Culture is extremely complex, with many influential aspects and defining characteristics. Language is one of these complex characteristics that every culture holds. However, no matter what culture one belongs to, the learning of their language is relative to environment. From infancy social contact is a huge factor in the child’s ability to grasp language. Exposure to language and modeling are also important concepts in this process.
There are many theories on the language learning system, and how certain factors effect the overall process of learning; although, Michael Halliday proposed a theory that stated language development works through three main stages: learning the language, learning through the language, and learning about the language. Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday was born, 1925, in England where he remained all throughout his childhood. Halliday decided to attend the University of London to study modern Chinese language and literature (Mandarin) for a BA.
After London, he decided it best to live in China to continue his study. Halliday lived and studied in China for three years, while attending PeKing University and Lingnan University. After his devoted study in China, he returned to Cambridge to obtain a PhD in Chinese Linguistics. During this time, Halliday taught Chinese for a number of years, and started to specifically focus on linguistics. Halliday experienced culture and language-learning difficulties first hand, while gaining knowledge on how this process of development works.
He studied language development with great intensity and developed a theory on this development: the Systematic Functional Linguistics. Many basic concepts of this theory were based on teachings by his British teacher, J. R. Firth and a group of European linguists of the early 20th century. Halliday’s final research and theory was published in 1961. Halliday went on to become the Professor of Linguistics at the University of London in 1965. Even after accomplishing all of this, Halliday moved to Australia in 1976 to be the Foundation Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney until retirement.
Halliday’s research was very beneficial, and is still being studied. He took his cultural awareness and added dedication to linguistic study. Michael Halliday believed that language development begins naturally with every child, starting in early infancy. All children are exposed to language in some way or another, even with the beginning association of hearing words and seeing gestures that coincide with actions or meanings. Most of this social interaction is made by the parents, but in some cases it varies or lacks social exposure all together.
A child’s ability to grasp language is dependent on both exposure and social context. The Systematic Functional Linguistics Theory also states that children develop language by thee main stages of: learning language, learning through language, and learning about language. Learning language also describes a three level process: semantic, lexico-grammatical, and graphophonic. Semantic would be considered the meaning of language where as lexico-grammatical refers the structure of constructed words/sentences.
Graphophonics deal with the relation of sounds and symbols in language. It is also important for a child to understand the different contexts in which one is in, social and literature variance, because written language often varies from verbal. However, much of language learning happens at an unconscious level, accounting for many practices that are accomplished without a prompt. Learning through language is used to take language and “draw a picture” through words. It is when a child takes his/her surroundings and depicts a visual writing.
It is taking reality or feeling and then expressing it through writing. Although, It can also be on an imaginative level, giving both reality and fantasy a voice by written word. If the “story” is shared, it is then the job of the adult, peer, or teacher, reading or listening, to positively correct any major mistakes in order for the child to “see” the correct grammar. Pragmatic functions are used during this step, which means that child is doing the problem solving and wanting a response or learning through the function while sorting out his/her own use of language.
After the step of learning through language, a major shift occurs when a student is no longer just learning how to speak the language, but learning about the language. “Coming to understand the nature and functions of language itself are the key elements in learning about language. ” (Halliday, 1980) Now being in different social contexts, it is important to understand the different “media” of expression. Language is complex with hundreds of “rules” that make understanding the situation difficult.
In learning about language, one must observe the environment in both verbal and written context. What is the author really trying to get across? The second layer of this is dealing with the relationship between the participants in the conversation or other context. The last layer consists of understanding how the situation is constructed, what are the mediums of the situation. Is it written word, a verbal encounter, are there symbols, are there both? Total understanding of language comes will all three of these steps in combination with development.
Halliday’s theory of the systematic functional linguistics was widely studied and credited. He considered his research and understanding to be culturally based. With cultural differences comes different practices, but all children develop language in the same way. These concepts are universal even if most of the language is carried out by symbolism. Michael Halliday was research intensive but it gave way to years of future educational application and research.
It also played a incredible role in linguistics and pushed the research of semiotic systems forward. Michael Halliday’s theory of learning language, learning through language, and learning about language was a success. References “Halliday and Vygotsky. ” CSUSAP: Student & Staff Unix Host. Web. 21 Oct. 2010. . ” Michael A. K. Halliday Biography – (b. 1925), lexicogrammar, Learning How to Mean, Treatise on the Astrolabe . ” Psychology Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Oct. 2010. . “Michael Halliday . ” Biography . Web. 21 Oct. 2010. .