The different stages of the linguistis evolution with autistic children and children without autism

Term Paper, 2002

12 Pages


The different stages of the linguistis evolution with autistic children and children without autism

A child is a person undergoing the period of development from infancy to puberty. The term infancy comes from Latin roots and means “not speaking”. It is the very early childhood usually defined as the first years of life. It is the period of life prior to the development of complex speech, because many children have large numbers of words and use simple sentences well before their second birthday. But there are unfortunately some children who are not able to talk like a normal child. These children are called atypical children. In my essay I will write about the differences between the development of children with Autism and the development of children without problems in speaking.

I will start my essay with the Prelinguistics Vocalization by describing the crying, cooing and the babbling. Children develop language according to invariant sequences of steps and stages. Crying in the first few month is a kind of language without speech, because “the child communicates different types of discomfort without using normal speech sounds”.1

Parents soon learn that their baby’s cries can have different meaning. Like indicating hunger, gas or other sources of distress. Newborn children have an unlearned but highly effective form of verbal expression- the crying. A lot of crying.

The crying is a simple form of vocalizing that is accomplished by blowing air through the vocal tract. There are no distinct and well-formed sounds but the crying can be very long and very vigorous.

Spencer A. Rathus who wrote the book “Understanding child development” gave the statement in his chapter “Language Development” that “In addition to serving as a signal that help is needed, crying appears to foster cardiovascular development and increase the capacity of the lungs.”2

But these physical effects do not prove that crying is necessary for proper physical development. But crying trains babies to time their breathing patterns. And this could eventually be a learning point for children to know how to play their lungs like bagpipes, with “quick inhalations by long, slow exhalations to fuel their vocal cords with prolonged wailing.”3 It is crucial that the children know how to time their breathing, because this is important to success the speech communication for the rest of their life and it is also a direct result of a baby’s ability to learn to control the cries.

Spencer A. Rathus mentioned in his chapter Psychologist Ann M. Frodie. She found out that parents, other people or even older children have similar physiological responses to infant crying. They will run to the baby to try to relieve the distress of their heart rate, blood pressure and sweating. When a baby cries, some people feel irrated and anxious.

In a series of experiments Mrs. Frodie found out that there are differences between preterm babies cries and full-term infants by the effects on adults. She found out that the cries of preterm babies are an octave higher. They also have different rhythm, pauses and inhalationsexhalations patterns. It has also a more aversive effect on the listener.

The cries by a preterm baby signals greater urgency, and they can threaten the formation of parent-child bonds of attachment. Spencer A. Rathus took a quotation over from Mrs. Frodie. “Frodie notes that `If there is too much crying or the sound is too grating, you may opt to relieve your own distress by trying to get away from the cry or by becoming violent`(Sobel,1981).4

This is unfortunately true. Some parents just can behave violent when their baby is crying a lot and do not stop.

Crying has a one-to-one relationship between signs and their referents. For example the hungrier a baby becomes, the louder and longer the crying.

The crying becomes more differentiated and more symbolic. Symbolic means “Sign which have a random and arbitrary relationship with their referents.”1

This means that the cries are subtly, indirectly, and almost randomly associated with its needs. So it is not directly related to the child’s sense of discomfort or even pain. They rather try to get attention of their parents.

Crying is just about the only sound that infants make during the first month after birth. The next step, during the next two-month, babies also begin too cooing. It is unlearned, like crying. When babies coo they use their tongues and for this reason coos take one more articulated sounds than cries.

It is frequently vowel-like and may resemble repeated “oohs” and “ahs”. It also appears to reflect feelings of positive excitement or of pleasure. When babies are tired, hungry or they experiences distress they do not tend to coo.

Different cries and coos have different meanings, parents will soon learn. It indicates different things like hunger, gas or pleasure at being held or rocked. “Although cries and coos are innate, they can be modified by experiences, fact that provides some limited support for learning-theory views of language development.”2 Spencer A. Rathus gives the reader to that statement some examples. He says, when parents respond positively to the cooing of her baby by talking, smiling and imitation the cooing will increase.

When parents have a kind of conservation with their child by whom they respond to coos and then pause so that the baby can coo again, the child may foster early infant awareness of “turn-talking”. As a way of verbally relating to other people.

Crying and cooing are prelinguistics events, you cannot call it language by then. True language has semanticity. Semantics is the study of the meaning of a language and it is also the relationship between language and the objects or events. Words that sound alike can have different meanings, depending on their usage. Cries and coos do not represent objects or events.

The cooing stage emerges at about two month of age. But first when the child is starting to babble at about six month the cooing is succeeded.

Babbling is the first vocalization that sounds like human speech. In their babbling, babies frequently combine consonants and vowels. For example “ba” and “ga” and sometimes even the much-valued “dada”. But unfortunately for dads to know is that the word “dada” is purely coincidental.

Babbling appears inborn, like crying and cooing. Some psycholinguistics distinguishes between marginal and canonical babbling. Marginal babbling means that an infant’s initial attempts to produce syllables. This begins usually at the age of about six month. Canonical describes the repetition of syllables by infants beginning at the age of eight month which first shows that they are acquiring distinct features of the mother tongue. For example Chinese babies begin to babble with tones.

Spencer A.Rathus gives us a quotation from Oller. He sad that: “ Children whose parents speak very different-soundings languages all seem to babble the same sounds, including many they would have had the opportunity to her.”3 That means also that children frequently produce consonants that are found in other language not just the language by which the children are surrounded. Thomas Scovel gives us for this statement an example. “A-six-month old infant, raised by English speakers, may very well babble a sound that is not in her mother tongue—say the unaspirated /p/ sound in Spanish pico (‘beak’), which sounds more similar to the English /b/ in ‘by’ than the aspirated English /p/ in ‘pie’.”4 But when the same child is trying to learn Spanish twenty years later, it may has great difficulties to produce this exact unaspirated Spanish /p/ sound which the child has babbling so well when it was so young.

Despite the fact that babbling is innate, babbling is readily modified by experiences. Smiling, soft sounds or pats on a infant’s abdomen can increase the frequency of babbling.

When parents imitate their child or simply attend to their babbling, infants also babble more. In verbal interactions between infants and adults, the adults frequently repeat the syllables produced by their babies. They are likely to say “Dadada” or “Bababa” instead of simply “Da” or “Ba”. “Such redundancy apparently helps infants discriminate these sounds(Goodsitt et al., 1984) from others, and further encourages them to imitate their parents.”5

When the child is approximately eight month old, most children will try to attend to a conversation or they will try to “join in“ or interrupt the conversation of others. Their heads may turn back and forth from the one speaker to the other speaker. Some eight-month olds will even shout for attention.

By the age of nine or ten months children seem to single out the types of phonemes. These phonemes are repeated regularly. “Foreign” phonemes begin to drop out. Spencer A. Rathus means that “Although there is an overall reduction in the varieties of phonemes that infants produce, their use of combination of sounds creates a greater diversity in the overall numbers of sounds they produce.”

After infants have been babbling for a few months, parents often believe that their children are having conversation with themselves. When the infant is ten to twelve months old, they tend to repeat syllables, showing what linguists refer to as echolalia. Echolalia means automatic repetition of sounds and words. Parents overhear them going on and on, repeating consonant-vowel combinations. For example: “Ah-bah-bah-bah-bah”. They also frequently switch to other combinations.

Toward the end of the first year, infants are also using patterns of rising and falling intonation that resemble the sounds of adult speech. “The use of pitches of varying levels to help communicated meaning” describes the intonation.

The loss of many “foreign” phonemes and the quality of the intonation gives us the fact that it may sound as if the infant is trying to speak the parent’s language.

Eight-month-old babies reared in English-speaking families begin to babble with Englishsounding melody. Those of the similar age who are brought up in Chinese-speaking homes begin to babble with tones and melodies of Chinese. Thomas Scovel means: “Babbling is the first psycholinguistic stage where we have strong evidence that infants are influenced by all those many month of exposure to their mother tongue.”

Although babbling, like crying and cooing, is a prelinguistic event, infants usually understand much of what others are saying well before they utter their own words. Comprehension preceded production, and infants demonstrate comprehension with their actions and gestures.

The Development of Vocabulary is the next point I want to analyse. I will start with the fact “The Childs’s First Words” and finally will come to the point how children develop their grammar.

Vocabulary development refers to the child's learning of the meaning of words. A child’s first words-what a exciting milestone! That long-awaited first word! Sad to say, but many parents miss this milestone. They are not quit sure when their child utter their first word, often because the first word is not pronounced with perfect clarity.

First word tends to be brief, consisting of one or two syllables. Each syllable is likely to consists of a consonant followed by a vowel. “Parental comprehension is also impaired by the fact that both consonant and vowel may vary from usage to usage.”1 Ferguson and Farwell give for their statement an example, like “Ball” may be pronounced “ba”, “bee”, or even “pah” on separate. In the following figure2 we can see the “Growth of Vocabulary” by Madorah Elizabeth Smith. The average child can speak perhaps three words by the end of the first year. By about 18 months, children are able to pronounce nearly two dozen words. Many of them are quite familiar, such as no, cookie, mama, hi and eat. Vocabulary acquisition is slow at first. It generally takes children three to four moths to achieve a ten-word vocabulary after their first word is spoken. Children at 18 months may be able to utter only three to 50 words, but the children can understand simple commands of many more words at about 12 months.

Within the next few months after 18 months there is a very minor “explosion” to about 19 words. Children tend to acquire some 250 additional words by the second birthday and hundreds of words each year thereafter.


illustration not visible in this excerpt


More than half (65 %) of children’s first words comprise what Katherine Nelson refers to as “general nominals” and “specific nominals”. She sad that “General nominals are like nouns in that they include the names of classes of objects (car, ball, doggy), animals (doggy, poo-cat), and people (boy).” But Mrs. Nelson also sad, that they also include both personal and relative pronouns like “she” and “that”.

Specific nominals are proper nouns, such as Daddy. But children use the word Daddy as the father’s name, not the category of men to which he belongs. Neslon found that of children’s first 50 words, the most common words were names for people, animals, and objects that move, like Mommy, car, doggy, or things that can be moved (dolly, milky, diapy) or action words like bye-bye. Number of modifiers (big, hot) and expressive words like no, hi and ooh are also common words for children. Some children, for example, may number words as exotic as “ohgi” for yoghurt and “bay” for bagel among their first 50 words where other children use more traditional nominals such as duck, doggy or cookie.

Toward the end of the second year, children begin to speak in simple two-words sentences. All children begin to create sentences after the holophrastic stage (Term used to describe one- word sentences used by small children, e.g. “Milk?” - “Here!”), first with two words, and subsequently with more. In the 1960s Martin Braine describes the grammar of two-word sentences as consisting of a pivot word and open-class word. Open class words usually express concrete concepts that could be described in a single word. For example, Mommy, Daddy, car and milk are open-class-words. Pivot words are often small, such as go, and are attached to the open-lass words. For example “Mommy go”, Daddy go”, or “Car go”. Pivot words are mostly in the second position.

It is very fascinating how children develop their grammar. But there are so many steps; it is difficult to illustrate every part. Therefore I decided to describe the Development of Question. Children first questions are telegraphic and characterized by a rising pitch (witch signifies a question mark in English) at the end. It is usually during the third year that the wh questions appear. Certain wh questions (what, who, where) appears earlier than others like why, when, which or how. Spencer A. Rathus says, that “Why is frequently too philosophical for the 2- year-old, and how too involved. Two-year-olds are also likely to be now-oriented, so that when too, is of less than immediate concern.”1

Most children are spontaneously producing why, when and how question, when they are approximately four years old.

Wh words are initially tacked on the beginning of the sentences. For example, “Where Mommy go?” can stand for “Where is Mommy going?”. Auxiliary verbs will be added later on, so that the child can indicate whether the question concerns the present, past or future. Auxiliary verbs also permit the child to say, “ I want you to tell me what you are doing” instead of “ I want you to tell me what you doing“; and “ What are you doing?” instead of “ What you doing?”. “What are you doing?” may seem like a rather question to phrase. But with tacking on the wh word, with reversing the normal subject-verb word order and with separating the auxiliary verb it is kind of grammatical acrobatics on the part of the 2-year-old.

There is a sensitive or critical Period for learning language that begins at about 18 to 24 months and lasts until puberty. This “window” for language learning reflects that statue of neural maturation. During the critical period neural development provides a degree of plasticity that facilitates language learning. Neural development also provides the basis for cognitive development. By 18 to 24 months, neural maturation permits the child to begin to entertain preoperational thought and to vastly accelerate the processes of acquiring words and stringing them together to express meaning. By the time children have reached sexual maturity, brain tissue has also reached adult levels of differentiation. Language learning can occur afterward but is more laborious.

Evidence for a sensitive period is found in recovery from brain injuries. Injuries to the dominant hemisphere can impair or destroy the ability to speak.

But prior to puberty, brain-injured children frequently recover a good deal of speaking ability. “Lenneberg( 1967) suggests that in very young children, dominant-hemisphere damage may encourage the development of language functions in the other hemisphere. But adaptation ability wanes in adolescence.”1

Researchers also frequently refer to children’s and adult’s abilities to acquire second languages in their studies of the sensitive-period hypothesis. When families immigrate to foreign countries, for example, the sensitive period-period hypothesis would predict that the younger children would acquire the language of the land with greater facility than siblings in their late teens or their parents.

Putting this all together, we see that children develop language according to invariant sequences of steps or stages, as I outlined in the following table. This is a short summary of how children develop their language. But the ages in the table are approximations.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

To conclude my first section, I finally will mention that it seems that children do most of their language learning from their mothers. As I noted earlier, mothers, other adults, even older children use “motherese” in conversing with younger children. But even here the learning is not all one way. Mothers respond to cues from their children when they use motherese and they accept the most minimal responses as signs that they are headed in the right direction. Children will go on learning language, regardless of whether we understand exactly how they do it.

In the following pages I will describe the development of language by children with autism with reference to children without autism.

Infantile autism strikes 4 to 5 children in 10,000 before the age of 30 months, and is three to four times more common among boys than girls. The most poignant feature of infantile autism is the child’s utter aloneness. Other symptoms of autism include communication problems, preservation of sameness and ritualistic or stereotypical behavior. Preservations of sameness means that autistic children become very upset if toys are out of place or if breakfast differs from day to day. Ritualistic behavior describes that children with autism have repetive motor acts such as rocking back and forth and spinning.

Their speech development lags. There is a dearth of babbling and communicative gesturing during the first year.

They may show mutism(Inability or refusal to speak), echolia(Immediate and persistent repetition of the words of others) and pronoun reversal, referring to themselves as “you” or “he”.

Because autism is never diagnosed during infancy, there are no studies of early vocal development in this population. There is nothing known about the onset of babbling in infants with autism. There have been studies of the phonological development in this population. Helen Tager-Flusberg wrote a report about “Language development in atypical children”. She says that “ Controlled studies of children with autism have found that their phonogical skills are relatively unimpaired; what errors they do make are similar to those reported in the literature on normal development.”1

Children with autism who develop some functional language generally have mature phonological systems. The children’s voice quality and intonation patterns are strikingly atypical and these problems appear to persist through adulthood.

Some infants, who are later diagnosed autistic, apparently enjoy a normal and happy first year of life. But others show obvious deficits, almost from birth. These infants with autism are described as showing little or no interest in people and some parents report. And this makes it difficult to maintain eye contact or engage in interaction with their babies. Children with autism show no preference to listen to their own mother’s speech. Tager-Flusberg means that these social deficits “have a profound impact on the social interactions of young children with autism.2

Longitudinal studies of young children with autism suggest that these early deficits in joint attention and protodeclarative communication are correlated with later language development. Early researchers claimed that children with autism, when they talk, do not use language to communicate with others, particularly when most of their speech is echolalic. But Tager- Flusberg mentioned that this extreme view “ has since been dispelled, and we now appreciate that children with autism do use language communicatively, though the forms that they use and the functions they serve are more limited compared to either normally developing or other children with retardation.”3

Wetherby and Prutting found out, that children with autism were unimpaired in their use of language for requests for objects or actions, protests, and self-regulation (e.g. Don ’ t do that). Certain speech acts were completely absent. These integrated comments, showing off, acknowledging the listener and requesting information. These results are consistent with several other studies.

Children with autism who, in the prelinguistics stage exhibit serious deficit in joint attention, continue to show verbal communication deficits at the level of speech act usage.1 TagerFlusberg comes to the conclusion that “These deficits reflect their fundamental impairment in the ability to process information about others mental stages.”

Autistic children often did not respond in a topic-related way to their mother; instead they would introduce irrelevant or repetitive comments. Even when these children did respond on the same topic, they did not develop the capacity to expand or elaborate on the information provided by their mothers. And these deficits in conversational ability in autism continue through childhood and adolescence.

A detailed study was conducted by Loveland and her colleagues to investigate more advanced discourse skills, specifically narrative skills in higher functioning autistic children. They asked individuals with autism and Down syndrome, matched on chronological and verbal mental age, to retell the story they were shown in the form of a puppet show or video sketch.

The result was that the persons with autism “were more likely to exhibit pragmatic violations including bizarre or inappropriate utterances and were less able to take into consideration the listener’s needs. Some of the subjects with autism in this study even failed to understand the story as a representation of meaningful events, suggesting that they lacked a cultural perspective underlying narrative.”2

Several researchers had hypothesized that autism was characterized by a fundamental inability to form concepts and extend word meaning. But experimental studies with children with autism, matched on verbal mental age to children with retardation and on average developing children, found no support for this hypothesis. The autistics subjects were no different from the matched control group in their organization. The autistic and mentally retarded individuals recognized the same kinds of systematic and well-structured relationship among pictures of objects as do normally developing children at both basic level and concepts. The autistic children had no difficulty extending words to a range of different exemplars. These findings suggest that for the children with autism word meaning develops in a highly systematic and constrained way. The facts are consistent with the view that lexical development in autism, as in normally developing and other retarded populations, is constrained by a set of operating principles.

There is a wide variation in lexical use among individuals with autism, even those who acquire functional language. For example “ (…) individuals with autism often misuse words and phrases producing idiosyncratic terms and neologisms (…).”1

Rutter (1987) suggests that these abnormal uses of words may be functionally similar to the kinds of early word meaning errors made by young normally developing children.

It first is a three-score for many parents if they notice that their child might be autistic.

However if parents of these children are occupied with their sick child, they will soon notice that every small headway is overwhelming. As I explained in my theme, there are many differences between the children with autism and which without autism. It is clear, that a child without autism is much more simply in raising as an autistic child. Nevertheless a child remains a child and each deserved to exist be and to be raised with a lot of love. Even if some children can’t give back this love in words.


1 Thomas, Scovel: “Psycholinguistics ”, 1998

2 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 266

3 Thomas, Scovel: “Psycholinguistics ”, 1998

4 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 266

1 Thomas, Scovel: “Psycholinguistics ”, 1998

2 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 267

3 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 267

4 Thomas, Scovel: “Psycholinguistics ”, 1998

5 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 267

1 Ferguson & Farwell, 1974, in Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 268

2 Figure Growth of Vocabulary, in Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 269

1 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 278

1 Spencer, A. Rathus: “Understanding Child Development” , 1988, 268

1 Tager-Flusberg: Language development in atypical children”. In: M. Barrett(ed): The development of language, 199, 328

2 Tager-Flusberg: Language development in atypical children”. In: M. Barrett(ed): The development of language, 199, 329

3 Tager-Flusberg: Language development in atypical children”. In: M. Barrett(ed): The development of language, 199, 329

1 33 Tager-Flusberg: Language development in atypical children”. In: M. Barrett(ed): The development of language, 199, 330

2 Tager-Flusberg: Language development in atypical children”. In: M. Barrett(ed): The development of language, 1999, 331

1 Tager-Flusberg: Language development in atypical children”. In: M. Barrett(ed): The development of language, 1999, 333

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The different stages of the linguistis evolution with autistic children and children without autism
Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
518 KB
Quote paper
Berit Schüler (Author), 2002, The different stages of the linguistis evolution with autistic children and children without autism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: The different stages of the linguistis evolution with autistic children and children without autism

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free