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Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and

comprehend language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand
it), as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate.
Language acquisition involves structures, rules and representation. The capacity to successfully
use language requires one to acquire a range of tools
including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and an extensive vocabulary. Language
can be vocalized as in speech, or manual as in sign. Human language capacity is represented in
the brain. Even though human language capacity is finite, one can say and understand an infinite
number of sentences, which is based on a syntactic principle calledrecursion. Evidence suggests
that every individual has three recursive mechanisms that allow sentences to go indeterminately.
These three mechanisms are: relativization, complementation and coordination.[1]
There are two main guiding principles in first-language acquisition: speech perception always
precedes speech production and the gradually evolving system by which a child learns a
language is built up one step at a time, beginning with the distinction between
individual phonemes.[2]
Linguists who are interested in child language acquisition for many years question how language
is acquired, Lidz et al. states "The question of how these structures are acquired, then, is more
properly understood as the question of how a learner takes the surface forms in the input and
converts them into abstract linguistic rules and representations."[3]
Language acquisition usually refers to first-language acquisition, which studies infants'
acquisition of their native language, whether that be spoken language or signed language as a
result of prelingual deafness, though it can also refer to bilingual first language
acquisition (BFLA), which refers to an infant's simultaneous acquisition of two native
languages.[4] This is distinguished from second-language acquisition, which deals with the
acquisition (in both children and adults) of additional languages. In addition to speech, reading
and writing a language with an entirely different script compounds the complexities of true
foreign language literacy. Language acquisition is one of the quintessential human
traits,[5] because non-humans do not communicate by using language.[6]
Linguistic Milestones – General Trends

Key terms

 Babbling – The experimentation of sounds by an infant, tending to include recognisable

 Inflections – The modification of words grammatically to form different tenses or number.
E.g. cat (singular) + -s (inflection) = cats (plural) E.g. walk (present tense) + -ed (inflection) =
walked (past tense)
 Intonation – The rise and fall of voice when speaking. Enables differentiation between
phrases. E.g. questions, exclamations etc, all use different intonation patterns
 Phonemes – Small segments of sound.
Subject literature provides guidelines for the average age specific language features are acquired
– but different authors cite different milestone dates, depending on where they conducted their
research. So it’s important to note that dates, in terms of specific linguistic milestones, are not
concrete and can vary slightly from child to child (see Language Acquisition in Exceptional
Circumstances for more information).

What’s acquired?

In order to speak a language as adults do, children need to have acquired five areas of linguistic
competence: Phonology, Lexis, Semantics, Grammar and Pragmatics.


Phonological development is the acquisition of sounds in order to pronounce words. Child

Language Acquisition begins at birth. The inner ear has the only bones in the whole body which
are fully formed at birth, thus enabling the child to start recognising their mother’s voice in the
first day of living and also allowing the child to differentiate one language from another at such
an early stage. The vocal tract is not fully developed at birth which, when compared to the
formation of the inner ear, helps to biologically explain why it is that perception of sounds comes
before the ability to produce sounds. Through ‘vocal playing’ (highlighted in the 5 pre-verbal
stages below) children learn to control their vocal tract to produce sounds accurately
(REMEMBER: Each child differs, so the dates provided are a guideline).
 Basic Biological Noises (approximately 0-8 weeks) – Vocalisations: coughing, crying, a low
cooing, laughing etc.
 Cooing and Laughing (approximately 8-20 weeks) – Short vowel-like sounds produced
when the baby is in a settled state: more melodic than biological noises. At three and a half
months, a baby’s voice box is in place and gradual control of vocal muscles is gained.
 Vocal Play (approximately 20-30 weeks) – ‘Cooing’ sounds develop into sounds which are
much more definite and controlled.
 Babbling (approximately 25-50 weeks) – All babies babble! It is an innate feature of human
beings: even deaf babies babble. There are two stages of babbling:
 Reduplicated babbling, for example [mamama], emerges from around 6 months
 Variegated babbling, for example [adu] and [maba], is when there is movement away from
fixed patterns and sounds become more complex and closer to speech. Consonants and
vowels can change from one syllable to the next.
 Melodic Utterance (approximately 36-72 weeks) -Intonation, rhythm and melody develop,
resulting in babies sounding more and more as though they are speaking the language. The
occasional few words may have started to appear. Parents start to assume different sounds
resemble different linguistical structures, such as questioning, exclaiming and greeting etc.
Babies of different nationalities sound increasingly different from each other.
64 Week Old Baby “Talk

Lexical development is the acquisition of words.

Katherine Nelson[2] classified children’s first 50 words as:

1. Naming things or people: ball, Daddy, juice, milk.

2. Actions or events: down, more, up.
3. Describing or modifying things: dirty, nice, pretty.
4. Personal or social words: hi, bye-bye.

Semantic development is the acquisition of the meaning of words. Children tend to use words
more broadly than adults and over-extensions and under-extensions are found to be produced.

 Over Extensions – A child uses a word in a broad sense. For example, the word ‘dog’ may
be used to refer to all four-legged animals with a tail. Over-extensions reflect a child’s
learning and their growing knowledge of the world; noticing similarities and differences
between objects.
 Under Extensions -A child uses a word more narrowly than an adult would. For example,
using the word ‘shoe’ only when referring to their own shoes.
These features of semantic development are crucial in gaining meaning and understanding of
words. Eventually, children will overcome these features.


There are three main stages of grammatical development.

Holophrastic Stage (12-18 months) -The Holophrastic stage consists of children learning and
producing single word utterances that function as phrases or sentences. For example:
 ‘Gone’ could mean ‘it’s all gone’
 ‘Teddy’ could mean ‘that’s my teddy’
 ‘More’ could mean ‘I want more’
Sometimes children’s productions are longer and are considered as being one unit or a whole
phrase (this is called a Holophrase). For example:

 ‘Allgone’ and ‘Gosleep’

Intonation plays a key role during this stage. Children learn the ability to distinguish between
interrogative, declarative and imperative phrases, and despite their limited grammatical
structuring, are able to aid their communication more effectively. For example:

 ‘Dada?’ said with a rising intonation, would imply a question

 ‘Dada’ said with a falling intonation, would imply declarative statement
 ‘Dada!’ said in exclamation, would imply imperative statement
Two-word Stage (18-24 months) – The Two-word stage comprises a child using (quite
obviously, as stated in the title) two words to form a sentence. ‘Baby chair’, ‘Mummy eat’ and
‘Cat bad’ are all examples of utterances at this stage and as it may be obvious, require
interpretation. Context of an utterance can aid the ambiguity behind such statements. For
 ‘Baby chair’ could mean…
1. Possession: ‘this is baby’s chair’
2. Request/command: ‘put baby in chair’
3. Statement: ‘baby is in the chair’
Telegraphic Stage (2-3 years) – The Telegraphic stage, is when children have acquired and start
to use multiple-word utterances. At this stage, some of the children’s utterances are
grammatically correct…
 ‘Amy likes tea’ – (Subject + Verb + Object)
 ‘teddy looks tired’ – (Subject + Verb + Adjective)
 ‘Mummy sleeps upstairs’ – (Subject + Verb + Adverbial)
Whilst others have grammatical elements missing…

 ‘This shoe all wet’ – (the stative verb carrying meaning is missing: is)
Children are more likely to retain CONTENT words (nouns, verbs and adjectives that refer to
real things) and FUNCTION words (that have grammatical function: pronouns, prepositions and
auxiliary verbs) are often omitted.
Overgeneralisations are also found at this stage. This is when children make virtuous errors in
their allocation of inflections. For example:
The inflection -s to mark plurality is seen to be added to irregular verbs: sheep – sheeps
The inflection -ed to mark past tense is seen to be added to irregular verbs: go – goed
Such examples would suggest that children try to figure out grammar by themselves, using
grammatical rules productively to establish forms, not by hearing form from the people around
them in their environment. Children would not hear such examples as ‘goed’ from the adults
around them.


Pragmatic development highlights children’s motivation to acquire language in the first place, as
it serves different purposes and functions. Pragmatics aren’t acquired immediately, nor does it
take a short period of time for a child to acquire them. This process is on-going until the age of
approximately 10 years.

Halliday[3] classified functions of language as being:

1. INSTRUMENTAL – to express needs

2. REGULATORY – to control behaviours of others
3. INTERACTIONAL – to relate to others
4. HEURISTIC – to gain knowledge of the environment
5. PERSONAL – to express yourself
6. IMAGINATIVE – to use language imaginatively
7. INFORMATIVE – to convey facts and information
If you are unsure of any of the terminology on this page you can revise your knowledge in our


[1] Saxton, W. (2010). Child Language Acquisition and Development. London: SAGE
[2] Nelson, K. (1973). ‘Structure and Strategy in Learning to Talk’. Monographs of the Society
for Research in Child Development. 149(1-2). 1-137.
[3] Halliday, M. A. K. (1975). Learning How To Mean. London: Edward Arnold Ltd.

A. Definition of syllabus

In accordance with the main purpose of syllabus that is to break down the mass of knowledge to be
learnt into manageable units, the role of syllabus varies from different points of the teaching material
which inspires the production of texts and exercise and the basis on which proficiency will be evaluated.
It is the determiner of entire course (Hutchinson and Water in Lolita,2001:14).
Another source explains syllabus as the representative of both an end and a beginning, a final product of
the course planning and a valuable way to introduce the course to the students. The syllabus is one of
the few formal, tangible links between teachers and the students since it will be referred to throughout
the semester (Jennifer Sinor and Matt Kaplan in

Rodgers (in Savitri 2009:31) states that syllabus prescribes the content to be covered by a given course.
It forms only a small part of the total of school program. Nunan (in Savitri 2009:30) states that syllabus
defines the goals and objectives, the linguistic and experiential content, instructional materials can put
flesh on the bones of these specifications.

Menurut Mulyasa, silabus adalah sebuah rencana pembelajaran dalam suatu mata pelajaran dengan
tema tertentu yang berisi mengenai strandar kompetensi, kompetensi dasar, indikator, materi,
penilaian, alokasi waktu, dan sumber yang dikembangkan oleh tiap-tiap satuan pendidikan.

Yulaelawati (2004:123) Menjelaskan Pengertian Silabus

yulaelawati menjelaskan bahwa pengertian silabus adalah seperangkat rencana dan pelaksanaan
pengaturan pembelajaran dan penilaian yang dibuat untuk sistem yang mengandung semua komponen
memiliki hubungan dengan tujuan menguasai kompetensi dasar.

From the definition of syllabus stated above it can be concluded that syllabus is not the same with
curriculum. It is smaller part of curriculum that contain the description of what is going to be taught,
what goals and objectives are going to be reached, what exercises have to be given and what proficiency
is going to be gained. Instructional material is the instrument to fulfill the goals of the syllabus. ( di akses pada 25 September 2019 )