As best describes the relationship between early communicative skills

As
a child grows, they use the language that they have learned to communicate with
others. And while no one will argue with the fact that in order to communicate
there needs to be some sort of language involved, there are two extreme views
on communication and its relationship to language and its acquisition. Those
two extremes are formalism and functionalism. Erika Hoff in Language
Development: Fifth Edition describes formalisms as “the view that the nature of
language and its acquisition have nothing to do with the fact that language is
used to communicate” (2014). Functionalism is defined as defined as “the view
that both language itself and the process of language acquisition are shaped
and supported by the communicative function language serves” (Hoff, 2014).  In option one scientific evidences needs to
be found to support either the formalist or functionalist view when it comes to
the relationship between language and communication. After going over both
extremes, I think that functionalism best describes the relationship between early
communicative skills to later language development. The first argument in
support of functionalism is that “children best acquire new pieces of
linguistic information when engaged in joint attention with a mature language user”
(Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, & Baumwell, 2001). The second argument for
functionalism shows that the amount of time that a mother and child spend
together relates to the amount of vocabulary that the child learns (Tomasello
& Farrar, 1986). The third argument would be gestures that children make
while in infancy could potentially be an “early index of global communicative
skills” (Rowe & Goldin-Meadow, 2009). The thought behind this that possibly
the more gestures a child makes at an early age, when they get older the larger
their vocabulary might be. With these three arguments, functionalism would best
describe a child’s relationship between their early communication skills that
will help later with language development. For
the first argument Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell conducted a study on
how when a child solely focuses on an adult speaking, especially if it’s
something that is relevant to the child, that is the best time for children to
partake in language learning (Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell, 2001). During
the study they wanted to see if “maternal responsiveness at 9 and at 13 months
to the timing of these different critical child language abilities” (Tamis-LeMonda,
Bornstein, and Baumwell, 2001) by looking at the five developmental milestones.
Those milestones are “first imitations, first words, 50 words in expressive
language, first combinational speech, and first use of language to talk about
the past” (Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, Baumwell, 2001). The first pattern that
was noticed was when talk about children’s language growth, there needs to be a
look at “social exchange between caregivers and children” (Tamis-LeMonda,
Bornstein, Baumwell, 2001). The second pattern that the author’s noticed while
conducting the study was more specific. That pattern was “certain responses at
certain developmental periods predict certain language milestones”
(Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, Baumwell, 2001). When it came to the results
Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell looked at four different sets of data.
They looked at descriptive date, Events-History Analyses, productiveness of
specific “types” of responsiveness, language milestones were identified. For
the Events-History Analyses in Table One, they looked at the predictors and the
dependent measures. They took 4 target children activities at the ages of 9
months and 13 months. Then the wrote down the maternal responses to the
activities and the type of response it was. Finally, in the study they would be
able to determine milestone of the expressive language. The participants for
this study were forty children and their moms. Seventeen of those pairs were
mother and sons, while the other twenty-three pairs where mothers and
daughters. The children were firstborns and had to have no neurological or
sensory abnormalities (Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell, 2001). During
the study both the mother and child would play on the floor for about ten
minutes with toys that were provided in the child’s home. This interaction was
video tape so that they could go back and event-base code what was done.
Afterwards interviews were held with the mothers of the children. By doing the
interviews over the phone with the mothers, the study was able to gain more
information in a cost-effective way. During the interviews, probing questions
were asked about children’s responses to certain words, if the child uttered
two or more words while saying a phrase, and whether the child was able to talk
or at least attempt to talk about something in the past (Tamis-LeMonda,
Bornstein, and Baumwell, 2001). The independent variables of the study were the
participants, the amount of time that was allotted for play during observation,
and the words that the mothers had to say to get some sort of reaction out of
the children (Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell, 2001). The dependent
variables were the expressive language of the children that was determined by
the people who put the study together. Overall the result of the journal showed
that for the most part mothers who acknowledged and responded to the child’s
“vocalizations and play activities” (Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell,
2001) managed to get four out of the five milestones. Those milestones were the
child’s first words, the 50 words using expressive language, child’s first
combinatorial speech, and the use of first language to refer to the past
(Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, and Baumwell, 2001). This article provides support
for functionalism at 9 months old children where trying to communicate in some
sort of way to their mother, whether it was through vocalization or gestures.
Over time with the mother’s acknowledgement of this and help, the children were
able to communicate through their first words and eventually more complex sentences.
The
second argument was in Tomasello and Farrar’s journal “Joint Attention and
Early Language” and based on the amount of time the mother/father and child
spend together. The amount of time a parent spends with the child could
potentially relate to the amount of words the child is learning. This argument
was based on evidence on an earlier study that Tomasello did with another
person. They videotaped mother and children pairs for six months, starting that
the child’s first birthday (Tomasello & Farrar, 1986). Every month the mother
and child would play with toys and their interactions would be watched and
analyzed. After the conclusion of that study they determined that due to the
amount of time the mother was spending with the child there was positive
relation to the child’s vocabulary (Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). Tomasello
and Todd also noticed that if the mother was being too direct or trying to
control the attention of the child, it has a negative affect and objects will
most likely not be important to them (Tomasello & Farrar, 1986). Due to
these findings in the first journal, Tomasello and Farrer, conducted two other
studies. Study One consisted of twenty-four children between the ages of twelve
and eighteen months. Afterwards which child with their mother would be
videotaped at home on two different occasion for fifteen minutes each. These
two occasions where when the child was fifteen months and twenty-one months
(Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). They were given toys and told to act normally.
When the video taping was finished it would then be coded and the child’s
interaction with the mother would be looked at. They also looked at how many
utterances were made by the mother and the child during the interaction
(Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). During this first study, Tomasello and Farrer
came up with three different findings. Finding one was that when the mother and
child focused on the same thing both talked more. They had longer conversations
“and mothers used shorter sentences and more comments” (Tomasello & Farrer,
1986). The second finding where that “the types of object references mothers
made inside the episodes of joint attentional focus were related to the child’s
subsequent language development” (Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). Finding three
is about “the specific relationships between object reference types and the
child’s language” (Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). The independent variables in
this study were the children that were picked, the amount of time that was
given for the interaction, and how many times the interactions were videotaped.
The dependent variable was the way that children responded to the interaction
with there mother. For study two Tomasello and Farrer wanted to focus on the
third finding in the previous study. They wanted to study the correlation
between “the object reference type and the child’s lexical acquisition”
(Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). For this study they only use ten children, six
being males and four females, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-three
months. Instead of conducting the study at home it was done at a day care
facility. There were two researchers, one for conducting four training sessions
with the children, while the other would observe and record their behaviors. The
sessions lasted between fifteen to twenty minutes. Each child was given four
objects that they were not familiar with and the researcher would talk to the
child about the objects while they were engaged. Afterwards direction condition
was used, and the name of the object was stressed to the child (Tomasello &
Farrer, 1986).  From this study the
results concluded that children would learn the words better through
comprehension versus being told directly (Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). Even
after being directly what the object was, children were still not able to
respond with the correct name. In Table 3 it shows the percent of comprehension
for the children after being asked what an object was over four training
sessions for a total of twenty-four times. When the child was engaged with the
object they were more likely to remember the name of the object versus being
directly told. The percentage dropped from fifty percent to thirty two percent
(Tomasello & Farrer, 1986). The independent variables in this study were
the children, the location, the amount of training sessions, and the four objects
that were picked. The dependent variable was whether the child would say the
word of the unknown object.  These
specific finding help support functionalism because it shows in the first study
it shows that when a mother and child are focusing together and interacting
with each other the child is more likely to retain or at least memorize things.
Because of this they are more likely to have a more expansive vocabulary down
the road. It also shows that if a child is interested in something, they are
going to pick up the vocabulary for it quicker versus something they don’t have
interest in what so ever. The
final argument for functionalism comes from Rowe and Goldin-Meadow in their
journal “Early Gesture Selectively Predicts Later Language Learning”. Even though
children at a young age can’t communicate through speech yet, they are able to
communicate though gestures. In this study Rowe and Goldin-Meadow think that
these gestures would later development into vocabulary for the children (Rowe
& Goldin-Meadow, 2009). Therefore, if a child knows more gestures they
would have a larger vocabulary in the future. They also go on to state that
“gestures thus forecasts the earliest stages of language learning” (Rowe
& Goldin-Meadow, 2009). For the participants they selected fifty-two
children, twenty-seven being males and twenty-five being females. Starting
while the child was fourteen months old, researchers would visit the house
every four months for ninety minutes. The would videotape the child partaking
in their normal activities such as playing, reading, or sometimes even eating.
After the child turned forty-two months they were given a standardized language
assessment (Rowe & Goldin-Meadow, 2009). Any speech or gesture that was
videotaped at the time was transcribed into an utterance. After transcription
of the videotapes were done, researchers concluded that an eighteen-month-old
child would produce “and average of 40 different vocabulary words” (Rowe &
Goldin-Meadow, 2009). When it came to gestures on average an eighteen-month-old
child would have around 33.6 vocabulary gestures and eleven combination
gestures (Rowe & Goldin-Meadow, 2009). They define a combination gesture as
word uttered with a gesture to describe something. The independent variables
are the children that were chosen to partake in this study, the amount of time
and when the researchers came, and the researchers also tried to control the
words in order to see if there was a progress between eighteen months and
forty-two months. The dependent variable is whether the gestures and utterances
the children made showed increased vocabulary later.  For the results multiple regression analyses
were used at the eighteen-month mark to predict the child’s vocabulary and sentence
complexity when then turn forty-two months (Rowe & Goldin-Meadow, 2009). In
the study they were able to determine that the gesture vocabulary of a child at
the age of eighteen months was a strong indicator of the child’s vocabulary
size at the age of forty-two months (Rowe & Goldin-Meadows, 2009). They
were also able to determine “gesture+speech sentences children produce at 18
months are a strong predictor of verbal sentence complexity at 42 months, but
their gesture vocabulary was not” (Rowe & Goldin-Meadow, 2009).

The
object of this paper was to determine whether functionalism or formalism link
early communicate skills to language development later in a child’s life. Based
off the three articles that were picked for this paper, it strongly supports
the functionalist view when it comes to linking early communicative skills to
later language development. In Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, & Baumwell’s
journal they were able to determine that for the most part, if a child has the
joint attention of an adult, such as a parent, they are more likely to learn
new pieces of linguistic information. Tomasello & Farrar where able to make
a connection between the amount of time a mother and child spend together is
beneficial in a child learning unfamiliar words and linguistic information.
Finally, Rowe & Goldin-Meadow were able to connect the gestures children
make while younger to a more expansive vocabulary later in childhood.

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