B.F. Skinner Theories of Language Development

Last Updated: 21 Mar 2023
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Language development is an important aspect of children's early development as it enhances the sense of belonging, develops confidence, gives them autonomy and independence as they start to grow. Also, it helps them to communicate, interact and associate with others in the society and therefore meet the need of the required cultural customs of the regions they live in. According to B. F Skinner theories, this development is strongly dependent on the environment of the child existence with learning and reinforcement forming the core aspect of this early development (William & Ferguson, 2001).

His theories indicate that new skills are attained either through operant or classical conditioning to the child thereby deepening the effects that these conditions have on the immediate environment of the child. Responses that are positively reinforced are easily repeated while those that are punished recur less often in the child language and response development (David & Carl, 2004). Although skinner's theories are seen to take less consideration of the inherent ability of the child to develop language to itself, they have been effectively applied to many children all over the world.

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Consequent researches indicate that the immediate environment plays the main role in a child's language development which is the key to future success at all times. Autistic children have difficulties in understanding the language, learning how to interact with others and may be characterized by unusual repetitive movements. Skimmer theories require that stimulation is used on these children for their language development to improve. Autistic children training through positive and negative reinforcement have indicated improved levels of comprehension to their responses and sound development.

Early stages operant conditioning As skinner theories suggest, language deficient autistic children requires more attention from their early stages of development compared to others. The family members and the mothers especially must dedicate high attention to them with the aim of assisting their language development (William & Ferguson, 2001). During the crying and cooing stage, it is hard to establish the children that are autisic but keen mothers can be able to tell if their children are deficient.

Caregivers therefore, must assess and try to understand the child for early assistance to be availed thereby reducing late language development. The basic communication essence of the baby may be different and the mother must adopt the correct rhythm to understand the child and making it comfortable. David & Carl (2004) notes that, crying changes with age as the child progresses while cooing starts at the age of six months. The voluntary behavior at this stage is therefore highly improved with the child being able to associate with specific aspects and people.

Delayed presentation and early generalization should be slowly adopted by the mother and the immediate early caregivers to the child (William & Ferguson, 2001). Use of negative and positive reinforcement William & Ferguson (2001) argues that immediately after babbling, the parents and the caregivers should have fully understood the child status and then subject him to specific stimulus related to the most recurrent events like eating, suckling and his immediate people familiar to him.

Teachers and caregivers should reduce the number of words and also minimize the rate of introduction of new words to the child. Increased personalized attention must be encouraged for the child to comprehend the new establishment necessary for his language development. Reinforcing stimulus should also be associated with the duration of time the child is taking to understand different aspects of the language (Wilma & Pauline, 2000). Negative reinforcement increases the concentration for the child and reduces his unresponsiveness to different aspects relating to his requirements.

The child easily identifies with the environment he is based in and with advanced reinforcement, he may be able to increase his ability to identify more people apart from his mother. Besides, positive reinforcement should also be slowly introduced with care to gauge the child responsiveness to the different stimulus that relate to his immediate surrounding (David & Carl, 2004). Generalization and follow up. Children acquire the linguistic competences when they have access to languages environment either at home, school or playing with other children.

The cultural organized activities serve as acquisition support system for the autisic child (Jeanine & Tony, 2007). Community and early childhood supporters must start from the general aspect of the child to the specific understanding where the child can be able to communicate freely with the rest of the people. They act as the mediators to the child language where self regulation based on the observed feedback is used to determine the progress (Wilma & Pauline, 2000).

Though the phonology of the child may take longer compared to other children, pronunciation, intonation and rules for combining syllables consequently develop with this assistance. Others may have more difficulty with the semantics especially for combined sentences. As indicated earlier, the efforts should be based on the basis of the immediate environment and more reinforcement emphasized for faster development. The motherese assistance should be extended even after the babies have exceeded the age for intensive care and support from the mother and the caregivers.

Training and assessment. According to William & Ferguson (2001), autisic children requires more assistance through training for their language to fully develop and be able to communicate comfortably with others. The child having grown and being attended to by his teachers, the extended mands are important for the child to achieve higher levels of understanding during it's later development. The teachers therefore, must comprehend the child condition and increase the personal assistance in the quest for this development.

Assessment at this stage assist the caregivers and the trainers to understand the level of the child response in relation to different aspects that surround him. To add to that, reinforcement should be heightened to raise the child response and intrigue it's ability for better comprehension. Turn about strategy should be employed especially for the children with severe autisic conditions. The subjects should be changed for the child to comprehend issues and language commands.

Playing mode should be increased to assist the child to easily comprehend interconnections between personality, emotions and other requirements of interaction in the society faster (Jeanine & Tony, 2007). Behavior modification. Advancements are attained with the child's mental development with time and therefore, the caregivers and the society should increase the call for behavior modification in the child response and language progress. Previously, negative reinforcement are employed with punishment being associated to the wrong actions.

Modification calls for shift in the application of the reinforcement mode for the children where good actions are encouraged through positive reinforcement that are healthier by providing the child with appropriate behavioral guidelines. This method benefits the child and the parents as well as the society where the impacts related to the children behavior are positive. Autisic children respond faster and positively to the positive behavioral modifications application and may serve to increase their ability to fully develop their language (David & Carl, 2004).

People in the immediate surrounding of the child, must however conform to the positive reinforcement method to reduce confusion to the child. Jeanine & Tony (2007) notes that, new ideologies and language aspects are been easy to learn for the child at this stage due to changes in the approach mode and application of the positive reinforcement. However, skinner theories do not address clearly how deprivation is related to reinforcement in the child language development especially for the children with language learning disabilities.

Identification of these reinforcement have lacked the the accuracy and completeness which establishes the beginning and the exact ending period of the process. Also, reinforcement should include simplistic and widely applicable procedures with the autisic children requiring specific directional and circumstantial application of the theories (Wilma & Pauline, 2000). Conclusion. As supported by the paper, application of the Skinner's theories is highly effective for the autisic children in developing their language for their communication and easier relationship with the society.

Through understanding of the process, the immediate caregivers of the child must assist the autisic child to develop the language faster. The child entirely depends on them and the society in the latter years for language and other physical development. Assistance to the child must be extended to the immediate teachers who handle the child and the change of negative reenforcement to the positive one (William & Ferguson, 2001). Environment of the child especially the immediate children, caregivers and the society are required to offer maximum support to the child for better and faster development of his language.

Finally, Cooperation of the people in the society is ac core part of the language development and their participation is of great importance for these children to develop their language with ease.


  • David, P. & Carl, C. (2004). Behavior Analysis and Learning. Washington. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Jeanine, M. & Tony, D. (2007). Models of Teaching: Connecting Student Learning with Standards. New York. Sage.
  • William, T. & Ferguson, K. (2001). The Psychology of B. F. Skinner. New York: Sage.
  • Wilma, V. & Pauline , L. (2000). Handbook on Child Development. New York. Thomson Learning Nelson.

Related Questions

on B.F. Skinner Theories of Language Development

What is Skinner's theory of language development?
Skinner's theory of language development is based on the idea that language is acquired through operant conditioning. He believed that language is learned through reinforcement and imitation of the environment. He also proposed that language is acquired through shaping, which is the process of reinforcing successive approximations of a desired behavior.
What are the 3 theories of language development?
The three theories of language development are the Nativist Theory, the Interactionist Theory, and the Social Pragmatic Theory. The Nativist Theory suggests that language is an innate ability, while the Interactionist Theory suggests that language is acquired through interaction with the environment. The Social Pragmatic Theory suggests that language is acquired through social interaction and the use of context.
What is the contribution of Skinner to language learning?
B.F. Skinner is widely credited with developing the theory of operant conditioning, which has had a major impact on language learning. His work has been used to explain how reinforcement and punishment can be used to shape behavior, including language learning. Skinner's work has also been used to develop teaching methods that focus on providing positive reinforcement for correct responses and negative reinforcement for incorrect responses.
What are the 5 theories of language development?
The five theories of language development are the Nativist Theory, the Interactionist Theory, the Social Pragmatic Theory, the Cognitive Theory, and the Emergentist Theory. Each of these theories proposes different explanations for how children acquire language, such as innate abilities, environmental influences, and the development of cognitive skills.

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B.F. Skinner Theories of Language Development. (2016, Jul 14). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/b-f-skinner-theories-of-language-development/

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