The Onset of Language

The Onset of Language

The Onset of Language

The Onset of Language

Excerpt

This book outlines an approach to the development of expressive and communicative behavior in early infancy until the onset of a single word which is rooted in ethology and dynamic action theory. Here the process of expressive and communicative actions, organized as a complex and cooperative system with other elements of the infant’s physiology, behavior and social environments, is elucidated. Overall, humans are provided with a finite set of specific behavior patterns, each of which is probably phylogenetically inherited as a primate species. However, the patterns are uniquely organized during ontogeny and a coordinated structure emerges, which eventually leads us to acquire spoken language. A dynamic model is presented where elements can be assembled for the onset of language in the infant in a more fluid, task-specific manner determined equally by the maturational status and experiences of the infant and by the current context of the action.

No doubt, communication is a social phenomenon and the most prominent feature of human speech and language. The complex organization of human societies is mediated by the ability of members to inform one another and is dependent on the exchange of information. Therefore, not surprisingly, many scientists have focused attention on how children acquire language ability.

Although children do not produce linguistically meaningful sounds or signs until they are approximately one year old, the ability to produce them begins to develop in early infancy, and important developments in the production of language occur throughout the first year of life. Unless they are hearing-impaired, infants acquire phonology during their first year. In spoken language, the acquisition of phonology consists of learning to distinguish and produce the sound patterns of the adult language. At birth, the newborn has the ability to distinguish virtually all sounds used in all languages, at least when the sounds are presented in isolation. The newborn produces no speech sounds, however. During the first year of life, speech-like sounds gradually emerge, beginning with vowel-like coos at six to eight weeks of age, followed by some consonant sounds, then followed by true babbling. By the end of the first year, children are typically babbling sequences of syllables that have the intonation contour . . .

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