Language Development


Learning language is a fundamental aspect of human experience that is reproduced from generation to generation all over the world. Yet, how similar are the processes of language development among people of different places and backgrounds? This course will explore the nature of language and its relation to thinking, meaning-making, and culture. We will begin with a look at the phenomena of first language acquisition—naming, categorizing, conversation, private speech, storytelling, metaphor—and how they constitute and express children’s experiences in their worlds. We will then consider topics such as language and gender, early literacy, second-language learning in the contexts of bilingualism, transitions from home to school, and immigration. Readings will be drawn from psychological studies and observational and ethnographic accounts. Students will be encouraged to do fieldwork in settings where they can observe and record language, including in our Early Childhood Center, to investigate and document the processes that we will be studying or as the basis for conference projects. Previous course in psychology or a social science is expected.