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Semantic development explains how children acquire new words and successfully attach meaning to them. This process begins before children can even speak, as they are immersed in the language of the culture in which they are born. Gradually, children begin to imitate some of these words they have repetitively heard...

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Semantic development explains how children acquire new words and successfully attach meaning to them. This process begins before children can even speak, as they are immersed in the language of the culture in which they are born. Gradually, children begin to imitate some of these words they have repetitively heard which have an especially significant meaning for them, typically beginning with the names of their caregivers and requests for food.

As they practice more, they begin to make connections to other words in their environment, often beginning with concrete nouns and visual verbs and then branching out to modifiers for those words.

Even within common nouns, children must learn various categories and usages of language. For example, a child may learn the word cow by looking at a picture in a book. She must then learn that the same visual image she passes in a field on her way to Nana's is also a cow. She then learns that cows can look different: some are all brown, some are black and white, others are solid black. But they all belong to the idea of cow. Another child who lives on a farm might learn that her cow Bessie can be categorized by the name Bessie, by the word cow, by the classification of animal, and by the word pet. Thus, semantic development includes how language is ordered and how children not only develop singular words for ideas but how they begin to develop an organizational system for all those words with various shades of meaning.

Semantic development relies heavily on a larger social context for each child and varies depending on environmental influences and supports, the intellectual abilities of the child, and the specific linguistic abilities she is capable of performing.

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