• A Step Ahead

Learning language - Corrective Input

written by Andrea


In a previous post I talked about Input and Interaction. In this post I would like to dive deeper into a common situation: a child has heard CDS and is now using linguistic creativity to start forming his/her own sentences. They are short, but that is completely ok. As a parent or guardian or even just friend, you will be inclined to correct the child as they speak. Here is a summary of the different ways you can do this.

Recasts: Adult repetition of the child

When a parent repeats what the child has said, but adds a correction, linguists call recasts:

Child: You get blue ball.

Parent: No, I will get the red ball.

The main goal of a recast is to not interrupt the natural flow of the conversation, while still making the child notice an error. "This is achieved, in part, by reproducing some or all of the child's own words and structures. In so doing, the adult increases the chance of being understood by the child" (pg 95).

Contrastive Discourse - Negative Evidence

Contrastive discourse, or negative evidence, is a type of recast, whereby the parent gives corrective input to the child:

Child: I eated all my breakfast.

Parent: You ate all of it.

"[T]he correct adult form is especially conspicuous [to the child] when it directly follows a child error. [...] The contrast between the two forms is therefore especially noticeable. If is predicted, therefore, that the child will recognize their own selection as erroneous, and furthermore, will recognize that the adult alternative constitutes the appropriate form." (97)

Negative Feedback

Negative feedback is when a parent asks the child to clarify what they have said, because they made an error. This allows a child as young as 12 months old to think on the sentence the just uttered and let them try and find the error on their own.

Child: I eated all my breakfast.

Parent: What?

Negative feedback - while not a generally bad form of feedback by any means - however allows a child to change their statement into many other grammatical errors they got right the first time around. Negative Feedback "provides a weaker form of corrective information than negative evidence. This is because the adult provides no correct alternative to the child error. [N]egative feedback provides a cue for the child that, essentially, jogs their memory about language forms they have already learned" (pg 101).


#languageaquisition #learninglanguage

Saxton, M. (2010). Child language acquisition and development. London: Sage Publications. Chp. 4: Input and interaction: Tutorials for toddlers, pp. 78–107.

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