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By John Field

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Additional resources for Psycholinguistics: The Key Concepts (Routledge Key Guides)

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In terms of linguistic development, a balance theory suggests that the possession of two languages makes increased demands on working memory, and thus leads to some decrement in proficiency in at least one of the languages. There has been little evidence to support this. An alternative view is that there is a language-independent ‘common underlying proficiency’ which controls operations in both languages. Early studies in bilingual contexts such as Wales led to the conclusion that bilingualism had an adverse effect on educational development; but these are now generally discredited.

They sometimes confuse phonemes which are similar in manner of articulation but visually distinct: for example, substituting /n/ for /m/. This difficulty appears to influence their early choice of words. The first words emerge at about the same time as with sighted infants. However, there may be differences in the content of the early vocabulary. It has been suggested that the first 50 words of a blind child are likely to include fewer common nouns; and that they are more likely to be used referentially for a single object instead of generalised to a whole class of objects.

An important symptom of autism is echolalia, where the child meaninglessly repeats what has been said to it. It was once believed that echolalia indicated a rejection of interaction. Now, it is sometimes interpreted as evidence that the autistic child does not succeed in grasping the true function of language. Delayed echolalia, where the child repeats an earlier string of words out of context, appears sometimes to have a communicative intent. Other symptoms are an unwillingness to meet the gaze of a speaker and difficulties with the use of pronouns.

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