Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Upton I 73
Sentence formation/language acquisition/Developmental psychology/Upton: The two-word utterance, so-called telegraphic speech, which develops around the age of two years (at about the same time that the vocabulary spurt occurs), provides an (…) effective means of communication and is a universal feature of language development (Boysson-Bardies, 1999)(1).

Slobin (1972)(2) identified a range of functions for these telegraphic utterances:

Utterance - Function
See doggie - Identification
Book there - Location
More milk - Repetition
All gone - Non-existence
My candy - Possession
Big car - Attribution
Mama walk - Agent action
Where ball? - Question


(…) young children move rapidly from producing two-word utterances to create three-, four- and five-word combinations and so begin the transition from simple to complex sentences (Bloom, 1998)(3). As well as getting longer, utterances also become more grammatical and the transition from early word combinations to full-blown grammar is rapid. By the time children reach their fourth birthday, they have mastered an impressive range of grammatical devices. Indeed, they seem to assimilate the structures of their native language without explicit instruction or correction (Brown and Hanlon, 1970)(4), which has often been cited as evidence for language acquisition being driven by an innate process. >Language acquisition, >Innatenss, >Chomsky.



1. Boysson-Bardies, B. (1999) How Language Comes to Children: From birth to two years (trans. M DeBevoise). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
2. Slobin, D.I. (1972) Children and language: they learn the same way all around the world. Psychology Today, 6(2): 71–4.
3. Bloom, L. (1998) Language Acquisition in its Developmental Context. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4. Brown, R and Hanlon C (1970) Derivational complexity and order of acquisition in child speech, in Hayes, J (ed.) Cognition and the Development of Language. New York: Wiley.


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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.
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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