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Developmental Psychology on Language Development - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 61
Language development/Developmental psychology/Upton: Joint attention and sharing interactions are key features of early relationships and, according to Bruner (1985)(1), these play a key role in the development of language. To begin with, such interactions might only involve the carer and child, for example playing a game of Peek-a-boo.
In joint-action formats the mother creates simple, structured activities with objects such as toys so as to teach her infant what the objects are for and how to use them – for example, building blocks into a tower, or using a spoon for feeding.
Upton I 62
These shared sequences are also talked about by the mother, which encourages the infant to acquire language (Bruner, 1975(2), 1985(1), 1993(3)). The joint-action formats provide a mapping activity during which the child learns to link words and phrases with the correct objects and events. Pointing has an important role to play in ensuring joint attention during joint-action formats – for example, when reading picture books with their carers, infants show joint attention to objects shown in the book through pointing, which is usually accompanied by labelling of the object.
Adults’ role: the adult response to pointing by an infant is usually to label the object pointed at (Hannan, 1992)(4).
Blindness: Research has also shown that blind children are able to label significantly fewer objects than sighted infants (Norgate, 1997)(5), which lends further support to the importance of pointing for acquiring object names.
Upton I 63
Research suggests that most infants begin to understand their first words when they are around eight months old and the total number of words understood grows slowly up to about 12 months of age, when there is a sudden increase in vocabulary (Fenson et al., 1994)(6). Harris et al. (1995b)(7) carried out a longitudinal study in which they found that the age at which infants first showed signs of understanding the names of objects was ten months.



1. Bruner, J.S. (1985) Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Bruner, J.S. (1975) The ontogenesis of speech acts.Journal of Child Language, 2: 1—19.
3. Bruner, J.S. (1993) Explaining and interpreting: two ways of using mind, in Harman, G. (ed.) Conceptions of the Human Mind: Essays in honor of George A Miller. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
4. Hannan, T.E. (1992) An examination of spontaneous pointing in 20- to 50-month-old chil
then. Perceptual andMotor Skills, 74: 65 1—8.
5. Norgate, S.H. (1997) Research methods for studying the language of blind children, in Horn
berger, N.H. and Corson, D (eds) The Encyclopedia of Languczge and Education, Vol. 8:Research
methods in language and education. The Netherlands: Kiuwer Academic Publishers.
6.Fenson, L., Dale, P.S., Reznick,JS, Bates, E, Thai, DJ and Pethick, SI (1994) Variability in early
communicative development. Monographs of the Society of Research in Child Development,
59: serial no. 242.
7. Harris, M., Yeeles, C., Chasm, J. and Oakley, Y. (199 5b) Symmetries and asymmetries in early
lexical comprehension and production,Journal of Child Language, 22: 1—18.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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