

What do games like Peek-a-boo and This Little Piggy do to facilitate language development? What are some of the characteristics that these games share with the adult conversation?

Owens (2015) explains that games such as Peek-a-boo and This Little Piggy incorporate all aspects of communication: just like in adult conversation, “There is an exchange of turns, rules for each turn, and particular slots for words and actions” (p. 108). Peek-a-boo provides an early example of dialogue, which is necessary for young children’s language development (Owens, 2015, p. 108). This Little Piggy, on the other hand, uses finger play to support the words of the sequence, thus employing both the brain and the muscles to stimulate the development of speech. It can also be useful in teaching basic sentence order and showing the process of supporting the talk with actions.

Discuss some of the ways that culture, gender, and socioeconomic factors can influence (both positively and negatively) language development.

Culture, gender, and socioeconomic factors all have a strong influence on the child’s language development. Owens (2015) writes, “In middle-SES American English-speaking families, parental behaviors differ based on the number and gender of the children and perceived differences in the children’s abilities, and in two- or single-parent households” (p. 164). Moreover, the birth order also influences language development in children, since first-born kids get more attention and, therefore, more language practice from parents. Negative socio-economic situation – for instance, of African American families – can impair the child’s language development due to limited education options and the lack of parents’ attention (Owens, 2015, p. 244), whereas better access to education can facilitate language development in children from more economically stable families. Gender differences, on the other hand, can influence not only the way people speak but also the way they think about speech and objects. For instance, Fromkin et al. (2011) argue that there is a possibility that grammatical gender can impact our view of the objects: “Some psychologists have suggested that speakers of gender-marking languages think about objects as having gender, much like people or animals have” (p. 314).

Explain the challenges of referring a bilingual child for a language evaluation. What do professionals recommend when evaluating a second language learner?

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Whereas true bilingualism means that a person can speak two languages with the same proficiency, it is extremely rare (Owens, 2015, p. 202). Most often, there is a prevailing language that a child knows better than the other one, but it is also common for a person to be semi-proficient in both languages. Factors such as the input of language, the environment of language development, as well as individual and maternal factors, all account for the different levels of proficiency that bilingual children might have (Owens, 2015, p. 202). Therefore, an individual evaluation may show negative differences between monolingual and bilingual children, which is why it is recommended to evaluate both bilingual children and second language learners in the language they know best, or in both languages at once.

Provide one piece of evidence, with an example, to support the nativist (nature) point of view on language development. Then provide one piece of evidence, with an example, to support the constructionist (nurture) point of view.

One of the main pieces of evidence in support of the nativist view was the children’s way of building short phrases (Owens, 2015, p. 36). Owens (2015) explains that children use a syntax construction scheme that differs in its structure from an adult’s speech but has a meaning nevertheless, such as “Daddy eat cookie” (p. 36). Due to the differences between child and adult syntax, it could not be assumed that this structure came from hearing the parents’ speech, which meant that this way of connecting words was innate. For constructionists, on the other hand, the main piece of evidence was the person’s ability to learn other languages by interacting with native speakers (Owens, 2015, p. 36). For instance, when a person moves to live in another country, they will soon start speaking the language, even if he or she has never learned it before.

What are some of the strategies caregivers use to facilitate language? In your answer, you may want to discuss adaptive techniques, such as IDS, physical facilitation, and elaborative techniques such as parallel talk.

Caregivers are the primary source of language knowledge for infants and toddlers. One of the strategies to facilitate language development is the active use of facial expressions: “infants are especially responsive to their caregivers’ voice and face. In fact, a young infant will attend to a human face to the exclusion of just about everything else” (Owens, 2015, p. 106). Infant-directed speech, or IDS, therefore, becomes an efficient practice to promote language development. Using repetition and variation, caregivers can attract the infant’s attention and keep the infant alert and interested, whereas the use of simple structures in IDS can help children to build a simple vocabulary and to learn to speak short phrases quicker (Owens, 2015, p. 121).


Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2011). An introduction to language (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Owens, R. E. Jr. (2015). Language development: An introduction (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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