First Language

Published by SAGE Publications
Online ISSN: 1740-2344
Print ISSN: 0142-7237
English-learning toddlers of 21 and 22 months were taught a novel spatial word for four actions resulting in a tight-fit spatial relation, a relation that is lexically marked in Korean but not English (Choi & Bowerman, 1991). Toddlers in a control condition viewed the same tight-fit action events without the novel word. Toddlers' comprehension of the novel word was tested in a preferential-looking paradigm. Across four videotaped pairs of action events, a tight-fit event was paired with a loose-fit event. Only toddlers who were taught the novel spatial word looked significantly longer at the tight-fit events during the test trials that presented the novel word than during control trials that presented neutral linguistic stimuli. The results indicate that toddlers can map and generalize a novel word onto actions resulting in a tight-fit relation, given limited experience with the novel word. The results provide insight into how young word learners begin to form language-specific semantic spatial categories.
Mean number of different referents conveyed in deictic and representational gestures by (a) Italian and (b) American children in the five sessions preceding, and the session coinciding with, the onset of two-word combinations; bars represent standard errors  
Mean number of deictic and representational gesture tokens produced by (a) Italian and (b) American children in the five sessions preceding, and the session coinciding with, the onset of two-word combinations; bars represent standard errors  
Italian children are immersed in a gesture-rich culture. Given the large gesture repertoire of Italian adults, young Italian children might be expected to develop a larger inventory of gestures than American children. If so, do these gestures impact the course of language learning? We examined gesture and speech production in Italian and US children between the onset of first words and the onset of two-word combinations. We found differences in the size of the gesture repertoires produced by the Italian vs. the American children, differences that were inversely related to the size of the children's spoken vocabularies. Despite these differences in gesture vocabulary, in both cultures we found that gesture + speech combinations reliably predicted the onset of two-word combinations, underscoring the robustness of gesture as a harbinger of linguistic development.
Demographic Information 
An important question in verb learning is how children extend new verbs to new situational contexts. In Study 1, 2 1/2-year-old children were shown a complex event followed by new events that preserved only the action from the initial event, only the result, or no new events. Children seeing events that preserved either the action or the result produced appropriate verb extensions at test while children without this information did not. In a follow-up study, children hearing new verbs produced more extensions than did children hearing nonlabeling speech. These studies suggest that attention to related events is helpful to young verb learners, perhaps because they structurally align these events (e.g., Gentner, 1983; 1989) during verb learning.
The passive construction is acquired relatively late by children learning to speak many languages, with verbal passives not fully acquired until age 6 in English. In other languages it appears earlier, around age 3 or before. Use of passive construction in young children was examined in two Eastern Bantu languages spoken in Kenya (Kiswahili and Kigiriama), both with frequent use of passive. The passive was used productively very early (2;1) in these languages, regardless of the method used to measure productivity. In addition, non-actional passives, particularly rare in English and some other European languages, were seen at these early ages. The proportion of verbs that were passive varied between individuals, both in children's speech and in the input to children. Pragmatic and grammatical features of the passive in some languages have previously been suggested to drive early passive acquisition, but these features are not found consistently in the two languages studied here. Findings suggest that the relatively high frequency of input found in these languages is the most plausible reason for early productive use of the passive.
One of the most prominent issues in early cognitive and linguistic development concerns how children figure out meanings of words from hearing them in context, since in many contexts there are multiple words and multiple potential referents for those words. Recent findings concerning on-line sentence comprehension suggest that, within the conversational context, potential referents compete for mappings to words. Three experiments examined whether such competitive processes may play a role in young children's learning of novel adjectives in an artificial word learning task. According to a competitive process view, although young children often mismap adjectives to whole objects rather than the properties of objects, explicitly mentioned familiar words should strongly map to referents consistent with those words and thereby decrease the likelihood of novel words being mismapped to these referents. Experiments 1 and 2 examined the role of the mere mention of familiar words and the role of word order in two year olds' ability to map a novel adjective to a property. Experiment 3 examined these processes in three year olds. The results indicate that lexical competition plays a particularly strong role in helping two year olds map a novel object to a property, whereas syntactic information about form class may also be informative to older children. The results suggest how fundamental processes of lexical competition in on-line word comprehension may give young learners a way to leverage known words in learning new words.
The aim of the present study was to investigate how young children reduce a yes bias, the tendency to answer 'yes' to yes-no questions. Specifically, we examined three possible factors: verbal ability, inhibitory control and theory of mind. Results revealed that verbal ability and inhibitory control were strongly associated with a yes bias even after controlling for age. Regression analyses revealed that these two factors significantly predicted a yes bias. Theory of mind was not significantly correlated with a yes bias. The results indicate that young children may have to inhibit a dominant 'yes' response when they are supposed to respond 'no'. The development of verbal skills may reduce young children's yes biases.
Distribution of child (left) and parent (right) gesture tokens (note: in Figs 1–4, the boxes present the median values and inter-quartile range; the tails represent the 5th and 95th percentiles; outliers are noted by circles; extreme values are noted by crosses)  
Distribution of child (left) and parent (right) gesture types (for symbols, see Fig. 1 caption)  
Children vary widely in how quickly their vocabularies grow. Can looking at early gesture use in children and parents help us predict this variability? We videotaped 53 English-speaking parent-child dyads in their homes during their daily activities for 90-minutes every four months between child age 14 and 34 months. At 42 months, children were given the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT). We found that child gesture use at 14 months was a significant predictor of vocabulary size at 42 months, above and beyond the effects of parent and child word use at 14 months. Parent gesture use at 14 months was not directly related to vocabulary development, but did relate to child gesture use at 14 months which, in turn, predicted child vocabulary. These relations hold even when background factors such as socio-economic status are controlled. The findings underscore the importance of examining early gesture when predicting child vocabulary development.
This paper enumerates eight problems of design and application which must be addressed by any proposed analysis of children's language production into speech acts. These problems fall into two main classes. ‘Problems of definition’ include defining the unit of analysis and its domain in speech data, and defining and relating one to another the taxonomy's levels of abstraction in a motivated fashion. ‘Problems of application’ include vagueness of textual realization of illocutionary force, canonical syntactic realization of illocutionaryacts, sequentially- and simultaneously-multiple illocutionary forces, conversational implicature, illocutionary forces constructed in dialogue, and discontinuous illocutionary acts.Each problem is explicated and exemplified by production data from Subjects taking part in a naturalistic longitudinal study of illocutionary act development. Published proposals for the analysis of children's speech acts are critically reviewed with respect to the adequacy of their treatment of each problem in turn.Finally, it is proposed that clinical or research ‘consumers’ who require speech-act analytic tools for use with samples of child language should assess the appropriateness of such taxonomies by means of their relative success in addressing the range of conceptual and design problems enumerated here.
The question that is addressed by this study is whether the language production mechanism in children differs from the adult system. This problem is approached by comparing some 250 incidental, i.e., nonsystematic word and sound errors extracted from a corpus of tape-recorded spontaneous speech of two 2- to 3-year-old boys, with tape-recorded speech errors in the London-Lund corpus (Garnham, Shillcock, Brown, Mill, & Cutler, 1982. In A. Cutler, Ed. Slips of the tongue and language production. Berlin: Mouton). The adult data generally replicated findings reported in the literature, and, in turn, most of the error patterns in the children were similar to those in the adults, except for three differences. First, error frequency is considerably higher in children than in adults. Second, lexical substitutions involving phonologically similar words occur less often in the children than in the adults. Finally, in contrast to the adult corpus, the child corpus contains sound errors in function words. These differences are interpreted as indications of gradual developmental alterations in the language production mechanism, mainly reflecting the degree of practice and automatization.
this paper; the interested reader is referred to the literature on this topic (see references above). NPIs in language acquisition
Investigated the criteria children use to identify written words, letters, and numbers, and examined their responses to punctuation marks and the spaces between words in 2 experiments. In Exp I, 20 low-SES children (aged 4 yrs 10 mo to 6 yrs) were each shown a set of 20 cards with different symbols printed on them—words, 1 letter, strings of vowels, strings of numbers, strings of consonants, and strings of graphic symbols, dashes, commas, exclamation marks—and asked to sort "words" from "other things," then "numbers" from "other things." Ss were then asked to identify letter cards and word cards. In Exp II, 20 low-SES children (aged 5 yrs 9 mo to 6 yrs 8 mo) were read a story and then asked to copy 4 selected lines of text, which included a full-stop, question mark, exclamation mark, comma, and ellipsis points. Ss were then asked several questions about the spaces between words and the punctuation marks. Exp I suggested that the criteria used to accept a set of symbols as a word reflect differentiation in terms of the dimensions of symbol shape and string length. In order to reach a correct notion of "word," symbol shape may be crucial, but string length is not. Words such as I, a, in, and of, would be rejected under the criteria used by several of the Ss. Exp II indicated that the need for spacing in texts also seemed to be more clearly grasped than the nature and function of punctuation marks. (22 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Compared 6 children (aged 4–6 yrs) with specific language impairment (SLI) to 7 children (aged 2–4 yrs) with nondelayed, language-normal (LN) status. In pre-intervention mother–child language samples, the SLI Ss received fewer total recasts and fewer complex recasts that specifically expanded or reduced the S's sentence. Data suggest that when concurrent input to SLI children of 5–7 yrs shows a strong "recast gap" relative to language-matched LN children, shifts upward at home, school, or clinic in the availability of recasts to such SLI children have a high probability of aiding their language progress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The four child language corpora. Name of child Age Range MLU begin (words) MLU end (words)
Temporal reference of Root Infinitivals
This study concerns the presence and status of Tense in young children's nonfinite main clauses, or root infinitivals (RIs). Verb-containing utterances produced by four Dutch-speaking boys (age range 1;9 - 3;2) were classified along the following dimensions: finite - infinitive; temporal reference, as indicated by linguistic and non-linguistic context; and type of verb: eventive vs. non-eventive. The data show that (a) the proportion on non-eventive verbs in RIs is close to zero, whereas they make up approximately half of the finite predicates. (b) RIs are used to refer to present, past as well as (predominantly) future eventualities, while the temporal reference of finite sentences is effectively restricted to `present'. It is argued that these findings support the assumption that RIs do not contain Tense, and that their temporal refence comes about as a result of the contextual (deictic) interpretation of an event variable, if available. The results of a pilot experiment suggest tha...
Explored the relationship between the emergence of understanding of object names and the development of pointing during the 1st year of life. Detailed records of the developing lexical comprehension of 6 children were obtained from the age of 6 mo together with information about the use of pointing gestures. Data reveal the existence of a specific relationship: there was a highly significant positive correlation between the 1st appearance of pointing and the 1st understanding of object names. There was no relationship between the development of pointing and more general measures of comprehension development. The significance of these findings for accounts of the development of referential understanding is discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Argues that the disciplinary stance of the field of linguistics has been formalist. The formalist framework has emerged gradually and cumulatively in a series of intellectual developments from the first neogrammarian glimpses of the abstract autonomy of sound as a structural plane of analyzable linguistic form. It has taken to heart the central structuralist lesson that linguistic form and linguistic sense are asymmetrically related, such that the study of the form itself can be pursued in and of itself, entailing a mapping relationship to sense. This has resulted in a cluster of "linguistics-driven" commitments of formalist psycholinguistics, a self-styled centerpiece of cognitive science. These commitments are described and discussed in terms of functionalist approaches to linguistics. (0 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Investigated the amount of exposure preschool-aged children from 10 low-income families had to experience that might promote their narrative skills. Ss were visited at home when the children were 3 yrs old and again when they were 4 yrs old. The mothers completed a questionnaire on their reading habits and the child's access to literary activities and also recorded a typical meal time. Children were visited in their schools, and tapes were made of their classroom talk. Four scales, including child literacy and favorite activity, were derived from the home interviews. The only predictors of children's narrative skill with their mothers were the amount of information mothers elicited and their strategies for doing so. Children who spent time in school engaged in literacy-related activities (e.g., dictations, word games) performed better when asked to recount past experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The topic of 'negative evidence', i.e., of linguistic corrections, is focused upon. Its denial in the recent literature is briefly documented and various dimensions of this denial are specified. After a brief historical survey of research on adult corrections of children's speech, verbatim evidence of maternal corrective feedback is presented for the following categories of filial mistakes: Nouns and Labels, Verbs, Determiners, Prepositions, Bound Morphemes, and Syntax. It is also argued and demonstrated that most 'expansions' involve grammatical corrections and that expanding corrections predominate by far during the early developmental period. Finally, diverse aspects of corrections, their generality, and their effect upon language acquisition are discussed from epistemological and methodological perspectives.
Word finding difficulties (WFDs) occur in more than a quarter of children who are receiving speech and language therapy. This study provides the first investigation of the continuity in WFDs and investigates whether WFDs are associated with phonological or semantically related abilities. Thirty-eight children with WFDs were seen at age 7;0 and at 9;8. Standardized assessments of word finding, language and literacy were administered. The children’s WFDs and other language abilities showed high levels of stability. Despite their WFDs, many children had standardized scores of phonological awareness, decoding and spelling in the typical range. In contrast, semantic fluency was particularly impaired, and WFDs were a significant predictor of reading comprehension. Cluster analysis indicated that there was one group of children with a profile similar to ‘poor comprehenders’ and a second with depressed language scores indicative of specific language impairment. The relevance of these findings to understanding the causes of WFDs is discussed.
In this study, different measures derived from 41 3- to 4-year-old children’s selfgenerated picture-book narratives and their performance on a general measure of language development (TELD-2, Hresko, Reid & Hammill, 1991) were evaluated with respect to their possible predictive relation two years later with 5 areas of academic achievement (General information, Reading recognition, Reading comprehension, Math, Spelling) assessed using the Peabody Individualized Achievement Test – Revised (PIAT-R, Markwardt, 1998). Children’s TELD-2 scores were significantly predictive of their General information scores. The narrative measures of conjunction use, event content, perspective shift, and mental state reference were significantly predictive of later Math scores. Post-hocanalyses revealed that, for the same children, the observed relations with Math achievement did not arise with nonspontaneous adult-prompted narrations.
This paper examines the production of early verbs by two children acquiring French as their first language. The study focuses on the developmental period during which verbs are produced in one form only. Child-directed speech (CDS) and conversational contingencies (CC) occurring around these verbal forms were analyzed up to the moment when some verbs are produced in two different forms. Results show that children's use of a single form per verb can also be found in CDS by adults where the majority of verbs are used in one phono-morphological form only. Moreover, the particular form children use for a given verb corresponds to the one adults predominantly use in CDS. At the same time, child-produced verb forms are reinforced in the CC occurring in adult-child exchanges. When trying to pull apart the role of CCs from that of more general CDS, for both children we find that for about half of the verbal forms CDS and CC provide the same congruent information. Of the remaining verb types, three quarters are explained by CC, while less then 15% are explained by CDS, indicating that conversational contingencies are a stronger source of influence than general input. These findings underline the close relationships among patterns of language acquisition, conversational exchanges and child-directed speech. The data suggest a construction process based on specific characteristics of the language children hear, what they can produce and, importantly, the temporally close reinforcing relations between these two that are forged in conversational interactions.
a. Distribution of different types of child-produced S-PFVM, per session, during the single-form verb morphology period for Camille 
b. Distribution of different types of child-produced S-PFVM, per session, during the single-form verb morphology period for Gael 
Proportion of verb types produced in S-PFVM and in S-PFVM and M-PFVM with a dominant form, in the CDS to Camille (left) and to Gael (right) 
This article examines the production of early verbs by two children acquiring French as their first language. The study focuses on the developmental period during which verbs are produced in one form only. Child-directed speech (CDS) and conversational contingencies (CC) occurring around these verbal forms were analysed up to the moment when some verbs are produced in two different forms. Results show that children’s use of a single form per verb can also be found in CDS by adults where the majority of verbs are used in one morphophonological form only. Moreover, the particular form children use for a given verb corresponds to the one adults predominantly use in CDS. At the same time, child-produced verb forms are reinforced in the CC occurring in adult—child exchanges. When trying to separate the role of CCs from that of more general CDS, for both children the study found that for about half of the verbal forms CDS and CC provide the same congruent information. Of the remaining verb types, three-quarters are explained by CC, while fewer then 15 percent are explained by CDS, indicating that CCs are a stronger source of influence than general input. These findings underline the close relationships between patterns of language acquisition, conversational exchanges and CDS. The data suggest a construction process based on specific characteristics of the language children hear, what they can produce and, importantly, the temporally close reinforcing relations between these two that are forged in conversational interactions.
Use of the clitic se was analysed in 28- and 36-month-old Spanish-speaking toddlers using a Cognitive Grammar model (Langacker 1987, 1992, Maldonado 1992). The data demonstrate that the first forms of the clitic se focus on the critical moment of change (middle forms) rather than true reflexives. This aspectual phenomenon is based on cognition. We argue, therefore, that the earliest uses of se by Spanish-speaking children occur because of the cognitive salience of the action described by the verb. These results provide strong support for cognitive models of language acquisition and evidence against the claim that all non-reflexive uses of se are either derived from a subject deletion rule or simple exceptional uses that should be listed in the lexicon.
The productivity of verb agreement morphology
Number of inflected/uninflected verbs and type of verb agreement morphology in the child directed signing.
Aspectual distinctions (adapted from Shirai & Andersen, 1995) STATES EVENTIVE
Percentage of obligatory verb agreement omitted
The development of morphological verb agreement in childrenís language involves several different linguistic phenomena. Languageñspecific influences impact on developmental patterns and age of acquisition. This study addresses three potential factors involved in the development of verb agreement morphology in sign languages and more specifically in a case study of one deaf child of native signing parents acquiring British Sign Language. The data were collected longitudinally between the ages of 1;10 and 3;0 with analysis concentrating on the emergence and mastery of the inflectional system for encoding person agreement. The data are compared with other studies of verb agreement in both signed and spoken language acquisition. Analysis reveals a relatively late onset of verb use and protracted development of the agreement system with productive use of inflectional morphology reached at 3;0. The observed developmental patterns and age of acquisition are explained by the combined influence of a set of both typological and modality-specific factors.
The gestural (non-sign) communication and symbolic functioning of 13 children who were acquiring Amercian Sign Language as a first language were compared with existing data for children learning a spoken language. Two communicative gestures, Giving and Com municative Pointing, were the strongest gestural correlates of lexicon size for both spoken and sign languages. However, whereas first referential words typically appear after the onset of Giving and Pointing, the initial sign productions of the children in the present study preceded the onset of Giving and Pointing. These children also attained various linguistic milestones at earlier levels of symbolic play maturity than did children learning to speak. These results suggest that the early stages of the acquisition of a visuomotor language and a spoken language emerge from the same communicative bases, but that certain linguistic capacities may be present earlier than generally has been recognized.
Based on research on children’s verb production, Usage-Based theorists have argued that children learn grammatical abstractions in the preschool years. The fact that, in English verb clauses, word order determines semantic/syntactic roles leaves open the possibility that children are learning not just syntactic frames, but the relationship between order and semantic/syntactic roles. To clarify the nature of children’s abstract knowledge, we taught novel adjectives to English-speaking children (2 to 4 years), both prenominally and postnominally. Unlike verbs, adjective position in a sentence does not change the semantic/syntactic role of the adjective. Children showed sensitivity to the canonical order, but even four-year-olds frequently used novel adjectives postnominally. We argue that a strong motivation for ordering words grammatically is when order determines semantic/syntactic roles.
Probability of five connectives occurring (model with only Age as predictor)
Percentage of recordings that are correctly predicted to contain a connective
Probability of weil occurring
Probability of damit occurring  
Proportion of damit in adult input  
In this study, the influence of parental input on the acquisition of discourse connectives was investigated. Three factors were hypothesized to play a role in contributing to the course of language acquisition: first, an increase in age, and hence, an increase in conceptual abilities; second, short-term frequency effects (effects of parental input in the space of one recording); and third, long-term frequency effects (effects of the cumulative parental input over a longer period of time). The authors developed a growth curve analysis and used this to analyze data from a dense longitudinal corpus of a German boy aged 1;11.12—2;11.27. Results show that each factor has a significant effect on the acquisition of the German connectives aber `but,' damit `so that,' und `and,' weil `because,' and wenn `when' and should always be taken into account when studying connective acquisition. Furthermore, growth curve analysis promises to be an innovative tool to study factors influencing the course of language acquisition.
The number and proportion of complement verbs
Infinitival-to omission errors (e.g., *I want hold Postman Pat) are produced by many English-speaking children early in development. This article aims to explain these omissions by investigating the emergence of infinitival-to, and its production/omission in obligatory contexts. A series of corpus analyses were conducted on the naturalistic data from one to 13 children between the ages of approximately 2;0 and 3;1 testing three hypotheses from two theoretical viewpoints. The data suggest that the errors are associated with different verb sequences (e.g., going-to and going-X) and their frequencies in the language to which children are exposed. The article concludes that these constructions compete for output when children are producing those verbs and that this supports the usage-based/constructivist account of the omission errors.
One of the distinctive features of speech addressed to young children is the deviant use of proper names. In a cross-sectional observational study of mother-infant interactions (with children aged 12, 18 and 24 months), this paper investigates the frequency and functions of this aspect of language input. No differences due to age of child were found, indicating that the phenomenon is not sensitive to the linguistic development of the addressee. The most common functions of name usage are identified as Attention-Orienting and Instruction to Act. We argue that this familiar modification reflects communicative rather than pedagogical (linguistic- instruction) purposes on the part of the parent. We present examples which suggest that the modification, which is present before the addressee reaches the two-word stage, influences the early grammatical constructions of the child. We conclude that the relationship between the contingencies of early social interaction and language acquisition is multi dimensional, and not ubiquitously designed to facilitate language learn ing perse.
Adolescent mothers (15;4 years) were compared with older mothers (23;7 years) when talking to their one-year-old infants using precise coding of written transcripts. The 32 subjects were similar on demographic characteristics other than age: white, primiparous, and had no more than 12 years of education. Multivariate and univariate analysis of variance indicated that, compared with older mothers, the adolescent mothers spoke significantly fewer words to their infants, fewer utterances in joint attention and in object labelling, fewer utterances of positive affective speech, and more command utterances. The infants of adolescents vocalized significantly less often than the infants of older mothers. Pearson product-moment correlations indicated a positive significant relationship between mother language variables and infant variables.
Adults' ability to provide consistent, contingent and appropriate responses to what they consider to be salient infant communi cative behaviours may provide a means by which infants become aware of functional relationships between their behaviours and those of their partners. The studies reported below investigated whether there was consistency between mothers and other female adults on what they identified as communicatively salient behaviours in infants aged 6, 9 and 12 months. For each comparison of a mother's coding with that of another female adult, a randomiz ation procedure produced a distribution of 1000 'chance' levels of agreement for comparison with the observed agreement value. Of a total of 56 comparisons across the two studies, only four failed to show significant levels of agreement between mothers and other female adults. The results indicate that certain infant behaviours are perceived as communicatively salient, not only by caregivers but also by adults unfamiliar with the children.
In two studies, we explored 5-year-olds’ and adults’ beliefs about entities that receive reference by proper names. In Study 1 we used two tasks: (1) a listing task in which participants stated what things in the world can and cannot receive proper names, and (2) an explanation task in which they explained why some things merit proper names. Children’s lists of proper namable things were more centred than adults’ on living animate entities and their surrogates (e.g., dolls and stuffed animals). Both children’s and adults’ lists of non-namable things contained a predominance of artefacts. Both age groups offered similar explanations for proper namability, the most common of which pertained to the desire or need to identify objects as individuals (or to distinguish them from other objects). In Study 2 we replicated the main results of the Study 1 listing task, using a modified set of instructions. The findings establish a set of norms about the scope and coherence of children’s and adults’ concept of a proper namable entity, and they place constraints on an account of how children learn proper names (Macnamara, 1982, 1986).
Infants' relative delay to approach for approving minus disapproving lexical content as a fimction of conditions
Itifatits'i-elative manipulation times./àr approving minus disappr-oving lexical content as afiitictioti of condition
This paper reports a transition from affective to linguistic meaning in 15-month-old infants. Behaviour regulation in the context of a social referencing procedure is used as a measure of the meaning of stimulus messages for infants. Of particular interest is the extent to which receptive vocabulary predicts behaviour regulation by language and paralanguage. Approving and disapproving lexical content was completely crossed with approving and disapproving facial and vocal paralanguage to produce stimulus messages. At the group level, the behaviour of 15-month-olds was better regulated by paralanguage than by lexical content. However, receptive vocabulary was a significant predictor of the relative primacy of language and paralanguage: infants who understood the lexical content of stimulus messages were better regulated by lexical content than by paralanguage. These data suggest a transition from affective to linguistic meaning in comprehension that parallels the transition from affective expression to expression that integrates affect and language.
In language acquisition, inter-transcriber agreement over linguistic categories assigned to recorded utterances is conceived as a measure of observer reliability. We argue that disagreement is not merely a reflection of observer errors or noisy data, but can be a reflection of the genuine ambiguity of early speech. Disagreement arises from the fact that the child is still building linguistic categories, and therefore, from the fact that the language is truly ambiguous. This ambiguity can be quantified by applying concepts from fuzzy logic, which we demonstrate in a case study. After presenting an index of agreement and a Monte-Carlo procedure for calculating the probability of chance agreement, we introduce an index of ambiguity, based on the fuzzy logic notion of degreeof-membership.
Comparison of interactional strategies used by Taiwanese and American mothers.
Comparison of purposes of Taiwanese and American children's talk.
This study compares interactions during joint book reading of 14 Taiwanese and 15 American mother–child pairs from low-income families. All mother–child pairs read the same book, ‘The very hungry caterpillar’, at home and their interactions were recorded. Taiwanese and American mothers demonstrated both similarities and differences during joint book reading. Taiwanese mothers talked more, gave and requested more information, but requested and received fewer evaluations from their children. These cross-cultural differences reveal that joint book reading is not just for entertainment; instead, it is a means for transmission of moral values and proper conduct as well as for the socialization of appropriate parent–child conversation styles in the Taiwanese and American families studied.
Percentages of monosyllabic versus disyllabic nouns produced with a determiner or filler in Pauline (French), Jan (Austrian German) and Jessica (Dutch): exclusive calculation.  
Advance values (AV) and associated p-values for the difference between mono-and disyllabic cases in the three children, based on the inclusive and exclusive data respectively. 
Advance values (AV) and associated p-values for the difference between animate and inanimate cases in the three children, based on the inclusive and exclusive data respectively. 
This study investigates prosodic (noun length) and lexical-semantic (animacy) influences on determiner use in the spontaneous speech of three children acquiring French, Austrian German and Dutch. In support of typological and language-specific hypotheses from the Germanic–Romance contrast, an advantage of monosyllabic nouns and of inanimate nouns for taking a determiner or filler was found in French, but not in Austrian German or Dutch. The authors discuss the possible contributory role of these factors on determiner acquisition from a cross-linguistic perspective, also accounting for more specific differences between Austrian German and Dutch.
To investigate possible influences on and consequences of mothers’ speech, specific infant behaviors preceding and following four pragmatic categories of mothers’ utterances – responsive utterances, supportive behavioral directives, intrusive behavioral directives, and intrusive attentional directives – were examined longitudinally during dyadic free play at ages 13, 17, and 21 months. Analyses revealed developmental increases in children’s positive social and object-directed behaviors before and after maternal speech. Responsive utterances were the most likely to be preceded by social and object initiatives and more likely than intrusive directives to occur following high toy interest. Although mothers’ intrusive behavioral and attentional directives were often preceded by infants’ disengagement from play and toys, they were followed by infants’ greater levels of toy interest. Infants’ rates of compliance were substantial following all directives. The findings reveal differential behavioral circumstances preceding and following mothers’ responsive versus directive speech and their supportive directive versus intrusive directive utterances.
Process procedure assessing the relations between SES (socio economic status), HLE (home literacy environment) and CAP (concept about print).  
Correlations between the sociocultural and the early literacy measures (N = 89).
This article investigates the contribution of maternal mediation in storybook reading, socioeconomic status (SES), and home literacy environment (HLE) to children’s literacy level in kindergarten and first grade in Israeli Arabic-speaking families. A total of 109 kindergarten children and their mothers participated. Children’s literacy level was assessed in kindergarten. Mothers and children were videotaped at home in a book reading activity, and HLE data were gathered from the mothers. One year later, the children’s literacy level was assessed in first grade. Results show that mothers often used paraphrasing in the reading activities and dealt less with the written language. Correlations were found between SES and children’s literacy measures in oral and written language in kindergarten and in first grade. Significant positive relationships were found between HLE and children’s literacy level in kindergarten and first grade. No relationship was found between maternal mediation and children’s spoken and written language skills in either age group. Regression analysis showed that HLE was the best contributor variable to children’s literacy level, followed by family SES level, with no contribution of maternal mediation. Implications of the relationships between children’s literacy development, SES, HLE, and parental mediation in Arabic-speaking families for researchers and educational practitioners are discussed.
For parents to provide effective support for their children’s language development, they must be attuned to their child’s changing abilities. This study presents a theoretically driven strategy that addresses a methodological challenge present when tracking longitudinally the cessation or ‘fading’ of behaviors by capturing withdrawal of maternal assistance over time relative to change in child participation. Data are the co-constructed narratives of 31 mother–child dyads when the children were 3, 4, and 5 years old. Responsibility for providing narrative macrostructure shifted from children relying on maternal prompts to contributing them spontaneously, while maternal contributions showed a gradual cessation. The findings support the notion of bidirectionality in co-construction and are interpreted using a dose-effect model of the shift in responsibility for the narration over time with implications for intervention.
We explore factors affecting word learning: phonological representation, vocabulary size and the frequency with which parents name objects for their children. Infants at 16–20 months were taught two novel words using preferential looking; they showed reliable learning of these words and reliably distinguished between familiar objects with phonologically similar labels, supporting the view that phonological representation is not necessarily ‘underspecified’ at this age (Gerken, Murphy & Aslin, 1995). Infants who learnt the novel words also distinguished the objects with similar-sounding labels. However, vocabulary size was not related to word learning or segmental representation capacity, suggesting that segmental representation may help infants to learn words, but this process is not driven by vocabulary growth (Metsala, 1999). We also report a positive relationship between word learning ability and the frequency of parents’ ostensive naming.
Thirty infants at 1;1 and their mothers were videotaped while playing for 18 minutes. Experimental stimuli were presented in three communicative intent contexts – proto-declarative, proto-imperative, and ambiguous – to elicit infant communicative bids that did and did not contain gestures. Mothers’ responses were analyzed, and their verbal responses were further coded as object labels, action labels, internal state labels, and nonlabeling utterances. Results demonstrated differential responses to infants’ gestural and nongestural bids. Mothers responded more often and were more likely to provide a verbal response in all contexts when infants’ communicative bids included gestures. They were also more likely to provide an object label and less likely to provide nonlabeling utterances to gestural than nongestural bids in the proto-declarative and ambiguous contexts. The privileged responses following infants’ gestures may serve as a mechanism for vocabulary acquisition.
Proportional frequency (SE) of global constructions in the book and CDS samples. 
This article evaluates the extent to which pre-schoolers’ picture books can be viewed as a form of enriched linguistic input. Twenty best-selling picture books were analysed in terms of syntactic constructions and compared with a sample of Child Directed Speech. The findings of the study demonstrate the prevalence of canonical utterances (i.e. those displaying Subject-Verb (Object) ordering) and Complex constructions within the book sample, both types of which occur with very low frequency in everyday Child Directed Speech. It is concluded that the linguistic content of young children’s books has the potential to play an important role in children’s grammatical development.
This study investigated the influence of book genre (narrative or didactic) on mothers’ language use during a book sharing interaction with their 18- to 25-month-olds. Mother–child dyads were videotaped sharing both a narrative and a didactic book, adapted from two commercially available books, and matched in terms of length, quantity of text, and target content. A greater proportion of mothers’ talk was complex (i.e., predictions, text-to-life comparisons) during narrative book sharing than during didactic book sharing. Mothers also used a greater variety of verb tenses and referenced more mental states during narrative book sharing. These results differ from findings from previous studies with older children where it has been concluded that didactic books offer greater opportunities for complex talk than narrative books. The results also highlight the importance of taking situational factors into account when investigating parent–child communicative interactions.
Means (and standard deviations) of children's pre and post scores (in percentages) by intervention group (N = 90).
Means (and standard deviations) of maternal mediation level by intervention group. 
Early shared book reading activities are considered to be a promising context for supporting young children’s language development. Ninety low socioeconomic status preschoolers and their mothers were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) e-book reading; (2) printed book reading; (3) regular kindergarten literacy program (control). Mothers of children in the intervention groups received guidance on how to read to their child, and had five sessions of reading within a period of two weeks. The final session was videotaped and transcribed. Children in both intervention groups showed significant progress in word comprehension and phonological awareness compared to the control group. Children’s initial knowledge in each skill and both interventions contributed to language progress more than maternal education, frequency of shared book reading and computer use. The authors conclude that parents and children may expand their shared book reading experience to include e-books, which may serve as promising contexts for developing young children’s language.
Distribution of different interrogative functions over the forms (N = 3140).
This study investigated question acquisition in Cantonese-speaking young children with a focus on the development of interrogative forms and functions. Data from a child Cantonese corpus (492 children aged 36, 48 and 60 months) were analysed. The main results were that: (1) all the interrogative forms and functions were produced by the three age groups and no age difference was found; (2) significant gender differences in favour of females were found; and (3) a significant form-function preference was obtained, with wh- and multiple questions being primarily used to seek information, and yes/no and rising tone/echo questions being largely used to request action.
Infant and caregiver behavior. 
Infants’ prelinguistic vocalizations and gestures are rarely studied as a communicative system. As a result, there are few studies examining mechanisms of change concurrently in prelinguistic vocal and gesture behavior. Here we report the first evidence that contingent caregiver social feedback to infant gestures influences not only gesture production, but also prelinguistic vocal behavior. Study 1 demonstrates the relationship between gesture and vocal behavior in 12-month-old infants and contingent caregiver social feedback. Caregiver feedback to infant gesture production was positively associated with infant gestures, gesture–vocal combinations, and vocalizations. To test the mechanism underlying changes in infant gesture production, Study 2 instructed caregivers to respond either contingently or noncontingently to their infants’ gestures. Infants given contingent social feedback produced more gestures, more gesture–vocal combinations and used their vocalizations differently compared to infants given noncontingent feedback. Thus, prelinguistic vocal and gesture behavior are mechanistically linked before the first word and should be studied concurrently to understand the development of the communicative system.
This paper investigates the knowledge young children have about clitic pronouns. In particular, it examines whether children ever make mistakes that suggest discontinuity between child and adult Spanish. An elicited imitation task and spontaneous data are used to study children's responses to a number of constructions involving clitics. Results indicate that, from the earliest testable age, children have the grammatical competence for clitic placement and never make certain logical, but unattested, errors. Yes Yes
This study investigated the motion event language children and their parents engaged in while playing a board game. Children are sensitive to differences in manner and path at infancy, yet adult-like motion event expression appears relatively late in development. While multiple studies have examined how exposure to parent speech generally relates to very young children’s language, none looks at motion event language and learning in 3- to 7-year-olds. This study aimed to examine the opportunities for children to learn motion event language through engaging with their parents, using a constructivist view of language learning. Parent–child conversation of Spanish-speaking (21) and English-speaking (24) families was examined for lexical and syntactic differences in motion event expressions. Results demonstrated English-speaking parents used more manner verbs and Spanish-speaking parents used more specific path verbs. English-speaking parents also used more general path verbs than did Spanish speakers. These differences mapped onto children’s production of motion event language. Parental speech may provide the potential for children to gradually learn about motion event language typology.
The language of mothers, fathers, and children was examined in 50 low-income families. Mother–child and father–child dyads were videotaped separately during play when children were 2;0 years old. Language transcriptions were coded for communicative diversity, word types, and grammatical complexity in parents and children. Mother–child and father–child conversations were similar and were strongly correlated at the dyad level, although differences emerged in the repetitions of children’s utterances, closed-ended questions, affirmations, and action directives. Mothers’ and fathers’ language related to children’s language in specific ways. Individual children experience relatively enriched or impoverished language environments, rather than one parent “compensating” for the other. This may explain why some low-income children lag in their language development early on, whereas others are “on track.”
Quantitative measures of the hearing-impaired children % communication in the child-teacher and child-peer conversations
MLT and MLU ratios for the child-teacher and child-peer dyads
shows the two sets of ratios that were used to evaluate discourse
Frequency of 'no responses' in the child-teacher and child-peer conversations
Twelve hearing-impaired children (mean age 8;8 years) were videotaped as they each constructed Lego models with two partners: a normally hearing peer and a teacher. A comparison was made between their utterances and spoken turns with peers and teachers. The frequency of these did not differ between the two, although they took more total turns (verbal and nonverbal) with teachers than peers. With peers their turns contained more utterances and their contribution to the conversations was pro portionally greater in relation to length of turns and utterances. Teachers talked more than peers and used longer turns and utterances. These differences are examined through a qualitative analysis. The educational implications and directions for future research are discussed.
Error percentages and standard deviations (in parentheses) for all conditions in Russian (Experiment 1) and Serbian (Experiment 2) children
Two experiments used an elicited speech-production paradigm to explore children's acquisition of noun case-marking inflections. Russian (N = 24, 2;10— 4;6 years) and Serbian children (N = 24, 2;10—4;11) were asked to produce prepositional phrases requiring genitive or dative inflections of masculine and feminine, familiar and novel, simplex (vaza [Ru/Se: vase]) and diminutive (Ru: vazochka, Se: vazica) nouns. Across languages, children produced fewer case-marking errors with familiar compared to novel nouns, and diminutive compared to simplex nouns. The diminutive advantage occurred despite a markedly lower frequency of diminutive usage in Serbian than Russian child-directed speech. This suggests that in acquiring richly inflected languages, children most readily construct low-level generalizations of inflectional changes applying to morpho-phonologically homogeneous clusters of words like diminutives.
Top-cited authors
Jody Todd Manly
  • University of Rochester
Dorit Ravid
  • Tel Aviv University
Susan Goldin-Meadow
  • University of Chicago
Mabel L Rice
  • University of Kansas
Lowry Hemphill
  • SERP Institute