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Stages of Natural Language Acquisition

People who learn language by first producing words, building a repertoire of single words, and then producing phrases are considered Analytic Language Processors. A different way of developing language is by learning chunks of language initially and then learning that those chunks can be broken down or mitigated to communicate different things. People who develop language in this way are Gestalt Language Processors (GLPs). The steps that GLPs take to learn language follow a framework called Natural Language Acquisition. The following are the stages outlined in this process:

Stage 1: Delayed Echolalia

At this stage, children are using whole gestalts or scripts, single-word gestalts, and the intonation of the language, sometimes without their being true language present yet. These gestalts often come from people around the child, television, books, and songs. An example of this is:

“Flip it up flip it back, flip it on a pancake stack” - a quote from a Bubble Guppies episode

Stage 2: Mitigation or Partial Gestalts

At this stage, children are breaking down larger gestalts and mixing and matching them with other gestalts. A longer gestalt may also become shorter. Using the gestalt shared as delayed echolalia, mitigation of this gestalt is:

“Flip it up, flip it back, flip it on a sushi stack.”

Stage 3: Single- Word and Two-Word Combinations

At this stage, children start to build an understanding that words can be used as single units that carry meaning. Gestalt language processors begin using self- generated language at this stage in Natural Language Acquisition. An example of this is:

“Pancake,” “Blueberry Pancake,” “Sweet pancake”

Stage 4-6: New Original Phrases

At this stage, children begin to put individual word units together to make novel phrases or sentences.

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