Language skills are acquired in an orderly and predictable pattern across life span. The Test of Higher Order Language Logo is a representation of this development particularly in English language.
Lower Line in the Triad (Phonology): Phonology is the study of speech sounds. Sounds are the fundamental component of a language.
In the first year of their life, infants learn that sounds are a means of communication with their caregivers.
From birth to two months, infants use preverbal or pre-speech vocalizations to communicate. Some of these are reflexive in nature such as cries, coughs and hiccups. Some others are non-reflexive or intentional vocalizations such as cooingand playful production of voices. Around the age of 7-8 months, infants start using repetitive sequences of syllables such as /ma/ma/ma/; /da/da/da/. This is called Babbling. Both vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and consonants (for example, n, b, d) appear in the babbling.
Middle Line in the Triad (Morphology & Semantics). Morphology is the study of words, how they are made and how they are related to other words in the same language to make meaning.
Around the age of one year, infants learn that the sounds can make words and that words have meanings.
In the second year of their life, Infants learn how to use simple words and connect them to people, objects, concepts (Semantics). For example, they can point to their mother and say /mama/ or show a ball and say /ball/. Around the age of 18 months two-word sentences emerge which may mean different things. For example /mama ball/ may mean ‘mama, that is a ball’, ‘mama give me the ball’, ‘it is my ball’. Between ages 18- and 24-months toddlers begin trying to use more complex words such as /…/, make three-word sentences such as /………../that may not have a meaningful structure.
Top Line in the Triad (Syntax). Syntax is the study of how words are put together in a languagein a way that they are related to each other and make a sentence.The rules about how sounds, words, and sentences are used in a language is called ‘Grammar’. Each language has particular sets of rules forword structure andword order.
In preschool years, children learn that words are used in a certain order and that they may have multiple meanings.
In the preschool years and as children transition to middle childhood and enter the school system, they increase their vocabulary and develop their understanding of semantics. They also learn that some words or phrases have multiple meanings, including figurative meanings.At the same time, they learn new rules of putting words together and that they have to follow these rules in creating sentences (grammatical structure).
The Top Spiked line (Higher Order/Figurative Language). Figurative language is a way of using language where the units of meaning (semantics) are not related naturally. However, these units have relevant parts and common characteristics. We use figurative language to express feelings and ideas that ordinary words of the language cannot convey, for example, “You are my shining star”.
Figurative language develops gradually, but becomes particularly important as children move into adolescence and adulthood.
In the normal course of development, learning figurative meanings of words and phrases helps to improve meaning-making strategies called ‘semantic processing strategies.’ Learning figurative language starts from preschool years and continues through adolescence and into adulthood. These strategies help children to developskills to better understand social interactions and the language that is used in poetry, stories, songs, and movies. They will also better understand the indirect nonliteral meanings that appear in books or other written materials. These skills are very important for school readiness in childhood, and for school success,effective social communication, and social-emotional well-being in adolescence and adulthood.
The picture of the neuron indicates that in brain development there are critical periods that facilitate the development of specific skills, language being one of these. Humans are born with an innate capacity to learn language. However, during certain times in the child’s life, the brain is active in forming connections for language skills. In these critical periods, the brain cells grow a complex path for quickly understanding, analyzing, creating and producing language.
Our brain provides us with the ability to learn language in an orderly and predictable pattern.
Our team wants to find out about the critical period(s) in which the brain is active for developing different forms of higher order/figurative language. We know from research that the critical periods are the most important times for the activation of neural systemsfor language development. However, even after this critical period has passed, research has shown that these skills can be learned with additional support, and with greater time and effort.
We are creating the Test of Higher Order Language to find out about critical periods for the development of different forms of higher order/figurative language in children and adolescents. We also want todescribe the characteristics and experiences of those whoare left behind in higher order/figurative language development. When we know this, programs can be created that will facilitate higher order/figurative language development.