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Symbolic Language of Children

"[C]hildren do not grammatically mark relationships [i.e., meanings] in their spontaneous productive speech until they know the concept that the marker denotes" (Bohannon and Luebecker, 1989, p. 200). The concepts are conveyed by environmental cues, e.g., given by mothers. The behavioral approach owes much to B.F. Skinner's ideas about conditioning subjects. The idea is to reinforce acceptable language choices with positive response, so as to encourage the development of such choices. Bohannon and Warren-Leubecker cite "imitation training" (1989, p. 192) of children to "use the targeted linguistic rule in novel sentences" (1989, p. 192). But most behaviorist research has been conducted on adults: "If a factor proven to be effective in increasing [adult] learning in the lab does not exist in the child's natural environment, then that factor cannot be relied upon to explain language acquisition" (1989, pp. 192-3). The so-called communicative approach holds that "when words start getting combined, child language is best described in terms of meaning" (Hakuta, 1985, p. 113). But evidence that syntax and grammar emerge out of meaning and communication is inconclusive (Taylor-Flusberg & Calkins, 1990; Chomsky, 1969. Social-interactionist theory combines features of cognitive and linguistic theory (Bohannon and Warren-Luebecker, 1989, p. 204), with the added feature of the importance of the emotional environment of the language learner, such


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