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Meaning development in one child acquiring Dakota-Sioux as a first language Nokony, Alicia Alexander

Abstract

This is a report on research into the language development of one child who is acquiring Dakota-Sioux as a first language. Features of his language system show him to be at a period in development corresponding to Brown's (1973) Stage I, Halliday's (1975) Phase II, and Piaget's (1962) sensorimotor substage VI; in other words he is just beginning to produce multi-morphemic utterances, take part in dialogues and actively use symbolic representations in play and verbal interactions. The report focusses on the development of meaning and is based on the assumption that a child's ability to express meanings involves not only semantic knowledge (that is, the ability to describe relations and to refer using formal linguistic devices), but also pragmatic or functional skills (that is, knowledge about how language can be used to perform communication functions, such as regulating the behaviour of others, expressing personal opinions and feelings, etc.). Overriding both these areas, however, is the understanding that language is one part of a larger symbolizing capacity in humans and that language development, therefore, is above all related to this aspect of cognitive development. The analysis of the data collected from this child is structured around his propositional meanings, his functional meanings, some semantic considerations of his lexicon, and phenomena, which I have labelled gestural representations, which appear to offer strong support for the notion of semiological genesis as described by Piaget.

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