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Stages of First Language Acquisition

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Stages of First Language Acquisition essay
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Language plays a significant role in social communication. Although it is extremely complicated, it is the first method for human communication. The child is already born with the ability to learn any human language. There are two important skills in describing the child’s language development. These skills are the receptive skill and expressive skill. The receptive skill always comes before the expressive skill. The receptive skill begins at birth when the baby is exposed to various kinds of noises. In the beginning, the baby is not able to differentiate between the sounds. After a couple of weeks, the expressive skills develop, and the child starts interacting and responding to the sounds around him.

Each person beginning to learn a language goes through different stages of language acquisition. In this essay, we are going to discuss the major theories about language acquisition and its different stages. In the first part we will highlight the theories which are the Behaviorist theory, the Nativism theory and the Interactionist theory. As cited by Norbahira&Radzuwan (2018), Lightbown and Spada (2006) explained that acquiring the first language is explained in different ways by each theory. As for the behaviorist theory, it is “Say what I say”, for the nativism theory, “It’s all in your mind” and for the interactionist theory, “A little help from my friends”. And in the second part we will discuss the various stages of language acquisition which are the silent period, the babbling stage, the holophrastic stage, the two-word stage, the telegraphic stage, and the fluency stage.

The first theory is the Behaviorist (Learning) Theory. The father of this theory is B.F.Skinner. This theory believes that language is a group of verbal behaviors which are learned through operant conditioning which is a way of changing behavior. It believes that children obtain a language through repetition, imitation, reinforcement and practice (Wikiversity contributors, 2019). The child imitates and repeats the word that he hears from his parents and they encourage him and reinforce it. They practice with him saying this word till he can pronounce it as well as they do. So, if the parents pronounce the word inaccurately, the child will say it in the same way they do. Despite this, children may produce words that they have never heard before such as goed, bringed, holded…etc. (Szczegielniak, n.d.) My daughter used to call “SpongeBob” as “dombooth” and despite repeating the word many times for her, she insisted on the same wrong pronunciation.

The second theory is called the Nativism (Innatism) theory. This theory states that language is inherited and transferred genetically. It believes that language is worldwide, and any human being is born with the ability to develop language and that language is acquired by nature. The main theorist Naom Chomsky who is associated with this theory came up with the language acquisition device (LAD) idea. The LAD is an organ in our brain that is responsible for the learning of a language (Wikiversity contributors, 2019). Although that the LAD is not physically found in our brain, but the studies by Broca and Wernicke showed that language is affected if there is any damage in certain parts of the brain (Eve Clark, 2009).

The third one is the Interactionist (sociocultural) Theory. This theory believes that communication is the main thing for developing the language. Children learn the language through communication and interaction with the people around them (Wikiversity contributors, 2019). This means that the children’s language is greatly affected by the environment they grow up in. Thus, if the child is isolated from society, he will not be able to acquire language.

In the following part, we will discuss the various stages of language acquisition. The first stage that the child goes through is called the “silent period”. In this stage, at the age of 0-2 months, the baby produces natural sounds such as crying or burping. He expresses his feelings only by crying. Then at the age of 2-5 months, cooing and laughter appear. The baby produces sounds when he is happy. These sounds can be made of vowel or consonant sounds. At the age of 4-8 months, vocal play occurs. The baby begins to stick longer consonant or vowel sounds together.

Finally, the babbling occurs at the age of 6-13 months (website). Babbling is considered the earliest stage of acquiring a language. In this stage, the child begins to know and produce various sounds. He starts to imitate the sounds around him. He can produce some understood words to communicate with like “mama” and “dada” which refer to mum and dad. My daughter used the words “baba” and “mama” to refer to her father and me. She also used the word “mum” to refer to food. The child also starts to use physical communication, he uses gestures to communicate. As hearing babies babble using sounds, deaf babies also babble using their hands (Szczegielniak, n.d.).

After this stage, the child goes through the one-word “Holophrastic” stage. In this stage, the child starts to differentiate between the sounds he hears. He also starts to understand the meaning of words and that the sounds are related to the meanings. He begins to produce sounds that get the attention of his parents. Later, the child starts using one word to replace a sentence (Szczegielniak, n.d.). For example, my daughter was so much attached to her minnie mouse teddy.

When she said “minnie”, she sometimes meant “This is minnie”, “I want Minnie”, or “where is Minnie?”. Also, words that the child says in this stage may convey more meaning. For example, my daughter used the word “tayarra” in Arabic which means an “airplane” in English and pointed to the sky to tell me “pick me up”. Also, she used the word “beya” (arabeya) in Arabic that means “car” in English to tell me “I want to go outside”. All these things are not taught to the child. He gets them from interacting with the adults around him.

At the age of 18-24 months, the child goes through the next stage called “two-word” stage. In this stage, the child starts to have a better understanding of the rules that the words have. He starts to know how to use words and categorize them. He can put the words in an order that is like the words in a full sentence. According to Stern (1924), there are three stages of vocabulary growth:

a) substance, which means the increase in nouns.

b) action, which means the increase in verbs.

c) relation and distinction, which means the increase in qualifying and relational words.

(David Ingram, 1989)

After this, comes the “telegraphic” stage which usually starts at the age of 24 months. In this stage, the child’s ability to create full sentences appear. The child starts to gain many new words quickly and his vocabulary increases a lot. He can understand what each word means and how to put it in a sentence. However, children in this stage still lack the morphemes and function words and do not know how to use them in sentences but they can understand them when heard (Szczegielniak, n.d.).

The final stage is fluency. In this stage, the children can create full sentences. They have fewer errors and become more fluent. Although children go through the same language acquisition stages, not all of them reach each stage at the same age. My two daughters acquired their first language at different ages despite being sisters and living in the same environment. Finally, “acquiring a language demands much more than knowledge of its sound system, grammatical distinctions, lexical choices and constructions. It also requires knowledge of how to talk to different addressees on different occasions in different settings.” (Eve Clark,2009: p.335) Language is very important. It has a great effect on society. Without the language, we would not be able to communicate or form relationships.


  • Eve V. Clark (2009). First language acquisition. United States of America: Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • David Ingram (1989). First language acquisition: method, description and explanation. Cambridge, Press Syndicate of the university of Cambridge.
  • Adam Szczegielniak (n.d). ‘Introduction to linguistic theory’ Available from: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/adam/files/language_acquisition.ppt.pdf
  • Alexa DeBenedictis. Language Acquisition ‘Theories of speech and language development’. Available from: https://languageacquisitionpsyc220.weebly.com/theories-of-speech–language-development.html
  • Norbahira Mohamad Nor, Radzuwan Ab Rashid (2018). Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences ’ A review of theoretical perspectives on language learning and acquisition’.
  • https://study.com/academy/lesson/linguistics-language-development-in-children.html
  • Stages of Language Development: Pre-Linguistic and Symbolic Language2016
  • https://canvas.highline.edu/courses/1240222/pages/stages-of-language-development-pre-linguistic-and-symbolic-language
  • Wikiversity contributors (n.d) Psycholinguistics/Theories and Models of Language Acquisition. Available from: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Psycholinguistics/Theories_and_Models_of_Language_Acquisition#Social_Interactionist_Theory

Stages of First Language Acquisition essay

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How many stages are there in first language acquisition?
There are four main stages of normal language acquisition: The babbling stage, the Holophrastic or one-word stage, the two-word stage and the Telegraphic stage.
What are the 5 stages of first language acquisition?
There are six stages in children‟s first language acquisition, namely: Pre-talking stage / Cooing (0-6 months) Babbling stage (6-8 months) Holophrastic stage (9-18 months) The two-word stage (18-24 months) Telegraphic stage (24-30 months) Later multiword stage (30+months.
What are the main stages of language acquisition?
Stages of First Language Acquisition Pre-Talking. This stage takes place from birth to around six months of age. Babbling. The babbling phase occurs from around six to eight months old. Holophrastic. Two-Word. Telegraphic. Multiword. Fluency. Setting.
What are the six stages of first language acquisition?
There are roughly six stages of acquisition: Prelinguistic Stage. Babbling Stage. First Words. Two-word Stage. Telegraphic Stage. Beyond Telegraphic Stage.
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