Human language is a complex but flexible system of symbols that allows individuals to communicate ideas, feelings and thoughts. Verbal communication is based on universal sound units better known as phonemes and morphemes. These units have a crucial role in spoken interaction; we use morphemes and phonemes in our daily lives to form words that represent complex ideas and then combine these words to shape up sentences to communicate even more complex thoughts.
There are two common processes used in the acquisition of language; the descendant process is when beginning from a specific thought, we continue to select the desired word and end up emitting the sound to form that specific word. The ascendant process is when we listen to sentences and we begin from the sounds emitted to end up figuring out their meaning. These processes are specific and complicated; they take place in children’s lives after their toddler years, when they start speaking. Before acquiring “proper” communication skills, children make use of other different ‘techniques’ such as growls, squeals, yells and grunts to let us know what they need.
On their first year, babies begin to speak few words that might be mistakenly used or pronounced incorrectly. After learning close to 50 words, they experience what researchers call “the naming explosion”, where babies show a sudden increase in their vocabulary especially in nouns. It is important to mention that cultural differences and variations in these processes have been observed. For example, researchers have found that English speaking children learn more nouns than Chinese or Korean infants due to the higher number of nouns found in the English speaking parent’s daily communication with their children. Studies have also shown that the process of language acquisition in children reflects the cognitive characteristics of infancy and that are many factors that can influence it such as interactions with others and the dynamism of their personal perceptions.
Lura, Harriet, Deborah M. Seymour, and Trudy Smoke, eds. Language and Linguistics in Context. New York: Rougtledge, 2005. Print