An Investigation into the use of information-gathering strategies in the acquisition of language.
Flint-Taylor, Jill Verena.
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It is proposed that young children who already have some degree of linguistic ability will use various verbal information-gathering strategies to enhance that ability. Specifically, it is suggested that such children formulate hypotheses about the meanings of words and that they use language in various ways to elicit feedback from others as to the accuracy of these hypotheses. A selective review of the literature on cognitive and language development provided a theoretical framework within which to pose this problem and from which guidelines for data analysis could be drawn. The aim of the study was to identify the use of various verbal information-gathering strategies in individual children. This was done by recording sequences of interactions involving individual children and various others and then examining the transcripts of these recordings for regularities which suggested the use of such strategies. Verbal information-gathering strategies were thus initially identified by noting regularities amongst those interactions where a child appeared to be seeking information about language. Four such strategies were found to be used by all three children who participated in the study. Other strategies were found to be specific to one individual or to two of the children who were siblings. Once these strategies were identified, the data was analyzed for individual instances of each strategy. Discussion of the use of these strategies includes consideration of the role of questions, selective imitation, naming or stating and metaphor in language development. The relationships among concept formation, memory and language development are also briefly explored. Further support for the view of the young child as testing hypotheses about word meanings came from the observation that two of the children showed a definite preoccupation with the meanings of certain words on various occasions throughout the study. While the findings of the study show that these three children did use various verbal information gathering strategies, it remains to be shown how important such strategies are for language development and what roles may be played by different strategies.