English Language
Multiword Stage

Multiword Stage

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The Last Phase of Children's Language Acquisition: The Multi-Word Stage

The multi-word stage marks the final stage in children's language acquisition process, usually beginning around the age of 2 years old and having no definite endpoint. It is divided into two sub-stages: the early multi-word stage and the later multi-word stage.

The Early Multi-Word Stage

The early multi-word stage typically starts at 24 months and ends at 30 months old.

The Telegraphic Stage of Language Development

Another name for this stage is the 'telegraphic stage', inspired by traditional telegram messages. These messages often omit function words in order to reduce word count and cost. Similarly, children at this stage also tend to omit function words in their speech, as they have not yet learned how to use them.

The utterances in this stage are similar to the two-word stage, as essential linguistic devices such as auxiliary verbs, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions are still omitted from their speech.

As children progress from the previous stages, they continue to develop their articulation skills, confidently using up to 20 consonant sounds and various vowel sounds in their speech. Pronunciation errors become less common as their organs of articulation mature.

The Later Multi-Word Stage

The later multi-word stage is the final stage a child goes through before achieving native proficiency in their language. It typically begins at the age of 30 months and has no definite endpoint.

At this stage, children are able to use a variety of function words in their sentences, in addition to just content words. They also demonstrate a better understanding of proper grammar and are able to form multiple-clause sentences with ease.

Linguistic devices such as determiners, prepositions, and inflections are among the most important lexemes that are acquired during this stage.

Children's vocabulary continues to expand throughout their lifetime, as learning is an ongoing process. Therefore, the multi-word stage has no definitive endpoint.

As children progress through this stage, they build upon the language skills gained in previous stages and achieve full competency in their language. Areas of language that are mastered include phonology, semantics, and grammar.

The Acquisition of Morphemes

Psychologist Roger Brown's research on 14 morphemes in the English language revealed a predictable pattern of acquisition in children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. Interestingly, there is no significant relationship between a child's age and their use of individual morphemes.

Linguist Dan Slobin noted that the order in which morphemes are acquired by children is partially determined by the complexity of the grammatical rule associated with them.

Examples of the Later Multi-Word Stage

Let's take a look at some examples of the morphemes children acquire in the multi-word stage:

  • A child is considered to have mastered a stage if they can correctly use the morpheme at least 90% of the time.
  • There is an unexpected order in the acquisition of irregular past tense (5th in sequence) and regular past tense (9th in sequence). This can lead to a situation where young children correctly use the past tense by saying 'broken' and 'ate', but later change to using the past tense incorrectly by saying 'breaked' and 'eated'. This shows that although the child has made a grammatical error, they have learned a rule of grammar.

Questions in the Multi-Word Stage

As children learn to ask questions, they initially have basic capabilities, but gradually develop their skills by learning new words and syntax.

At first, children rely heavily on intonation to distinguish between statements and questions. They use intonation by changing the pitch, tone, and volume of their voice for certain phrases or words, making it easier to tell when they are asking a question. They learn this from observing adults, who also use intonation to differentiate between questions and statements.

The Role of Intonation and Syntax in Children's Language Development

In the multi-word stage, children begin to understand the use of intonation in questions before learning how to use question words.

The Development of Language in Children: Understanding the Multi-Word Stage

As children grow and develop, so does their ability to communicate through language. One crucial stage in this process is the multi-word stage, where children begin to form sentences and use more complex language structures.

During the early multi-word stage, children use a combination of words from their vocabulary to create basic questions and statements. For instance, a child may ask "What mummy doing?" as they learn to incorporate common question words into their speech.

As they progress, children learn to utilize auxiliary and modal verbs to form grammatically correct questions, such as "Where is mummy gone?" instead of "Where mummy?". This marks the next stage of development in using advanced syntax.

In a similar fashion, children's ability to use negative statements also follows a pattern of development. It begins with one-word statements like "No!" and gradually progresses towards using pivot words like "not" and "no" to construct more precise negative statements, such as "no mummy" and "not milk".

The final stage of the multi-word stage is when children have mastered the use of auxiliary verbs and correct syntax in complementing their negatives. This can be seen in statements like "They didn't like it." and "My toy isn't any good."

The 'WUG' Test: Investigating Language Learning in Children

In 1958, psycholinguist Jean Berko conducted a study using the 'WUG' test to examine how children acquire linguistic rules. In this test, children were asked to complete sentences using pseudo words, such as "WUGS", to determine if they had internalized these rules rather than simply imitating adults. The results showed that even three-year-old children were able to use the correct plural form of the word, suggesting that they learn linguistic rules rather than simply memorizing them from adult speech.

The test was also conducted for other language elements, like possessives and conjugations, with similar results.

Overcoming Articulation Errors during the Multi-Word Stage

At the early stages of the multi-word stage, children may struggle with pronunciation due to underdeveloped articulation organs. However, as these organs fully mature around the age of 6 to 7, these errors typically disappear.

Some common pronunciation errors during this stage include replacing the voiceless 'th' sound with 'f' and mispronouncing voiced 'th' as 'v'. Another common error is gliding, where children replace liquid sounds like 'l' and 'r' with glide sounds like 'w' and 'y'. This typically resolves by the age of 5.

  • Voiceless 'th': Pronouncing "thank" as "fank", which can also affect spelling.
  • Voiced 'th': Replacing "with" with "wiv".
  • Gliding: Substituting 'l' and 'r' with 'w' and 'y' sounds.

Key Takeaways from the Multi-Word Stage

The multi-word stage can be divided into two distinct stages: the early multi-word stage and the later multi-word stage. The early stage, also known as the "telegraphic stage", is characterized by children using mainly content words to construct simple sentences. On the other hand, the later stage sees an improvement in grammar and the use of both content and function words.

Research suggests that children learn to apply linguistic rules rather than simply memorizing them, as seen in the 'WUG' test. Additionally, any pronunciation errors during this stage can be attributed to underdeveloped articulation organs and are typically resolved as children mature.

Sources: Brown, RA. "First Language" (1973) and Slobin, DI. "Cognitive Prerequisites for the Development of Grammar" (1973).

Understanding the Holophrastic Stage of Language Development

The Holophrastic stage is a crucial period in a child's language development where they have acquired a few words and are able to use them to express more complex ideas.

The Five Stages of Language Development

Language development is a complex process that takes place over several stages. These stages include babbling, one-word, two-word, early multi-word, and later multi-word stages. Each stage plays a significant role in a child's language development and reflects their increasing ability to communicate and understand the world around them.

  • Babbling: This first stage begins around 6-8 months of age and involves the child making repetitive and random sounds that mimic speech.
  • One-word: As a child approaches their first birthday, they will begin to use single words to express their needs and wants.
  • Two-word: This stage typically occurs around 18-24 months, where a child will start combining two words to form short sentences.
  • Early Multi-word: By 2-3 years old, a child's vocabulary expands, and they begin to use three or more words to communicate more complex thoughts and ideas.
  • Later Multi-word: Finally, by the age of 4-5, children enter the later multi-word stage, where they have a large vocabulary and can construct more complex sentences and understand grammar rules.

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