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  • Linguistic Masterminds: Childrens Early Language Trajectory Laura JusticeThe Ohio State University

  • Language development represents one of the most exciting and mysterious aspects of young childrens development. Children who cannot yet count to ten can produce sentence structures as sophisticated as most adults. This webinar discusses language what it is, what it is not, and how to make sense of the things children are saying. Additionally, this webinar explores what to do when children are late talkers and how to facilitate the language growth of children with whom we might be concerned.

  • TOPICS TO BE EXPLORED Language: What Is It?

    Language: What It Is NotHow to Make Sense of the Things Children SayWhat To Do When Children are Late to TalkHow To Facilitate All Childrens Language Growth

  • What Is It?

    Language is a system of conventional spoken or written symbols used by people in a shared culture to communicate with one another.

    Pence Turnbull & Justice, Language Development From Theory to Practice, 2/e

  • Statue Momma

    SystemConventionalSpokenWrittenSymbols CommunicateGroup of interrelated elements that form a complex wholeIn accordance with general agreementExpressed orally

    Expressed in writingSomething that represents something elseTo convey information

  • Language: More Than Just WordsIt is a multi-dimensional symbol systemFORMCONTENTUSE

  • Domains of LanguageFORM:rules governing the structure of sentences and words (e.g., inflections)

    CONTENT:rules governing the structure of meanings and concepts

    PRAGMATICS:rules governing the structure of delivery and use of language

  • FORMCONTENTUSESemanticsSyntaxMorphologyPhonologyPragmatics

  • Addie, 2 years:

    Im almost here!!!

  • Addie, 2 years: Im almost here!!!

    Form: simple sentence, contracted copular verb (am), subjective pronoun, adverbial phrase (almost here), consonants and vowels

    Content: locational reference (here), adverb of manner (almost), highly contextualized (need context to understand meaning!)

    Use: function/intent = inform/explain, clear recipient in range, appropriate paralinguistic cues (eye contact, proximity, etc.)

  • Important Features of LanguageRule-governedSensitive periodInnate-learned

  • Rule-GovernedNOUN PHRASEARTICLEADJECTIVENOUNHow many noun phrases can a child make who knows this rule???++

  • Rule-GovernedSIMPLE SENTENCESUBJECTVERBOBJECTHow many sentences can a child make who knows this rule???++

  • Rule-GovernedSIMPLE SENTENCEhim gotkarateHow many sentences can a child make who knows this rule???++

  • Sensitive PeriodIn the first years of life, childrens brain matter is rapidly developingSynaptogenesisActivity dependenceSynaptic pruning

    Interconnections are being made that organize and stabilize language skills

    No future period will allow such remarkable gains in language to occur

  • Innate-Learned: Experience DependentINPUT

  • How do these develop?From: Relationship between preschool teachers complex syntax use and childrens Syntactic comprehension. From Huttonlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., Cymerman, E., & Levine, S. (2002).

  • Why Language?Language is the what of effective communication Communication is the mechanism

    Language is very malleable. It reflects time and experience

    Children show variability in their language skills: and this variability is important for many areas of academics, including reading and content-area skills

  • Why Language?Head Start Outcomes Framework (2010)

  • What Is It NOT?

    It is NOT how well children articulate

    It is NOT speaking correctly

    It is NOT simply the size of a childs vocabulary

    It is NOT equated to IQ

  • What Is It NOT?

    It is NOT how well children articulate

    Up here is my brain!

  • What Is It NOT?

    It is NOT how well children articulate

    I dot a daw a diddle biwdie!

  • What Is It NOT?

    It is NOT speaking correctly

    Harvard Dialect Survey: been RED: as in "sit" (64.82%) BLUE: as in "see" (3.59%) GREEN as in "set" (28.60%) PURPLE: other (2.99%)

  • What Is It NOT?

    It is NOT the size of a childs vocabulary

    Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously.(Noam Chomsky)

  • What Is It NOT?

    It is NOT equated to IQ

    LanguageIntelligenceThe Special Case of Specific Language Impairment

  • General TrajectoryBirth:hard-wired for language; no receptive or expressive use; vocal play and reflexive sounds

    3 months: coo and goo; engage in back-n-forth routines; orient to others

    6 months: Understands approximately 2 words; babbling (mamama dadada)

    8-10 months: Becomes an intentional communicator (gesture, persistence, eye contact)!

    12 months:understands 10 words, produces first word

  • 18 months: understands 150 words; expressive vocabulary of 50 words; produces simple sentences (two-word combinations); understands simple sentences

    24 months: understands 300+ words; expressive vocabulary of 100 words; produces some three-word combinations, including negative sentences!

    36 months:ask questions using different forms; uses four-word combinations frequently; understands many wh-questions; makes simple inferences; understands some hard words

    60 months:language system more or less complete looks adult-like in terms of grammar, although lexicon and social competence will continue to refine (e.g., ability to enter conversations).

    General Trajectory

  • Late Talkers

  • Late TalkersChildren who are meeting most/all other milestones typically (walking, eating, playing) except talking!

    Identified between 2 and 3 years of age due to expressive concerns:

    small vocabulary (< 50 words used)not yet combining words to create two-word sentences

    Language understanding is typical (but be sure validly assessed!)

  • Late Talkers: Words Spoken

    Rescorla et al (2000)



    Late Talkers

    Typical Children


    Late TalkersTypical Children

    age 220235

    To resize chart data range, drag lower right corner of range.

  • Late TalkersAffects more than 1 in 10 children (Zubrick et al., 2010)Tends to run in familiesTends to affect more boys than girlsTends to affect more pretermsTends to occur with increases in externalizing and internalizing behavioral concerns

    Although many children will outgrow these problems, some children will not which argues against the wait and see approach

  • Language ScreeningAges and Stages Questionnaire 3

    Language Development Survey

    MacArthur-Bates Communication Development Inventories

    Indirect or Direct Treatment Options (often by Speech-Language Pathologist/SLP)

  • Facilitating Language Growth for ALL ChildrenChildren feast on the language scraps in the world around themthey learn what they hear

  • learn what they hear and what they OVERHEAR



  • 2-year-old learning the word VENTExposure 1 establishes a shallow representation of meaning and phonological formExposure 2 solidifies phonological form (vent not went) and refines meaning Exposure 3 Increasing mapping and differentiation in lexicon overgeneralization

  • Frequency of Exposures:

    Use of known words to cement a baseMeets ones basic communication needs

    Use of unknown words to extend the baseProvides precision and clarity

  • Frequencies of Exposures:Childrens exposure to specific forms and functions occurs repeatedly

    Childrens exposures build cumulatively over time to become more precise

  • INFORMATIVENESS OF EXPOSURES Adult language features diverse content, form, and useContent: many words, ideas, and conceptsForm: many different syntactic structures and word inflectionsUses: many different purposes

  • Changing Developmental Trajectories

  • Zone of Proximal DevelopmentWhat the child already knowsKnowledge that is beyond the grasp of the childLearning PotentialAdult Input

  • Zone of Proximal DevelopmentWhat the child already knowsKnowledge that is beyond the grasp of the childHUGE STEERAdult InputCOW

  • Zone of Proximal DevelopmentWhat the child already knowsKnowledge that is beyond the grasp of the childThat is a big dog, you are right!Adult InputThats a dog.

  • Well-Tuned?Child Language AbilityStimulates LanguageDoes Not Stimulate Language

  • Providing information about objects, information, or events not presentAttitudes, points of view, mental states, motivesSimilarities and differences betweenpeople, objects, and eventsCauses of events(prediction)Meanings of wordsConnections between text and worldvan Kleeck et al (2006)