Learning Language in a Context: Parental Contribution towards Early Language Acquisition

Victoria V. Kazakovskaya (Russian Academy of Sciences) and Ingrida Balčiūnienė (Vytautas Magnus University)

This paper deals with parental linguistic and conversational strategies used in order to stimulate the early acquisition of adjectives. Since the adjective is considered one of the most complex and non-conceptual salient linguistic categories to acquire, we can hypothesize that adult support towards adjective acquisition is necessary and, consequently, linguistic input should not only be rich, but also well-structured in the flow of conversation.

The study is based on the longitudinal corpus data of a Lithuanian girl and a Russian boy. Both subjects are typically-developing monolingual children, similar in age (1;8–2;8), social characteristics and linguistic age (MLU development). During the investigation, the pragmatic, structural, semantic, and positional features of caregiver utterances which focused on the children’s adjective production were analyzed. In addition, the additional criterion of the positive, negative or neutral evidence of the adults’ reactions to the child’s adjectives was taken into consideration.

Since both Russian and Lithuanian parental speech analysis displayed a great pragmatic, semantic, functional and structural variety of observed linguistic and conversational contribution towards adjective production, this strategy can be described as rich and well-structured. Also, despite cultural and individual differences in caregivers, the main features of their contribution seem to be similar or even identical, and this evidence could indicate a need for a general discussion of the universal (or regional) aspects of parental conversational strategies related to the early acquisition of the most complex linguistic categories.

Keyword: Balciuniene

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