Child's Talk: Learning to Use Language

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W.W. Norton, 1983 - Family & Relationships - 144 pages
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To carry out his investigations, Bruner went to "the clutter of life at home," the child's own setting for learning, rather than observing children in a "contrived video laboratory." For Bruner, language is learned by using it. An central to its use are what he calls "formats," scriptlike interactions between mother and child—in short, play and games. What goes on in games as rudimentary as peekaboo or hide-and-seek can tell us much about language acquisition.

But what aids the aspirant speaker in his attempt to use language? To answer this, the author postulates the existence of a Language Acquisition Support System that frames the interactions between adult and child in such a way as to allow the child to proceed from learning how to refer to objects to learning to make a request of another human being. And, according to Bruner, the Language Acquisition Support System not only helps the child learn "how to say it" but also helps him to learn "what is canonical, obligatory, and valued among those to whom he says it." In short, it is a vehicle for the transmission of our culture.

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About the author (1983)

Jerome Seymour Bruner was born in Manhattan, New York on October 1, 1915. Born blind because of cataracts, he had an experimental operation to restore his vision at the age of 2. He received a degree in psychology from Duke University in 1937 and received a doctorate from Harvard University. His theories about perception, child development, and learning informed education policy and helped launch the cognitive revolution. He wrote or co-wrote several books including A Study of Thinking written with Jacqueline J. Goodnow and George A. Austin and The Process of Education. He helped design Head Start, the federal program introduced in 1965 to improve preschool development. He died on June 5, 2016 at the age of 100.

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