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A symbolic system in which a limited number of signals can be combined according to rules to produce an infinite number of messages


One of the basic unites of sound used in a particular spoken language.


Variations in pitch, loudness, and timing when saying words or sentences

Word segmentation

In language development, the ability to break the stream of speech sounds into distinct words


An early form of vocalization that involves repeating vowel-like sounds


An early form of vocalization that appears between 4 and 6 months of age and involves repeating consonant-vowel combinations such as "baba" or "dadada"


The aspect of language centering on meanings

Joint attention

The act of looking at the same object at the same time with someone else; a way in which infants share perceptual experiences with their caregivers


A single-word utterance used by an infant that represents an entire sentence's worth of meaning

Vocabulary spurt

A phenomenon occurring around 18 months of age when the pace of word learning quickens dramatically


The young child's tendency to use a word to refer to a wider set of objects, actions, or events than adults do


The young child's tendency to use general words to refer to a smaller set of objects, actions, or events than adults do

Telegraphic speech

Early sentences that consist primarily of content words and omit the less meaningful parts of speech such as articles, prepositions, pronouns, and auxiliary verbs


Rules specifying how words can be combined to form meaningful sentences in a language

Functional grammar

An analysis of the semantic relations (meanings such as naming and locating) that children express in their earliest sentences


Rules governing the formation of words from sounds (for example, rules forming plurals and past tenses)


The overgeneralization of observed grammatical rules to irregular cases to which the rules do not apply (for example, saying mouses rather than mice)

Transformational grammar

Rules of syntax that allow a person to transform declarative statements into questions, negatives, imperatives, and other kinds of sentences


Rules specifying how language is to be used appropriately in different social contexts to achieve goals

Decontextualized language

Language that is not bound to the immediate conversational context and that is about past or remote events

Metalinguistic awareness

Knowledge of language as a system.

Language acquisition device (LAD)

A set of linguistic processing skills that nativists believe to be innate; presumably the LAD enables a child to infer the rules governing others' speech and then use these rules to produce language

Child-directed speech

Speech used by adults speaking with young children, it involves short, simple sentences spoken slowly and in a high-pitched voice, often with much repetition and with exaggerated emphasis on key words


A conversational tactic used by adults in speaking to young children in which they respond to a child's utterance with a more grammatically complete expression of the same thought

Mastery motivation

An intrinsic motive to master and control the environment evident early in infancy

Mastery orientation

A tendency to thrive on challenges and persist in the face of failure because of healthy attributions that lead to the belief that increased effort will pay off

Learned helplessness orientation

A tendency to avoid challenges and to cease trying in the face of failure primarily because of a tendency to attribute failure to lack of ability and therefore to believe that little can be done to improve the results

Learning goal

A goal adopted by learners in which they seek to learn new things so that they can improve their abilities.

Performance goal

A goal adopted by learners in which they attempt to prove their ability rather than to improve it

Alphabetic principle

The idea that the letters in printed words represent the sounds in spoken words

Phonological awareness

The understanding that spoken words can be decomposed into some number of basic sound units, or phonemes; an important skill in learning to read.

Emergent literacy

The developmental precursors of reading skills in young children, including knowledge, skills, and attributes that will facilitate the acquisition of reading competence


Serious difficulties learning to read in children who have normal intellectual ability and no sensory impairments or emotional difficulties that could account for their learning problems

Ability grouping

The practice in education of grouping students according to ability and educating them in classes with students of comparable academic or intellectual standing; also called ability tracking or simply tracking


The educational practice of integrating handicapped students into regular classrooms rather than placing them in segregated special education classes; also called mainstreaming

Cooperative learning

Procedures that involve assigning students, usually of different races or ability levels, to work teams that are reinforced for performing well as team and that encourage cooperation among teammates


The ability to use printed information to function in society, achieve goals, and develop potential

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