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Chapter 7. Language & Thought (Child Development & Pedagogy for CTET & TET Exams)

Language & Thought

Development Of Language And Thought

In developmental psychology, the term ‘development’ is described as a study of an individual which helps in knowing ‘how and why’ an individual develop over the course of his/her life. Development is a process which is considered as a life-long process like ‘learning’. The term ‘development’ is closely related to ‘growth’ but in terms of life-long process; growth is not considered in that domain. Human growth stops or is constant after a particular time or age. Human growth includes physical aspects like increase in weight, growth of body organs, etc. Therefore, we can say that ‘development’ is a broad term and growth is a narrow term, but both are the most essential part of an individual’s life. On the other hand, ‘Thought or thinking’ is a part of development because thinking ability is gained by a child through his/her environment or by observing others. Here, we can take help from the ‘Cognitive Development Theory of Jean Piaget’ for a better understanding of the thinking process or its development. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development explained the overall process of a child’s thinking process including its stages. This theory of Piaget is described earlier in detail. In the following section we will discuss about the development of language and thought.
Development Of Language
Language is the most important way of communicating with others. This communication includes an individual’s thoughts, expressions, emotions, etc. They all enable a person to communicate with others. Language also helps an individual to make sense of complex and abstract concepts or ideas. Language preserves or maintains a record of our history, culture, civilisation, etc. Language also carries forward all these aspects from one generation to another. Generally, language has two aspects, physical and verbal. Verbal language includes listening, speaking, reading and writing. Physical language includes the facial expressions of an individual, for example, a child moves his/her head to deny or reject something. It is an example of physical sign or expressive language. In psychology, language is defined more effectively by behaviourist psychologists like B.F. Skinner and Noam Chomsky. Language plays a remarkable role in the formation of words or sentences for each and every individual. Its proper sequence is as follows:
Following figure shows the order of language development within an individual:
Birth → Language → Letters → Words → Sentences
Many psychologists found in their researches that a child’s word bank of vocabulary start to increase from his/her birth. This word bank has the following classifications regarding learning of the words. These are as follows:
Table shows the classifications of word bank of a child
Word Bank Of A Child

Specific Vocabulary Normal or General Vocabulary
Etiquette Related VocabularyWords Related to Defective Speech
Secret VocabularyWords Related to Meaning
Money Related VocabularyWords Related to Defects in Pronunciation
Colour Related VocabularyWords Related to Sentence Formation
Numbers Related Vocabulary
Time Related Vocabulary
Sentence Related Vocabulary
Correct Pronunciation Related Vocabulary
Slang Vocabulary

Factors Influencing Language Development
A child’s language and vocabulary do not develop overnight. All factors like a child’s natural growth, peer group, siblings and environment affect language development.
Even though each child does not reach the same milestone in language development at the same time, the natural human progression is a prime factor in language development in children. Child development experts rule that generally the milestones that a child achieves at a particular age are the same. We can analyse this development by observing the following graph which is propounded by Thomson:
Social Factors
A child’s language development is directly dependent on the social interactions of parents, siblings, friends and caretakers. A child speaks what he hears and thinks, so new words and vocabulary in a child is generally the direct outcome of his verbal interactions with the outside world. Socio economic conditions also affect the language development of a child. Children from low socioeconomic background speak three times lesser words than verbal professional type families. Educational Factors
The educational environment also affects a child’s language and thought development. Even though a child may learn words from his nearby sources like parents and caretakers, he can master new skills and boost language development by correct exposure to reading and listening to correct language. When a child attends an educational institution like a school, he is exposed to a wide variety of learning and teaching experiences. Different activities like reading, role playing, quizzes, essay writings, etc, challenge his thought process and in turn this enhances his language development.
Biological Factors or Disorders
The language development of some children does not follow the same pattern. Many reasons are responsible for the slow progression and late speech development; in most cases an underlying medical condition is the culprit. These include autism, cleft lip and palate and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and brain injury. For example, a child with autism may not be able to use coherent words, have difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with people and also may not be able to use abstract concepts and language.
Development Of Thought
The development of language and the development of thought are closely connected with each other. Language depends on social development. The infants and the young child need proper language models and also feedback as and when they attempt to communicate. Other theorists like Piaget and Vygotsky stressed on the complexity of language as a complex interaction between the child and his environment. According to their views a child’s language development is influenced by both cognitive and social development. Both believe that the children actively build a symbol system or thought process to understand the world around them and this guides them in developing language. They differed on the point that Piaget believed that language development was dependent on cognitive development, whereas Vygotsky’s theory emphasised language as a developing thought. His theory stressed the importance of communication with others as an important factor in the development of a child’s language, which in turn stimulates development of thought. According to Vygotsky, a child’s zone of proximal development is important as it is present during his/her interactions with adults. This zone is described as the, “distance between the child’s actual developmental level determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance.”
The term ‘cognition’ is derived from ‘Cognitive Psychology’. Within ‘cognitive psychology’ we can discuss about various aspects which are related to an individual’s ability to problem solving, attention span area, memory, etc. For example, meeting the classmate officer after a longtime and recalling his/her name is a Cognitive ability.
Memory, perception, attention, etc., all are those aspects which helped him/her to identify that classmate. Following figure explains the concept of cognition:
Fig.: Domains of Cognition Cognition is related to cognitive psychology which is a branch of ‘psychology’. This branch emphasises on the process of information within an individual. The major parts of this field are as follows:
► How an individual solves a problem?
► How an individual processes information?
► How an individual receives information?
► How information leads towards response?
Thus, cognitive psychology is associated with what is occurring within an individual’s mind that links to input (stimulus) as well as output (response). This study includes the study of an individual’s perception, attention, language, memory and thinking.
Cognition is defined as a mix of processes such as problem solving, attention, memory and planning. Most of the cognitive processes include a variety of refined functions that may be unique to primates. Conversely, emotions are connected to feelings that an individual experiences in several different situations. Even though emotions are related to feelings where as cognition is associated with the brain, yet they are both closely related to one another.
Cognition is considered to have a significant effect on emotions. This effect can be best described by the cognitive appraisal theory. Cognitive appraisal can be defined as an emotion regulation strategy that deals with changing the direction of an emotional response by reinterpreting its meaning based on the emotional triggers.
The most familiar approach given by cognitive psychologists has focused on the manipulation of the emotional states of the participants. They study the effect of emotion on cognition while some other psychologists such as Lazarus study the effect of cognition upon emotion. Since there is continuous interaction between emotion and cognition on an everyday basis, it is unthinkable that any theory talking about cognition would choose to ignore emotion.
The cognitive determinants of emotion are discussed as follows:
Feedback of the Body
According to the James Lange theory, a person’s emotions are influenced by the behaviour of his/her physiological symptoms. He argued that bodily changes occur when an individual feels excited or afraid or aroused. For example, if a person feels that there is a wild animal near his house, his heartbeat would increase, which is a symptom of fear.
However, it is disputed that loss of feeling in body can hinder feeling emotions. For example, patients with spinal cord injuries or who are paralyzed do not experience any kind of body sensation yet are perfectly capable of having emotional experiences.
Facial Expression
This determinant is based on the facial feedback theory which was given by Strack, Martin and Stepper. Their research studied three groups of people and their assessment of the hilarity of a cartoon. Each group was given a pen to hold, one group had to hold it between their lips, the other between their teeth and the last group had to hold the pen in their non-dominant hand. The group holding the pen between their lips had a frown on their faces because they compressed their lips while the one holding the pen between their teeth had an expression resembling a smile. The results of the study were that the group who had a smile found the cartoon funnier when compared to the groups who had a frown or neutral expression.
The implications of this theory were that if a person tries to smile even while feeling sad, then after a while he starts feeling better.
Action Tendencies
Action tendency is a reactive phenomenon that triggers a particular action when an individual experiences a certain emotional state. For example, worrying triggers a desire to flee a situation which might turn into a desire to fight if the person is backed into a corner.
Cognition relates to the perception that the world holds about us and the things that we learn. It involves thinking, information processing, problem solving and formation of concepts to attain rulings and outcomes. Thinking is considered to be a problem solving process wherein symbols and ideas are used ranging from cognitive imitation i.e. learning and copying specific rules through observation to motor imitation which is copying of innovative actions on objects or unique sequences of specific actions.
Thoughts function on a higher level can change swiftly, cover large distances across time and space and can process information at an incredible rate. Thinking processes information produced in the long term as well as short term memory.
Formation Of Concept
Concepts are considered to be an important class of language symbols employed in thinking. A concept is a figurative construction showing a common feature or features of items and events. Concept depicts a class or category of individuals or subtypes, 207
for example, a cat which has several kinds of different breeds such as Persian, Burmese or Korat.


Drever proposed that emotion involves changes in bodily activities which are noticeable to a high degree, for example, increase in heart and pulse rate, gland secretion while on the mental side, there is a distinguishable state of excitement experienced by an individual. The following are the important components of emotion:
► Cognitive: The emotions experienced by individuals are dependent on the situation whether it is classified as dangerous or innocuous as a consequence of thinking.
► Physiological: Emotions also affect the physical body and influence it, for example, emotions cause sweating, increased blood pressure, increased respiration rate due to fear or excitement.
► Experiential: This feeling can be experienced by humans only as they have the ability to reflect how an experience affects the emotions.
► Expressive: Emotions can be conveyed through facial expressions or hand and body gestures. Like nodding your head can be used to affirm a yes or a no. Anger or happiness can be expressed by frowning or smiling.
► Behavioural: Confronted by a situation in which fight or flight are the only options are indicative of a pattern of behaviour influenced by the person’s emotional state.
Emotions are considered to be transitory states which fluctuate and change according to different situations or moods experienced by an individual. These are characterised by the following features:
► Emotions are neither specific thoughts nor overt behaviour but are classed as experiences. They are changeable and assigning a clear cut label to them may prove to be difficult as emotions are often contradictory in nature.
► Valence is used a lot while discussing emotions. Valence means the intrinsic attractiveness or averseness related to an object, event or situation. Valence can be either positive or negative. People either tend to act in a manner that brings positivity, happiness, joy and other positive emotions or which brings about pain, suffering and sadness.
► Emotions are passions and not actions. For example, eating is an action while hunger is a passion. We can say that people initiate actions whereas passions which are not in their control tend to happen on their own. However, this does not mean that an individual has no control over passionate emotions.
► Emotions are not completely dependent upon situations but rather what one thinks about the given situation. For instance, interpretation of a situation towards its potential as a threat or a source of pleasure is a primary feature. The individual acts both as a controller of thoughts and a recipient of passions.
► Emotions are influenced by the bodily responses such as facial movements and expressions and hand gestures. These movements can be both learned as well as spontaneous. For example, a person might clench his fists when he gets angry.
► Lastly, the degree of intensity differs when experiencing different emotions. An individual’s level of emotional intensity would be different when he is out on a vacation in the Bahamas as compared to when he is involved in an accident. The significance of this feature is put under focus when analysing a person who has low emotional intensity. No amount of activity seems to excite them and they don’t seem to derive pleasure or amusement in anything.
Physiological Basis Of Emotion
The two parts of an autonomous nervous system which regulate the physiological reactions that are governed by emotions. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for strenuous physical activity which results in reactions like increased heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system affects the activity related to the body’s organs like blood is diverted to the digestive organs to help in digestion. These changes cannot be influenced by humans despite being aware of them.
However, studies suggest that humans can learn to have a discernible effect on the autonomous nervous system. This can be done through a process known as biofeedback. Humans can often bring about physiological reactions and instinctive feelings through cognitive activity. Emotions are said to have physiological, cognitive, experiential, expressive and behavioural components.
Emotional Behaviour
Emotion by its very own definition means a disruption of behaviour which necessitates restraint in the behaviour of children and adults alike. The process of learning how to control one’s anger starts when one learns how to control his feelings and behaviour.
Parents play a vital part in the development of their children. A warm, loving atmosphere is needed so that the child can develop and mature in a responsible manner. However, parents should guard against creating an overdependence of the child on themselves. They should also actively try to explain the fears that a child may experience. For example, some children may be frightened of thunderstorms. The parents can help dissuade the child’s fear by explaining the beauty of the thunderstorm and how it is a normal phenomenon. Darkness also frightens children.
By putting a night lamp in the child’s room and not frightening him by saying that he would be made to spend time in the dark as a punishment. This will help him to grow without being fearful of the darkness.
Emotional Development
At the time of infancy, a child’s emotions remain centered upon its physiological needs.
As he grows older, he can express his needs and desire through language. Gradually, he learns more emotions and learns to control fear, aggression and anger. If a child has a younger sibling, he can manifest feelings of jealousy towards his newborn sibling. Till the time the infant reaches two years of age, he has already conveyed feelings such as disgust, jealousy, distress, excitement, delight, joy and affection for certain people. Dependency can become a problem in a growing child. As an infant, though it’s inevitable but the fear of rejection, overprotection from parents or the withdrawal of love can create over dependency in a child. A growing child should be given independence to make his own choices instilling in him/her motivation to succeed. By the age of seven, a child develops enough to be able to postpone gratification of desires so that he/she can achieve goals.
Theories Of Emotion
Let us learn the different theories of emotion. These theories explain what emotions are and how they affect individuals.
James Lange Theory
The James-Lange theory was proposed by William James and Carl Lange in the nineteenth century. The theory professes to present a cause-and-effect relationship between emotions and physiological responses. Physiological events such as increased blood pressure, sweating, dryness of the mouth happen and influence emotions rather than the other way around.
Event → Arousal → Interpretation → Emotion According to this theory, an event stimulates a person, and the autonomous nervous system responds by triggering physical responses such as increased blood pressure, heart beat, muscular tension etc. The brain interprets these responses and affects a person’s emotions.
Cannon-Bard Theory
This theory was proposed by Walter Cannon and Philip Bard in the late 1920s contradicting the James Lange theory of emotion. According to Cannon and Bard, emotions and physiological responses do not share a cause-and-effect relationship instead they happen simultaneously in response to a stimulating event.
Event → Simultaneous Arousal and Emotion This theory talks about neurobiological science. In a situation of arousal, sensory signals are transmitted to the thalamus, which is the brain’s relay center. The thalamus sends the information to two places: the amygdala and the brain cortex. The amygdala sends an immediate signal in the form of emotion while the brain sends out a slower response. Simultaneously, the autonomous nervous system sends signals to the muscles and other parts of the body leading the muscles to tense and increasing the heart rate and blood pressure.
Thus, this theory looks at emotion and arousal as a combination in response to a stimulating event.
The Schachter-Singer Theory
This theory is also known as the Two Factor Theory of Emotion which states that it is a cognitive approach that is instrumental in the understanding of emotional states resolved by cognitive factors. Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer described that the cognitive factors influence the differing states of emotions, moods and feelings. The Schachter-Singer theory was developed in the late 1950s. In this theory, a stimulating event leads to the perception and interpretation of the event which is followed by the processing of information. This information is divided into stimulus and a specific cognitive level. A general autonomous arousal occurs when the stimulus is triggered by the information while the cognitive label causes an emotion to be experienced. Feedback is received when the emotion has been felt.
Thus, we can say that cognition as well as emotion play an intrinsically crucial part in the development of growing children. This is further solidified as emotions help in the expression of feelings and emotional behaviour.

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