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Language Acquisition

The Role of the Communication: Pragmatic - Interactionist Model


The pragmatic-interactionist theory was developed on the observation that people verbalize to communicate. This theory focuses on the communicative function of learning to speak. During the learning stages, children choose which way to structure their words so it will sound best.

The name of this theory was acquired through combing two research studies, theoretical and applied. Three linguists, Searle, Dore and Halliday, were identifying and classifying rules of pragmatics. Brunner and Bates, two psycholinguists, were doing studies on the way parents and their children communicate to each other at the same time. These two areas, theoretical and applied, came together to form this theory.

Researchers found that adults and parents change the way they talk when young kids are around, known as child-directed speech. They say things less complex, slow the rate they speak, and have shorter conversations. Children who are abused and have less interactions while they are learning language are more likely to be slower at learning to talk, because they didn't have much practice with people around them.

Children tend to understand and communicate if language is directed to fit their level. Language must be based on previous knowledge, known as scaffolding. Through communication with others, structural tools to communicate are picked up naturally.

This theory relates to the behavioral theory in the sense that children develop language habits through their environment. The pragmatic-interactionist theory, however, doesn't see the necessity to use reinforcements on language. This theory stresses that through hearing language, children are familiarized with it and are able to put pieces together to form sentences. This theory recognizes both the role of the environment and the role of biological processes.

This theory also accounts for the fact that parents can communicate with their children before they have the ability to speak. They are able to know what non-speaking babies and children want through expressions and nonverbal interaction. A downfall of this theory, however, is that in all languages children learn and develop in similar systematic stages. If language development was based on interaction with others and experiences, children would always be in different stages. There is also little research on how much interaction is necessary to develop language. This is one of the more modern theories and is still continuously being studied, but has really developed a good base.

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Page Last Updated on 11/3/04