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Discussion Of The Importance Of The Social And Cultural Context Where Child Language Acquisition Is Concerned

3568 words - 14 pages

Discussion of the Importance of the Social and Cultural Context Where Child Language Acquisition is Concerned

Beginning with Elene Lieven’s review of the importance of the
environment for language learning, discuss the importance of the
social and cultural context where child language acquisition is


According to Elena Lieven, the roles played by brothers and sisters,
and other children and the extent to which adults explicitly teach
appropriate language to their children are important in language

By ‘environment’, she means the characteristics of the interpersonal
surroundings within which young, language-learning children spend
their time whether dyadic ( mainly alone with the mother)or polyadic (
with other adults,with siblings,with a group of children). ( Mercer &
Swann, p 36)

Theories of environmental influences on language learning have tended
to be built upon the study of the mother-infant dyad where in actual
fact most children in the world grow up in polyadic situations where
they spend a lot of time in one of the following situations: with the
mother and other sibling/children; with older children or others
acting as caregivers; sitting around with a group of adults and
children. This is not only true of children in non-industrailized
cultures; in many economically advanced societies childcare
arrangements may be less dependent on the mother staying at home with
the children. (Mercer & Swann, p 36)

There are more polyadic patterns of childcare seen in rural,
economically traditional societies. The children in Schieffelin’s
(1985) study of Kaluli of Papua New Guinea spend their time with their
mothers and siblings, while Ochs (1985) reports that, among the
Samoans, elder children are set to look after the young child but
usually in sight of the mother. Nwokah(1987), in her study of a rural
Nigerian village, reports that young children are looked after during
the day by male or female ‘maids’(8-12 year old children) while the
mothers go to market or work in the house, and that these maids
usually take the children to a communal space in the village, largely
frequented by children. Bavin (1992) also says that the
Warlpiri-speaking aboriginal children in her study spent their time in
communal groups surrounded by other adults and children.

(Berman, 1985) reports that Israeli children spend a good deal of time
with other children and with caregivers other than the mother. There
are also subcultures within highly industrialized countries in which
children spend the day surrounded by other adults and children,
sometimes with their mothers and sometimes not.

All these children learn to talk and Slobin’s edited volumes(1985)
describe the course of their development. ( Mercer & Swann, p 37)

Most Western middle-class...

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