is more positively related than the child network. These measures, vocabulary and total speech output, both representing the general level of language acquisition, may reflect individual differences, perhaps even differences in intelligence. Possibly at this age, when the rate of acquiring new words is very rapid (see Table 2.4) and the mean length of utterances is increasing for all children, only a minimal amount of social contact is needed for adequate development to proceed -- an idea that has been put forth by some investigators to account for the acquisition of language universals ( Newport, Gleitman, & Gleitman, 1977).
However, this hypothesis certainly does not seem to account adequately for all of the other aspects of children's language examined in this study. On the contrary, the amount and nature of the child's social contacts at this early age seem to influence, in a differential manner, both the child's linguistic competence and the communicative, or motivational, function of the child's speech. It does indeed seem to be the case that adult social contact serves a teaching role in the child's language acquisition, shaping and molding the child's speech to conform to the adult model and standards for communicative competence. On the other hand, child contact serves quite another, albeit distinct, function, that of providing children with the social stimuli that increase their motivation to communicate.
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