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Language Acquisition in Early Childhood

             The process of learning to speak is known as language acquisition. This is the developmental sequence for language. According to Jalongo, (1992), there are four stages of speech: prelinguistic speech, beginnings of linguistic speech, telegraphic speech and complex sentences. Language itself is made up of four components: phonology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
             Phonology is the system of sounds that occur in a language. When babies begin making their first sounds in the prelinguistic speech stage, they are experimenting with the phonology of language. It has been demonstrated that babies around the world all make similar "baby talk", and the time their speech is distinguishable comes with the first words of the child. .
             Syntax is the set of rules, grammar, of a language. The syntactical aspects of language are demonstrated in children from age four or five. They can use four to six word sentences, understand and follow 3 step instructions, use present tense, plurals, past tense, possessive language (eg: Blake's), negatives, conjunctions (eg: and, because), pronouns and prepositions.
             Semantics is the meaning of words. Children discover meaning when they learn their first words. They continue to learn meaning as they bombard their parents with endless "why" and "how" questions, as they are read to and as they experience the world, for example, at a Child Care Centre or at school.
             Pragmatics refers to the social context and appropriateness of language. It is the different ways of talking depending on who you are speaking to, what you should say, how you should say it and the medium you should use to communicate what you want to say. For example, if you were a child greeting a school principal you would say, "Good morning Mrs Perry." If you were greeting your best friend you would say, "Hey, Mary! Wotcha bin" up to?" Children are taught the pragmatics of language through watching their parents and other adults interacting, from an early age, and when they begin having conversations, children's language is monitored by adults, for appropriateness etc.

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