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Learning language - listening vs speaking

written by Andrea


Input - Child Directed Speech (CDS) and Adult Directed Speech (ADS)


In linguistic research on language acquisition the term for what a child hears can be divided into Child Directed Speech (CDS) and Adult Directed Speech (ADS). As their names describe, CDS is when an adult talks to a child and adjusts their language in many ways to accommodate the child, while ADS is when a child overhears adults talking to each other.


CDS differs from ADS in many ways. Most noticeable are

  • phonology (exaggerated intonation),

  • vocabulary (simple words referring to the here-and-now),

  • morphology and syntax (simple sentences, using a lot of noun phrases such as more grape juice, a cup, or another blue one for example, the subject of a sentence is usually also the agent),

  • dynamic register (tone of voice), and

  • speed (slower)

Speaking - Interaction

Interaction is crucial for children to learn a language. While CDS lets them hear the language and analyze it, Interaction allows them to practice using the language. This happens in part through what linguists call imitation: "children learn language by imitating their parents" (pg 89). This does not mean that children are therefore limited by what parents say. Children combine what they have heard with the linguistic creativity language provides. They learn by listening that there is a structure to language, but that words are also almost infinitely changeable. They get creative with language and use it in interaction, awaiting a response and/or correction (corrective input) form their parents and become ever more versed in using the language properly.

#languageaquisition #inputandinteraction

Reference: 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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