Egocentric speech is a form of speech that is observed typically in young children, and involves them using speech without addressing anyone in particular. In the following sections we will learn more about this speech and understand its many components.
Egocentric speech is a very unique and interesting concept that occurs in young children. The inclusion of the word ‘ego’ in the term egocentric suggests that it has something to do with self–which is, of course, true. Egocentric speech is a kind of speech that is carried out with oneself, not necessarily addressing anyone in particular. This kind of speech is seen to occur in very young children, typically those in the age group of 3-5, and it is said that it is used as a means of learning speech, since children do not know how to think internally and then speak.
To give an example–observe a young child at play. You will find that a child has the tendency of talking to himself and literally giving a commentary of what he/she is doing. While feeding a doll, or playing with a car, for example, they’ll say something like ‘Now I’m going to feed the doll’ or ‘Now the car will bang against the tree’.
As the child grows, the instance of this speech becomes lesser and lesser, and in a year or two, it completely vanishes. This happens because the child learns how to internalize his thoughts, think about what he wants to say, and then speak.
Theories of Egocentric Speech
Echolalia: This type of speech involves repeating words, phrases or sounds. It is usually heard when children are babbling.
Monologue: This form of speech is a running discourse and is said by oneself. This is usually observed when children are playing, and one can hear only fragments of sentences.
The Collective (Dual or Social) Monologue: This occurs when two people are using speech but that speech has no connection with one another. For example, when two children are sitting together and playing different games, they may comment on their own games, but that speech has no connection with each other. They are just speaking at the same time, or taking turns to speak.
There are several theories that surround this concept, and we will get into the details of the same in the following sections.
Theories of Egocentric Speech
While we now know that egocentric speech is something that makes for an integral part of child development (more specifically–language development in children), we need to also know that there are several theories that surround this concept. The following are two of the most famous theories that highlight this concept in more detail.
Jean Piaget’s Theory
Jean piaget was a renowned psychologist who observed children and formulated the concept of egocentric speech. This form of speech is a part of Piaget’s stages of development. He said that when a child is born and begins to learn how to speak, he exhibits this form of speech, such that he talks to himself without addressing anyone in particular. He also observed that whenever the child speaks to himself, he almost always uses loud speech.
Piaget went on to explain that this loud and ‘to oneself’ speech happened because the child had not learned to be social yet. Being social meant that he needed to take other’s view points into consideration, or understand what the others were saying. Thus he did not know how to effectively communicate with others and resorted to egocentric speech because it was all ‘internal’ for him–what ‘he’ thought. Piaget also said that as the child grew, he would learn to be a part of the social arena and thus develop proper means of communication. This would mean that egocentric speech would fade away and it would be replaced by social speech.
Vygotsky was another psychologist who observed the behavior patterns of children and then deduced certain theories on the concept of egocentric speech. His viewpoint was different from Piaget’s.
Vygotsky said that children used this form of speech because they had not yet developed the concept of internalizing their thoughts. The child, he said, had not yet learned the concept of being able to think his thoughts through, deduce them and then speak. He was in the process of learning and therefore the constant instructions that were passed on to him were verbalized loudly without processing them.
Vygotsky also believed that the child was a social creature to begin with and did not become social with time. He said that all the actions that a child takes part in–may it be babbling, or using words that the child starts to utter when learning to speak and communicate for the first time, were proof enough of the same. The child therefore has always been a social creature.
In this manner, he opposed the theory of Piaget who said that the child learns to be social with time and then learns to communicate with others. Vygotsky also said that egocentric speech is not replaced by social speech, but gradually develops into it.
In the years that followed, a combination of both these theories was made and the term egocentric speech was replaced by private speech. This was considered to be a more acceptable term.