Although the majority of language development occurs in the critical infant through preschool years, development continues into the adolescent years. Because the development is less acute, the study of this linguistic period in a child's life is relatively new, and is shaped heavily by language disorders.
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According to KidsHealth at www.kidshealth.org, adolescence is the period of a child's life as he approaches adulthood and can begin anywhere from eight to fourteen years of age. It is marked by numerous physical changes as well as certain cognitive developments. Linguistics development during this time is subtle but important. This development includes learning to use more complex language and to communicate differently depending on the situation.
For the most part, pragmatics and semantics are the linguistic features which are developed during adolescence. Pronunciation and phonology are primarily formed during the younger years. At this time, children grow their vocabulary and learn the proper and underlying use of each word. They also develop syntactic use and sentence form.
An adolescent's language development is related to her cognitive growth. As she learns to think abstractly, she will also be better able to develop complex syntactic creations to explain the new concepts she learns. Also, as she develops socially, she will learn subtle societal differences in how certain groups communicate and will be able to adapt her language to that situation. These abilities prepare a child for further learning and for a growing community of peers and mentors.
Various theories of language development have shaped research and understanding of adolescents. For instance, Piaget's theory of cognitive development isolated two stages that span the adolescent period. The concrete operational stage, from ages seven to eleven, and the formal operational stage, from age eleven to adulthood, are said to be times of abstract thought. In addition, these stages are a time when adolescents learn to classify objects or people.
According to the website of speech pathologist Caroline Bowen, at www.speech-language-therapy.com, language disorders in adolescence are often socially isolating, as an adolescent's peers may grow increasingly aware of his disorder. Such disorders may impact expressive or receptive skills. Sometimes they are simply not caught at a young age, other times they are chronic problems. It is important to address these disorders quickly so as not to let them impede other areas of an adolescent's development.
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