Children begin by imitating what they hear their parents say as best as they can, repeating random phrases. Parents do not punish the child for childish speech errors by not responding or correcting the error, but reward correct phrases by responding positively. As a child s speech improves, parents respond more positively and less negatively.
It is suggested that children imitate their parents at what they say for example 1a Daaddy go
1b He hitted me!
1c No eat cake
The first one is an attempt to express daddy is going. Research shows that while mothers often respond the semantic content of what their children say, parents very rarely respond to the grammatical status of their children s phrases. On occasions parents do make grammatical errors when they speak. Despite the fact that children don t know when their parents are speaking grammatically and when they are making errors, all children grow up knowing the language perfectly.
There is evidence to suggest that children do absorb a massive number of sentences and phrases but rather than parrot them back, they abstract rules from them and create their own grammar which they then apply to create new utterances they have never heard before. From about 2-7yrs, when language is mastered children constantly adjust their grammar until it matches the rest of the world. This critical period suggests that first language learning like walking is an innate capacity of human beings triggered by a level of development more than feedback from the environment. That is, so long as a child hears a language-any language- when they reach this critical period they will learn it perfectly. If this is true any child not hearing language during this period not only should not learn to speak but also should not be able to learn to speak.