Restricted and Elaborated codes in children language development

CognitoBaby |  July 23, 2018 

We need to stimulate children and modern technology allows the access of much stimulating material at the touch of a button


Children are naturally curious, and the speed in which they learn in their first years is never equaled in later life. From the very beginning a baby will listen to and pick up cues and meaning. A child who is constantly spoken to in a normal, expressive voice will understand facial expressions, body language and meaning much quicker than one who is ignored or spoken to only in gibberish or “baby speak”.

Children acquire language those around them, and the speed and efficiency of early language development can be largely attributed to the method employed by the parent or guardian to encourage early speech.

Many students of Sociology will be familiar with Basil Berstein’s pioneering work in Britain fifty years ago. He, perhaps rather simplistically, used the terms ‘restricted’ and ‘elaborated’ codes to highlight in the way children develop language. In our media –rich a world where descriptive and colorful speech and sustained conversation are perhaps heard rather less than in years gone by, it becomes all the more important to speak to children in a way that encourages them to learn and ask questions.

Berstein’s ‘restricted code’ is limited and assumes the listener already has a knowledge of the subject under discussion. The elaborated code makes no assumption of previous knowledge.

It is easy to hear examples of both codes in operation. Extreme examples of restricted code would be the parent who in response to the child’s question as to why the police car is brightly colored, replies “because it just is!” 

In an elaborated code answer the parent explains the value of bright colors being visible and relates it to other examples where a bright color is needed to show high visibility – thus prompting further questions

Children’s curiosity should be fostered and encouraged. A child whose questions are valued will ask more and more. A child who gets no satisfactory answer may well give up asking.

Of course we need to stimulate children and modern technology allows the access of much stimulating material at the touch of a button. The CognitoBaby app is not designed as a way of amusing your child and keeping him/her quiet, it is an interactive educational tool to be shared. At the touch of the screen common objects can be accessed in different languages, discussed, elaborated upon and hence more questions stimulated. 

There is no substitute for listening, patient parents/guardians but the CognitoBaby educational language application can be an invaluable aid to them. 

You might also like: Multilingualism – Mistakes are Fundamental to the Learning Process

Download for free CognitoBaby on Google Play Store and IOS



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