LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT OF SELECTED PRESCHOOLERS: A CROSS-SECTIONAL APPROACH

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LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT OF SELECTED PRESCHOOLERS: A CROSS-SECTIONAL APPROACH

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ABSTRACT

 

Studies in child language indicate that social and environmental conditions affect the rate of language development in children. Most of these researches have been carried out in western countries with different sociolinguistic settings. The few available ones in Nigeria are longitudinal studies where each of the researchers used just one subject, a child, of which it is difficult to generalise their findings with unstudied children. This study is, therefore, a cross-sectional assessment of language development of selected preschool children. The motivation of the research stemmed from observed variation in the language abilities of children and how social variables contribute to this.The research objectives were to investigate the relevance of home and school environment, as well as the roles of age and gender to the pace of language development in children. The research used 12 subjects between 2 and 5 years, from different sociolinguistic environment. The subjects were purposively sampled from two nursery schools: Queen of Peace Nursery School, Ahmadu Bello University and Rehoboth Academy, both in Zaria. The choice of the two schools was based on the perceived wide discrepancy in their condition of learning. Both questionnaire and elicitations were used to gather data. The questionnaire provided demographic information about the subjects. On the other hand, the elicitations involved presenting a collection of objects to the children. Attention was paid to their ability to label the items, their articulation and understanding of the objects. The theory used for data analysis was an eclectic approach, comprising Mentalism and Behaviourism, while Bloom and Lahey (1978)served as a transcription model. With regard to the relevance of home background, it was discovered that whereas linguistic background and occupation of parents can influence the pace of language development in children, it is not the same withparental educational/economic status andthe birth position of children. Data also showed that school environment plays a key role in the rate at which children master language, as certain classroom practices such as imitation, practice and reinforcement make language development faster. This finding supports the behaviourist view that children ‗learn‘ language just like any human behaviour, imitating the adults around them. However, some verbal behaviours of the subjects such as the prevalent use of overextension, sound simplification and correct conceptualisation of objectswithout knowledge of their signifiers, showed that language development is much more than imitation, as the children could not have picked such behaviours from adults.This emphasises the mentalist postulate that language development is a maturation process. In addition, the study found that age is a major contributor to linguistic competence in early childhood, while gender has little or no significant effect on the process.

LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT OF SELECTED PRESCHOOLERS: A CROSS-SECTIONAL APPROACH

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