Child Language

Child Language


the sum total of features of the speech of a child (mainly toddlers and preschoolers), which are conditioned by age (and the level of intellectual development) and are not directly connected with either the specifics of a certain language or with the specifics of the speech situation. The features of a child’s speech that are studied can be phonetical (the inability to pronounce certain sounds or combinations of sounds), grammatical (the limited number of constructions used, the unique proportion of different parts of speech, or neologisms that do not exist in the language of adults, such as kopatka, a nonexistent noun formed from the verb kopat’, to dig), and semantic. The semantic features are connected not so much with the selection and use of certain words, semantic series, or groups (although this also takes place) as with differences in the method of denotation. The Soviet psychologist L. S. Vygotskii analyzed the development of the method of denotation (“conceptual development”) at great length.

Frequently, child language and its development are understood on a purely linguistic plane. However, according to W. Humboldt, “the mastery of language by children is not the adaptation of words, the piling up of words in one’s memory, and their reactivization with the aid of speech but rather the development of linguistic ability with age and exercise.” The external features of child language, which are accessible to simple observation, are only a reflection of the “deep” processes of the child’s psychological development—that is, those which can be experimentally investigated; an integral part of these processes is the development of language. But there still has not been enough experimentation in the study of child language. Insufficient attention has also been paid in psychology to intercultural and interlanguage research concerning child language among different peoples. (This work was begun at the University of California in the USA.) The development of the functions of child language is an area that has been little investigated.

Russia, and later the USSR, was the birthplace of the scientific study of child language. Serious work on the subject is also being conducted in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, France, the USA, Italy, and other countries.


Vygotskii, L. S. Izbrannye psikhologicheskie issledovaniia: Myshlenie i rech’. Moscow, 1956.
Gvozdev, A. N. Voprosy izycheniia detskoi rechi. Moscow, 1961.
Leont’ev, A. A. Slovo v rechevoi deiatel’nosti. Moscow, 1965.
Rozengart-Pupko, G. L. Formirovanie rechi u detei rannego vozrasta. Moscow, 1963.
Derzhavin, N. S. “Izuchenie iazykovogo razvitiia u rebenka russkoi rechi.” In the collection AN SSSRakademiku N. la. Marru. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Chukovskii, K. Ot dvukh do piati, 20th ed. Moscow, 1969.
El’konin, D. B. Razvitie rechi v doshkol’nom vozraste. Moscow, 1958
Jacobson, R. Child Language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals. The Hague-Paris, 1968.
The Acquisition of Language. Edited by U. Bellugi and R. Brown. Lafayette, 1964.
Ervin-Tripp, S. Review of Child Development Research, vol. 2. New York, 1966.
A Field Manual for Cross-cultural study of the Acquisition of Communicative Competence. Berkeley, 1967.


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