Language and Cognition

cognitive development and language acquisition. Cognitive theorists generally believe that language is contingent on cognitive development. The referential power in the arbitrary symbols assumes the cognitive prerequisite of understanding the concepts they signify. As a cognitive interactionist, Jean Piaget believed that action-based interaction with the world gave rise to the formation of object concepts, separation of self from the external world, and mental representation of reality by mental images, signs, and symbols (language). Language reflects the degree of cognitive maturity. For example, young children's immature egocentric thought (unable to understand others' perspectives) is revealed in their egocentric speech (talking to self)—children seem to show no realization of the need to connect with others' comments or to ascertain whether one is being understood. Older children's cognitive achievements of logical thinking and perspective-taking lead to the disappearance of egocentric speech and their use of socialized speech for genuine social interaction. Although language as a verbal tool facilitates children's interaction with the world, it is the interaction that contributes to cognitive development. Piaget gave credit to language only in the later development of abstract reasoning by adolescents.

In L. S. Vygotsky's social-functional interactionist view, language and cognition develop independently at first, as a result of their different origins in the course of evolution. Infants use practical/instrumental intelligence (intelligence without speech) such as smiling, gazing, grasping, or reaching, to act upon or respond to the social world. Meanwhile, the infants' cries and vocalizations, though they do not initially have true communicative intent (speech without thinking), function well in bringing about adults' responses. Adults attribute meaning to infants' vocalizations and thus include the babies in the active communicative system, fostering joint attention and intersubjectivity (understanding each other's intention). Such social interactions help the infants eventually complete the transition from noninten-tional to intentional behavior and to discover the referential power of symbols, thus moving on to verbal thinking and later to meaningful speech. Externalized speech (egocentric speech) is a means for the child to monitor and guide his or her own thoughts and problem-solving actions. This externalized functional "conversation with oneself' (egocentric speech) does not disappear but is internalized over time and becomes inner speech, a tool for private thinking. Thus, in Vygotsky's theory, language first develops independently of cognition, then intersects with cognition and contributes significantly to cognitive development thereafter. Language develop-

DSM-IV-TR Criteria for Language Disorders

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