Crystal (1995) identifies several stages of grammar development running from infancy through to the teenage years. He points out that at the age of about two, children first begin to use grammatical elements. In English, this includes finite auxiliaries (“is”, “was”), verbal tense and agreement affixes (“-ed” and ‘-s’), nominative pronouns (“I”, “she”), and determiners (“the”, “a”). It can be seen that Cindy at the age of 24 months and 16 days, is capable of making simple sentence patterns e. g. ‘they eating’ (L. 3). She also uses plurals correctly (L.8, ‘they both eat carrots’), and uses an ‘s’ for third person (L. 15, ‘tiger wants to go to sleep). She also seems to be able to use the definite article (L. 5, L. 7).
However, it is interesting to see how in L. 12, Patsy is trying to teach Cindy to use definite article correctly by saying ‘the doll’ which Cindy ignores and continues to refer to her doll as ‘doll’ (L. 13). This attempt, often employed by adults, to correct children’s grammatical errors is known as recast (Bohannon & Stanowicz, 1988). Moreover, in L. 14, Patsy again refers to ‘the tiger’ but Cindy doesn’t imitate this and says ‘tiger’ in L.15.
Although, children often imitate the recasts of their parents or care-takers, one can see that Patsy’s recasting does not seem to have any immediate effect on Cindy’s utterance. Numerous studies have been undertaken to find out the importance of recasts in the learning process of children. In one study, undertaken by Morgan, Bonamo ; Travis (1995), three children were taken in to consideration where their parent’s corrected their grammatical errors by giving recasts for lacking articles about 35% of the time. Nevertheless, the children ignored the recasts and did not start using the articles right away.
They also discovered no connection between the rate of occurrence of recasts and the rate at which children’s use of articles expanded over the longer period of time. Thus it can be said that parental recasts do not hasten a child’s learning of articles and that children will learn articles at their own pace. However, another study, undertaken by Saxton (1998), proposes that recasts can be quite beneficial at certain points in the learning process, particularly where a child is already using the correct form about 50% of the time.
If the forms have already been learnt then recasts might assist children in getting better at using articles that they have already learnt. In this paper it was shown how children’s language develops in its early stages and how the caregivers and family members influence the development of language in these early stages. Moreover, it was highlighted how language learning is seen not as an individual matter but as a collaborative enterprise, involving interaction between the learner and family members and others.
Children and adults necessarily learn how to behave as a certain kind of person (a child, girl or boy, student, teacher, politican, etc. ) through their acquisition of English in specific interactions – in other words, they take on a set of identities as they learn different aspects of the language. This link between language, interaction and identity lies behind many of the more controversial aspects of the English curriculum.
Word Count: 1500 References Aldridge M. (1991), ‘How the language grows up: an outline of how children acquire English as a mother tongue’, English Today, no. 25, pp. 14-20 Bancroft D.; Gillen J. (2007) in Mercer, N. , Swann J. , and Mayor B. (2007) Learning English, London, Routledge/Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 5-37 Bohannon, J. N. ; Stanowicz, L. (1988).
The issue of negative evidence: adult responses to children’s language errors’, Developmental Psychology, no. 24, 684-689 Crystal, D. (1995), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press De Villiers and de Villiers (1979), Early Language, London, Open Books Lenzenweger, M. F (2010), ‘Adult-child interaction boosts mental health’ http://discovere. binghamton. edu/features/children-3468.html (Accessed on 7 March 2011) Mercer N. (2007) in The Open University (2007) U211 Exploring The English Language, ‘DVD 2, Block C, Unit 17, Section 2: Early Communication, Milton Keynes, The Open University Morgan, J. L.
Bonamo, K. M. & Travis, L. L. (1995), ‘Negative evidence on negative evidence’, Developmental Psychology, 31/2, 180-197 Saxton, M. , Kulcsar, B. , Marshall, G. & Rupra, M. (1998), ‘The longer-term effects of corrective input: an experimental approach’, Journal of Child Language Vygotsky, L. S (1967), ‘Play and its role in the mental development of the child’, Soviet Psychology, vol. 5, pp. 6-18