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How do children acquire language? What are the processes of language acquisition? How do infants respond to speech? Language acquisition is the process of learning a native or a second language. Although how children learn to speak is not perfectly understood, most explanations involve both the observations that children copy what they hear and the inference that human beings have a natural aptitude for understanding grammar. Children usually learn the sounds and vocabulary of their native language through imitation, (which helps them learn to pronounce words correctly), and grammar is seldom taught to them, but instead that they rapidly acquire the ability to speak grammatically. Though, not all children learn by imitation alone. Children will produce forms of language that adults never say. For example, “I spilled milk on hisself” or “Debbie wants a cookie”. This demonstrates that children have the desire to speak correctly and have self-motivating traits to communicate. This supports the theory of Noam Chomsky (1972)-that children are able to learn grammar of a particular language because all intelligible languages are founded on a deep structure of universal grammatical rules that corresponds to an innate capacity of the human brain. Adults learning a second language pass through some of the same stages, as do children learning their native language. In the first part of this paper I will describe the process of language acquisition. The second part will review how infants respond to speech.
Language is multifaceted. It contains both verbal and non-verbal aspects that children seem to acquire quickly. Before birth, virtually all the neurons (nerve cells) are formed, and they migrate into their proper locations in the brain in the infant. When a baby is born, it can see and hear and smell and respond to touch, but their perceptions are limited at such a young age. The brain stem, a primitive region that controls vital functions like heartbeat and breathing, has completed its wiring. Elsewhere the connections between neurons are wispy and weak. But over the first few months of life, the brain’s higher centers explode with new synapses. “For the large majority of people, the dominant area in language processing is in the middle of the left hemisphere of the brain, in particular in Broca’s Area and Wernicke’s Area” (Siegler, 1998, p. 142). This helps an infant to be biologically prepared to face the stages of language acquisition. According to the textbook “Children’s Thinking”, written by Robert S. Siegler (1998) there are four main components to language acquisition. These components are phonology, semantics (meaning), grammar (syntax), and communication (pragmatics). Phonology is the study of how speech sounds are organized and how they function. It is the main linguistic accomplishment during the first year of life. The phonology of language refers to fundamental sounds units and the rules...