Development and Language

  • Morality: are we moral, or amoral?
  • Continuity: children -> adult.
  • Knowledge: empiricism, nativism, constructivism.

Jean Piaget

The founder of modern theory of cognitive development, the major contribution is Genetic epistemology.

Development stage theory:

  1. Sensorimotor (0 - 2 years): Peek A Boo.
  2. Preoperational (2 - 7 years): three mountains tasks, children has difficulties to understand other perspectives of three mountains. Egocentrisim, lack of the concept of conservation.
  3. Concrete operational(7 - 12 years): reasoning.
  4. Formal Operational(12+): abstract and scientific reasoning.


  • theoretical, no explanation of how and why.
  • methodological: the extensive survey is limited.

Methods for studying infants

  • Brain scans
  • Sucking and looking

Baby can understand the existence of out-of-sight of objects, contradicted to Piaget’s theory.

Baby have rudimentary morale at age of 6 months.

Baby cannot understand others see the world differently, or others can be fooled, — reminding me the residentials of three-body.

Sally & Anne tests.

Explanations for development

The neural changes are pruning, less neural connections make more mature thoughts possible.

Olive mentioned that the autism is caused by the delayed development, they are overstimulated, thus could not develop more mature thoughts.

Also modernized for fast information transmission.

Large scale changes vs. specific modules, such as social development, language module, etc. Autism is the outcome of damaged social module.

Could the difference between children and adults be an effect of learning languages?



  • The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker
  • The Power of Babel, by John McWhorter

Creolization: the slavery trade bring laborers from different language background, and a makeshift jargon, pidgin was developed. Children transformed this non-linguistic system into a real language, creole.

The language construction: Phonology -> morphology -> syntax.


Chomsky proposed nativism, aka the development of language is not so much of learning.

  • 0 - 4m: Preference for melody of own language.
  • 7m: babbling, the deaf children also babble in sign language.
  • 12m: sense of word order
  • The learning capability drops radically after age 3.

Language and thought

  • Will language system, such as syntax impacts the view of the world?
  • Will language necessary for the abstract thought?

The language may be essential for some unique human powers, but not others.