Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What is Language?

I think that most people "get" the concept of speech. Their child mispronounces "r" or has a lisp or stutters. But what is language? Stick with me through this definition (or skip to the next paragraph!)... according to one of my college text books language is "any accepted, structured, symbolic system for interpersonal communication composed of sounds arranged in ordered sequence to form words, with rules for combining these words into sequences or strings that express thoughts, intentions, experiences, and feelings ..." blah, blah, blah. Ok, so that is an official definition, but what does it mean?

Basically, language is the information that you share with others. We communicate that information through commonly known and understood words in a commonly understood order. Language is made up of three main parts: grammar (which is also known as syntax), word knowledge like vocabulary and concepts (known as semantics) and the social part of language (known as pragmatics).

Then, language can be divided into expressive and receptive. Expressive language is how we tell or give the information; it can be verbal words, signs and gestures, or written language. Receptive language is our understanding of language. It consists of being able to follow directions, understand grammatical forms (past tense vs. present tense), reading comprehension, and how many vocabulary words we understand. We receive this information visually through other’s gestures or signs, through reading, and by listening to what others say.

Our language is being developed from the day we are born. We learn to share our thoughts and understand others. While language development is far from simple and there are things that you can do to help your child in this process. Next week I will be posting ideas that you can do with your child, from young infants to toddlers to preschoolers to elementary aged children.

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