5.11 Components of Language and Language Acquisition

4 min readnovember 11, 2020

Sadiyya Holsey

Sadiyya Holsey

Dalia Savy

Dalia Savy

AP Psychology 🧠

334 resources
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This whole time we've been talking about memory and bias, but what about language? Language is the foundation of all thinking and knowledge and it is made by humans. Isn't it crazy to think that we created language to communicate?
Language is a system of spoken🗣️ and written communication✍️ and varies culture to culture.

Components of Language


Syntax refers to the ordering of words when making a sentence. Every language has their own way of ordering words into a sentence.
For example, in English, we say "my mom's house🏠" or "my sister's pencil✏️" but in Spanish and other romance languages, they say "the house of my mom" or the "pencil of my sister."
Using the proper tense is also an example of syntax.


Grammar refers to the rules of a language and how words should be combined to communicate meaning🧠


Semantics refers to the study of understanding the meanings of words and word combinations.


Lexicon is the general store of vocabulary for people. For instance, every occupation has “lexicon” specific to the field. A chef👨‍🍳 has a different lexicon than a surgeon👨‍⚕️


Phonemes (like phonics) are the basic sound units of language.  
The word "chat" has three phonemes - ch-a-t.


Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units of speech. Remember morphemes=meaning. It may be part of a word, like a prefix or suffix, but it could be a full word as well. Most morphemes combine 2-3 phonemes.

Gif Courtesy of Giphy

Language Acquisition

Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

Language Acquisition Device states that humans are born with the capacity to acquire and produce language. It states that we are all born with an understanding of language.
LAD is used to explain how children can learn languages so well. Children understand that sentences should have a structure before they are able to speak in full sentences.  

Critical Period

Noam Chomsky says that childhood is the critical period for language development and without exposure, it is impossible to learn a language.

Babbling stage 

An early stage of speech that occurs around the age of 3-4 months when children produce spontaneous meaningless sounds (ex. ah-goo). It's basically when they use phonemes that aren't from your language.
At about 10 months old, babbling begins to resemble household language🏘️.

One-word Stage

At about 12 months old, the child will begin to speak in one word statements that communicate meaning. For example, if they see a cat, they might say "Kitty!" in excitement.

Two-word Stage

At about 18 months old, children begin to speak in two-word statements, like "Get ball⚽," "Want food," and "I tired😴."

Telegraphic speech 

The two-word stage of speech when the child speaks like a telegram. These statements usually consist of one verb and one noun.
At about 24 months old, language develops into full sentences very rapidly.


Using grammar rules without proper use and exceptions. For example, a young child might say “I goed to the park,” because they think they can add -ed to anything in the past tense; however, that is an overgeneralization of the rule because there are exceptions.  

Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis

Benjamin Whorf's hypothesis is that language controls the way an individual thinks about their world. People that speak different languages have different perspectives on life depending on how complex their language is. Limitations on vocabulary create limitations in how individuals see the world😲.
In other words, people that are bilingual might describe themselves differently, depending on the language they are speaking in. The more languages you speak, the more word power you have. It's very good for your brain and really expands your capabilities.

The Brain

Some believe that there are two main parts responsible for acquiring language:
  1. Broca's area🗣️ - helps with the production of language and language expression. It is in the left frontal lobe and if it were to be damaged, we would have trouble speaking.
  2. Wernicke's area🧠 - helps with the understanding of language. It is located in the left temporal lobe and if it were to be damaged, we would have trouble understanding.
Aphasia is the impairment of language that occurs when either the Broca's area (expressive aphasia) or Wernicke's area (receptive aphasia) is damaged. Depending on which type of aphasia one has, one could be able to speak language but not understand it and vice versa. Isn't that weird to think about?
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