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Colección: La Educación
Número: (129-131) I,III
Año: 1998

Recent Related Research

That operational intelligence precedes and informs language is the position consistently maintained by the Genevan school. With the earliest recognition that objects not in sight continue to exist, the infant manifests his/her knowledge that the object has permanence, not through language but through motoric action in seeking the absent object. Also the child’s ability for deferred imitation at a very early age (about sixteen months to two years) is another indication of the symbolic representation of an event. With the subsequent use of holophrases and two-and three-word sequences, the child’s knowledge schemes continue to surpass the child’s ability to express that knowledge in language. Piaget (1962) has maintained that verbal representation amounts to only one kind of representation, and that conceptual and symbolic representation which has preceded makes language possible. Furth (1969) reiterates this Piagetian concept by emphasizing that all symbolic functions, including language, are inherently dependent on the knowing activity of the child.

The question then becomes one of looking at the apparent discrepancy between the almost adult natural language of the child at a time (at five years of age) when his operational level of thinking is still at a comparatively primitive level. The research of Sinclair (1973) and Bloom (1970) on the child’s acquisition of linguistic structures have proposed that the natural language of the five-year-old can be explained by positing pseudo-structures or prestructures which manifest themselves in spite of the fact that they often surpass the underlying cognitive capacity of the child. These studies suggest that such natural language may possibly have been assimilated by the child through modeling or imitation, and tend to function in a type of holding position much as algorothmic subroutine functions.

The recent research of Chipman (1985) reports that although fluency in natural language is achieved by approximately five years of age, understanding of the internal grammar that governs language production is not attained until ten years of age. In an endeavor to analyze the parallel development between cognitive structures and the acquisition of language, Sinclair and Ferreiro (1970) carried out a series of studies on the relationship between active and passive sentences with children between four and eigth years of age. Their overall conclusions were that comprehension and production of the passive is related to reversibility, and further, that there is a developmental sequence in the production of the passive. Studies which paired young children’s (four to eight years) logical reversibility with judgments on synonymity of active and passive sentences led Beilin and his fellow researchers (1975) to the conclusion that the deep-level linguistic structures are associated with cognitive processes which operate independently of the linguistic system. Other studies have investigated the child’s understanding of the concepts of time, quantity, and relationships as paralleled with language competence (Bloom 1970; Katz 1972; and Weil 1970). The present study, by including many of the same variables, endeavors to provide further perspectives on the relationship between cognition and language with young children.

The nativist position of linguistic development first proposed by Chomsky in 1957 held that language is an innate “creative” capacity of the child. He strongly rejected the behaviorist position that language acquisition rested on external stimulation acquired through imitation, reinforcement, and generalization. His transformational generative theory which posited an inherent language acquisition device (LAD) was later refined (1965) to include the distinction between competence and performance. McNeill (1970), in the Chomskyan tradition, has proposed that with this given language acquisition device (LAD), the child abstracts syntactic rules from a limited language base following the rules of an unexplained grammar. Ultimately, concepts such as surface structure—what the child articulates—and deep structure—comprehension or meaning have become of critical importance to linguists and psycholinguists in looking for the ultimate determinants of language. Efforts to examine the process by which the deep structure of meaning informs the surface structure has involved both transformational generative scholars as well as those interested in information processing. Researchers Trabasso, Rollins, and Shauhnessy (1971) consider language as a process from initial input (stimulus) to the actual verbal response, and emphasize that language is a coherent system separate from logical thinking, but intersecting with cognition for the mutual benefit of both systems.

The thesis that logical structure functions as the principal common denominator between language and cognitive development in defining the fundamental principals of both has been proposed by Beilin and his associates. This common logical form (yet unspecified as to its exact nature) determines the form of both cognitive and linguistic development. The cumulative results of the comparatively substantial body of research reported in his work, Studies in the Cognitive Basis of Language Development, which involved children between the ages of two and seven, largely supports this position. However, there does appear to be some shift or at least some ambivalence in the concluding chapter which summarizes the results of these numerous studies. Beilin concludes that in spite of the fact that the linguistic system does have unique properties, the development of knowledge of this system is bound to be constrained by the properties of the child’s cognitive logico-mathematical thinking and other structures. In designing this study of the relationship of language to operational intelligence with four- and five-year-old children, it is recognized that other factors such as the emotional, social, and environmental contexts have not been considered.