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DescriptionFaculty of Arts and Humanities
Department of European Languages and Literature
Child Language Development- ELAN 346
Winter 2022
Assignment 1
Assignment Guidelines
These guidelines contain information on:
1. Objectives of the assignment
2. Topics
3. Stages of the article
4. Length
5. Deadline
7. Major Sections
8. Assessment
1. Objectives of the assignment:
– Getting students to read and discover more about some of the important issues in child
language development
– enhance students’ communicative skills by presenting basic easy-to-understand
information about linguistics to the public.
– Helping students gain deeper insights on the topics covered in class
2. Topics:
Each student will choose a topic from the book: Brooks, P. J., & Kempe, V. (Eds.).
(2014). Encyclopedia of language development. Sage Publications. You can see a full list
of the topics presented alphabetically or by themes on pages (vii – xiv).
3. Stages of the article:
1. After you choose a topic, you should read the related material.
2. You are encouraged to read the text a number of times.
3. After reading the text, search for other sources on the topic and read them. You can
find relevant sources by:
– Reading about the same topic from your course textbook or the supplementary materials
on blackboard.
– Looking at the Bibliography at the end of your course textbook
– Checking the books & journals and online sources
– Consulting your instructor
4. You are required to provide a SUMMARY of the text material.
5. You also need to respond to the text material.
6. You can respond to the text material by doing all or some of the following:
– Elaborate and provide more explanation for any difficult point(s)
– Provide examples that will help your audience understand the information in your
article better.
– Back up your view or the author’s view by citing credible academic references (You are
required to use at least two references, including your course textbook)
– Bring examples from Arabic
7. You should formulate your topic precisely (i.e., decide which aspects you will include
and those you might leave out.).
8. Make sure you include ONLY relevant material.
9. Translate the summary into Arabic.
10. Revision is a very important step before submitting your work.
11. Don’t forget to include the reference list using APA 7th Edition
12. Your teacher will hand the articles over to Ynmo.
4. Length:
Your article should be 500-800 words.
5. Deadline:
Articles should be submitted on 15th of Feb 2023
6. Major Sections:
Your article should include four major sections:
– Introductory slide (What your topic is all about?)
– Introduction
– References
Your introduction may include
– Background information on the topic
– Your goal in relation to the discussion of the topic
– An overview of relevant literature
You should address the issues raised in the introduction in this section. In your
discussion, you may:
– Describe the information found in your text material along with a critical survey of the
– Summarize the overall findings or conclusions
– Summarize the entire articles at the end
– Discuss conclusions and future directions
Your reference list should appear at the end of your article. It provides the information
necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in your article. Each source
you cite must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must
be cited in your text. You should use a minimum of two sources, including your textbook.
Your references should begin on the last slide; label this slide “References”.
8. Assessment:
– Your article is worth 20% of your total course grade.
– The article will be corrected and graded using the Rubric (Please check Blackboard).
Encyclopedia of
Encyclopedia of
Patricia J. Brooks
College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center of City University of New York
Vera Kempe
Abertay University
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Copyright © 2014 by SAGE Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
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system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Encyclopedia of language development / Patricia J. Brooks,
editor, College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center of
City University of New York ; Vera Kempe, editor, Abertay
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4522-5876-8 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. Language acquisition–Encyclopedias. I. Brooks,
Patricia (Patricia J.) editor of compilation. II. Kempe, Vera.
editor of compilation.
P118.E523 2014
14 15 16 17 18 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
List of Articles vii
Reader’s Guide xi
About the General Editors xv
List of Contributors xvii
Introduction xxiii
Chronology xxix
Glossary 689
Resource Guide 698
Appendix: World Literacy Statistics
Index 719
List of Articles
Adolescent Language Development and Use
Adoption Studies of Second First-Language
Age of Acquisition Effects
Alignment (Interactive)
Apraxia of Speech, Childhood
Argument Structure
Assessment of Language Abilities
Associative Processes
Auditory Processing and Language
Auditory Sequence/Artificial Grammar
Autism and Language Development
Autobiographical Memory Role of Language
Auxiliary and Modal Verbs
Baby Sign Systems
Bayesian Inference in Word Learning
Bilingual Language Development
Bilingualism: Effects on Cognitive
Bilingualism: Interactions Between Languages
Brown, Roger
Bruner, Jerome
Category-Based Induction
Child Language Data Exchange System
Child-Directed Speech (Effects of Variation
in Quality)
Child-Directed Speech (Features of)
Chomsky, Noam
Chunk-Based Language Acquisition
Color Cognition and Language Development
Computational Models of Language
Conceptual Foundations of Early Word Learning
Connectionist Models of Language Development
Conversational Implicature
Conversational Skills
Corpus-Based Methods
Critical Period in Language Development
Cross-Cultural Factors in Communicative
Cross-Linguistic Investigation of Language
Cross-Linguistic Research on Literacy
Cross-Modal Perception of Speech
Cross-Situational Word Learning
Cultural Learning
Developmental Dyslexia
Diagnosing Language Impairments
List of Articles
Diagnosing Reading Impairments
Dialect Usage and Language Development
Diminutives in Child-Directed and Child Speech
Distributional Knowledge and Language
Domain Specificity
Dual-Route Model of Reading Development
Dyadic Interaction and Early Communicative
Dynamic Synchrony and Early Word Learning
Dynamic Systems Theory and Language
Early Second Language Acquisition
Early Word Learning
Effects of Head Start Early Intervention on
Language Development
Effects of Schooling on Language Development
Electrophysiology Methods in Language
Emergentist Coalition Model of Word Learning
Epistemic Markers
Event Perception and Language Development
Evidential Markers
Evolutionary Perspectives on Language
Executive Functions and Language
Fast Mapping in Lexical Development
Filler Syllables and Acquisition of
Grammatical Morphemes
Finite Verbs
First Language Attrition and Loss in Bilinguals
Focal Lesions and Language Development
Frequency Effects in Language Development
Functional Brain Imaging Methods in
Language Development
Gender Differences in Language Development
Generalization of Linguistic Patterns
Genetic Basis of Language Development
and Impairment
Genetic Syndromes and Language
Gestures in Communicative Development
Grammatical Categories
Grammatical Development in Children With
Language Impairments
Grammatical Gender
Grammaticality Judgment Task
High-Amplitude Sucking Procedure
Home Environment (Effects on Language and
Literacy Development)
Home Sign
Hyper-Articulation of Child-Directed Speech
Imitation in Communicative Development
Individual Differences in Adult L1 Attainment
Induction in Language Learning
Interrelationship of Language and Cognitive
Development (Overview)
Intervention for Child Language Impairments
Item-Based/Exemplar-Based Learning
Joint Attention and Language Development
Labeling Effects on Cognitive Development
Language and Motor Interactions in
Language Development in Children With
Cochlear Implants
Language Development in Deaf Children
Language Development in Preterm Infants
and Children
Language Development in Twins
Language for Reading
Language Learning in Avians
Language Learning in Cetaceans
Language Learning in Dogs
Language Learning in Nonhuman Primates
Late Talkers
Learning Words From Overheard Speech
Less-Is-More Hypothesis
Lexical Bootstrapping
Lexical Development
Lexical Innovations
Linguistic Tonal Systems
List of Articles
Literacy Effects on Cognitive Development
Literacy Instruction Methods
Long-Distance Dependencies
MacArthur-Bates CDI
Matthew Effects (Rich Get Richer)
Mechanisms of Cultural Transmission and
Language Learning
Meta-Linguistic Awareness
Metrical Segmentation
Milestones in Language Development
Morphological Development
Motion Expression
Multiple Cues in Language Acquisition
Narrative Development
Natural Pedagogy
Neonatal Preference for Speech
Neonatal Speech Perception
Neural Basis of Language Development
Nonliteral Language Use
Noun Bias in Word Learning
Numerical Cognition and Language
Otitis Media and Language Development
Over-Extension and Under-Extension in
Word Learning
Over-Generalization of Grammatical
Over-Regularization in Morphological
Parental Responsiveness and Scaffolding of
Language Development
Parsing/Sentence Processing
Pediatric Audiology
Perseveration and Speech Errors in Child
Language Production
Perspective Taking in Communication
Phoneme Discrimination
Phonological and Prosodic Bootstrapping
Phonological Awareness
Phonological Development
Phonological Development in Children With
Language Impairments
Phonological Processes in Lexical Development
Phonological Templates
Play and Its Role in Language Development
Pragmatic Development
Prediction in Language Learning, Role of
Preferential Looking/Head-Turn Preference
Prelinguistic Vocalization (Overview)
Principles-and-Parameters Framework
Private Speech/Inner Speech
Processing Deficits in Children With Language
Proto-Conversation and Song in Infant
Reading, Development of
Reading Comprehension
Recasts, Clarifications, and Other Indirect
Negative Evidence
Referential Communication
Relational Terms
Semantic Development
Semantic Development in Children With
Language Impairments
Shape Bias in Word Learning
Sign Language Acquisition
Slow Mapping in Lexical Development
Social Conventions, Learning of
Social Foundations of Communicative
Social Functioning in Children With Language
Social Shaping of Infant Vocalization
Socioeconomic Factors
Sound Symbolism
Spatial Cognition and Language Development
Specific Language Impairment (Overview)
Speech Acts
Speech Perception and Categorization
List of Articles
Speech Processing
Speech Prosody
Speech Sounds, Articulation of
Speech Variability (Infant Accommodation to)
Spoken Word Recognition
Spoken Word Retrieval and Word-Finding
Statistical Learning
Statistical Pre-Emption
Symbol Formation
Symbolic “Gesture Names”
Syntactic Bootstrapping
Syntactic Development: Construction Grammar
Syntactic Development: Dependency Grammar
Syntactic Development: Generative Grammar
Syntactic/Structural Priming
Syntax, Complex
Theory of Mind and Language Development
Thinking for Speaking
Twin Studies of Individual Differences
Universal Grammar
Verbal Working Memory
Visual World Eye-Tracking Paradigm
Vocabulary Growth
Vocabulary Spurt
Vocal Imitation
Vygotsky, Lev
Williams Syndrome and Language Development
Word Learning Constraints
Word Learning Strategies
Word Segmentation
Word-to-World Mapping
Written Discourse
Wug Test and the Elicited Production Paradigm
Reader’s Guide
Effects of Language on Cognitive
Autobiographical Memory and Role of
Color Cognition and Language Development
Conceptual Foundations of Early Word Learning
Event Perception and Language Development
Executive Functions and Language
Interrelationship of Language and Cognitive
Development (Overview)
Labeling Effects on Cognitive Development
Numerical Cognition and Language
Spatial Cognition and Language Development
Theory of Mind and Language Development
Verbal Working Memory
Fundamentals, Theories, and Models of
Language Development
Age of Acquisition Effects in Language
Brown, Roger
Chomsky, Noam
Computational Models of Language
Connectionist Models of Language Development
Critical Period in Language Development
Cross-Linguistic Investigation of Language
Dynamic Systems Theory and Language
Emergentist Coalition Model of Word Learning
Evolutionary Perspectives on Language
Genetic Basis of Language Development and
Individual Differences in Adult L1 Attainment
Less-Is-More Hypothesis
Milestones in Language Development
Neural Basis of Language Development
Principles-and-Parameters Framework
Universal Grammar and Language Development
Vygotsky, Lev
Impairments of Language Development
Apraxia of Speech, Childhood
Assessment of Language Abilities
Auditory Processing and Language
Autism and Language Development
Cross-Linguistic Investigation of Language
Developmental Dyslexia
Diagnosing Language Impairments
Diagnosing Reading Impairments
Focal Lesions and Language Development
Genetic Basis of Language Development and
Genetic Syndromes and Language Development
Reader’s Guide
Grammatical Development in Children With
Language Impairments
Intervention for Child Language Impairments
Late Talkers
Perseveration and Speech Errors in Child
Language Production
Phonological Development in Children With
Language Impairments
Processing Deficits in Children With Language
Semantic Development in Children With
Language Impairments
Social Functioning in Children With Language
Specific Language Impairment (Overview)
Williams Syndrome and Language Development
Language Development in
Special Populations
Adoption Studies of Second First-Language
Bilingual Language Development
Bilingualism: Effects on Cognitive Development
Bilingualism: Interactions Between Languages
First Language Attrition and Loss in Bilinguals
Home Sign
Language Development in Children With
Cochlear Implants
Language Development in Deaf Children
Language Development in Preterm Infants and
Language Development in Twins
Language Learning in Avians
Language Learning in Cetaceans
Language Learning in Dogs
Language Learning in Nonhuman Primates
Sign Language Acquisition
Literacy and Language Development
Cross-Linguistic Research on Literacy
Dual-Route Model of Reading
Literacy Effects on Cognitive Development
Literacy Instruction Methods
Matthew Effects (Rich Get Richer)
Reading, Development of
Written Discourse
Mechanisms of Language Development
Alignment (Interactive) in Language
Associative Processes in Language
Auditory Sequence/Artificial Grammar Learning
in Development
Bayesian Inference in Word Learning
Category-Based Induction
Cross-Modal Perception of Speech
Cross-Situational Word Learning
Distributional Knowledge and Language
Fast Mapping in Lexical Development
Frequency Effects in Language Development
Generalization of Linguistic Patterns
Imitation in Communicative Development
Induction in Language Learning
Item-Based/Exemplar-Based Learning
Learning Words From Overheard Speech
Lexical Bootstrapping
Metrical Segmentation
Neonatal Preference for Speech
Over-Extension and Under-Extension in
Word Learning
Over-Generalization of Grammatical
Phonological and Prosodic Bootstrapping
Role of Prediction in Language Learning
Shape Bias in Word Learning
Slow Mapping in Lexical Development
Statistical Learning in Infancy
Statistical Pre-Emption
Syntactic Bootstrapping
Syntactic/Structural Priming and Language
Thinking for Speaking
Vocal Imitation
Word Learning: Constraints
Word Learning Strategies
Word Segmentation
Word-to-World Mapping
Methods in Language Development Research
Child Language Data Exchange System
Corpus-Based Methods
Electrophysiology in Language
Functional Brain Imaging Methods in Study of
Language Development/Processing
Reader’s Guide
Grammaticality Judgment Task
High-Amplitude Sucking Procedure
Macarthur-Bates CDI
Preferential Looking/Head-Turn Preference
Twin Studies of Individual Differences in
Language Development
Visual World Eye-Tracking Paradigm
Wug Test and the Elicited Production Paradigm
Prelinguistic Communicative Development
Acquisition of Symbolic “Gesture Names”
Baby Sign Systems
Dyadic Interaction and Early Communicative
Gestures in Communicative Development
Joint Attention and Language Development
Motion Expression
Prelinguistic Vocalization (Overview)
Protoconversation and Song in Infant
Social Foundations of Communicative
Social Shaping of Infant Vocalization
Social Effects in Language Acquisition
Child-Directed Speech (Effects of Variation in
Child-Directed Speech (Features of)
Children’s Learning of Social Conventions
Cultural Learning
Diminutives in Child-Directed and
Child Speech
Effects of Head Start/Early Intervention on
Language Development
Effects of Schooling on Language Development
Gender Differences in Language Development
Home Environment (Effects on Language and
Literacy Development)
Hyper-Articulation of Child-Directed Speech
Natural Pedagogy in Communicative
Parental Responsiveness and Scaffolding of
Language Development
Play and Its Role in Language Development
Recasts, Clarifications, and Other Indirect
Negative Evidence
Socioeconomic Factors in Language
Specific Aspects of Language Development
Argument Structure
Auxiliary and Modal Verbs
Conversational Implicature
Conversational Skills
Dialect Usage and Language Development
Discourse-Pragmatics in Child Language
Epistemic Markers
Evidential Markers
Filler Syllables and Acquisition of Grammatical
Finite Verbs
Grammatical Categories
Grammatical Gender
Lexical Development
Lexical Innovations
Linguistic Tonal Systems
Long-Distance Dependencies
Metalinguistic Awareness
Morphological Development
Motion Expression
Narrative Development
Neonatal Preference for Speech
Nonliteral Language Use
Noun Bias in Word Learning
Parsing/Sentence Processing
Phoneme Discrimination
Phonological Awareness
Phonological Development
Phonological Processes in Lexical Development
Phonological Templates
Pragmatic Development
Referential Communication
Relational Terms
Semantic Development
Sound Symbolism and Language Development
Speech Acts
Speech Perception and Categorization
Speech Processing
Speech Prosody
Reader’s Guide
Speech Variability (Infant Accommodation to)
Spoken Word Recognition
Syntactic Development: Construction Grammar
Syntactic Development: Dependency Grammar
Syntactic Development: Generative Grammar
Syntax, Complex
Vocabulary Growth
Vocabulary Spurt
About the Editors
Patricia J. Brooks completed her undergraduate
degree in psychology at Johns Hopkins University and her Ph.D. in experimental psychology at
New York University, where she studied language
development under the supervision of Martin
Braine and social-cognitive development under
the supervision of Douglas Frye. Her dissertation examined children’s collective and distributive interpretations of universal quantifiers and
quantifier-spreading errors. Brooks worked as a
post-doctoral research fellow with Brian MacWhinney at Carnegie Mellon University, where
she began research on spoken word production
in children with and without language impairments. Subsequently, Brooks worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Michael Tomasello at Emory
University, where she focused on early syntactic
development and overgeneralization in children’s
sentence production.
Brooks holds the position of professor of psychology at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York (CUNY), where she directs
the Language Learning Laboratory. She holds a
joint appointment to the Doctoral Faculty of Psychology and Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences
at the CUNY Graduate Center. Brooks teaches
undergraduate and graduate courses in language
development and coordinates instruction of introductory psychology at the undergraduate level.
Her research uses a variety of methodologies
including experiments, parent-child conversational analysis, and meta-analysis to uncover factors that facilitate learning over the life span. In
addition to her research on language learning,
Brooks has interests in effective pedagogy, especially with regard to active learning environments,
use of technology, and mentoring.
Brooks has authored or coauthored over 75
scientific papers and book chapters. With Vera
Kempe, she coauthored the textbook Language
Development (2012).
Vera Kempe completed her undergraduate degree
in psychology at Moscow State University and
her Ph.D. at Humboldt University Berlin (Germany), where she studied sentence processing
under the supervision of Friedhart Klix. She then
worked as a post-doctoral research fellow with
Brian MacWhinney at Carnegie Mellon University and with Stephen Christman at the University
of Toledo (Ohio). During this period, she became
interested in the cross-linguistic study of first and
second language learning, and used experimental
and computational methods to study how distributional characteristics of morphosyntax affect
learning and processing in different languages.
Kempe subsequently held faculty positions at
the State University of New York, Oswego, and
at Stirling University in Scotland. Currently, she
holds the position of Chair of Psychology of
About the Editors
Language Learning at Abertay University, where
she lectures in developmental psychology, language development, and individual differences.
Her research examines how characteristics of the
language input, especially those found in childdirected speech, interact with individual differences in the learner’s cognitive abilities to shape
the process of language learning in children and
adults. Her interests also include the interaction
of emotion and communication, acquisition and
representation of dialects, as well as evolutionary
perspectives on language acquisition and use.
Together, Kempe and Brooks developed a methodology that harnesses the strict control of language input found in artificial language learning
studies to examine the simultaneous acquisition
of phonology, morphosyntax, and vocabulary of
natural languages in the laboratory.
Kempe has authored or coauthored over 50
scientific papers and book chapters including the
textbook Language Development, coauthored
with Patricia J. Brooks.
List of Contributors
Leonard Abbeduto
University of California, Davis
Lauren B. Adamson
Georgia State University
Nameera Akhtar
University of California, Santa Cruz
Afra Alishahi
University of Tilburg
Shanley Allen
University of Kaiserslautern
Irene Altarelli
CNRS, École Normale Supérieure
Ben Ambridge
University of Liverpool
Lisa Archibald
Western University
Inbal Arnon
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Sherrie Atwood
Simon Fraser University
Ana Aznar
Kingston University
Dare Baldwin
University of Oregon
Colin Bannard
University of Texas–Austin
Isabelle Barriere
Brooklyn College, City University of
New York
Lisa Baumwell
New York University
Edith L. Bavin
La Trobe University
Jessica Beer
Indiana University School of Medicine
Tanya Behne
University of Göttingen
Titia Benders
Radboud University
Ruth A. Berman
Tel Aviv University
Josie Bernicot
CNRS, University of Poitiers
John Bernthal
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Cari A. Bogulski
Pennsylvania State University
John D. Bonvillian
University of Virginia
Heather Bortfeld
University of Connecticut
Laura Bosch
University of Barcelona
Nicola Botting
City University of London
Jeremy K. Boyd
University of California, San Diego
Holly P. Branigan
University of Edinburgh
Jens Brauer
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive
and Brain Sciences
List of Contributors
Laure Brimbal
John Jay College, City University of
New York
Bonnie Brinton
Brigham Young University
Judith Becker Bryant
University of South Florida
Krista Byers-Heinlein
Concordia University
Kathryn Cabbage
Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of
Health Professions
Kate Cain
Lancaster University
Thea Cameron-Faulkner
University of Manchester
Cláudia Cardoso-Martins
Federal University of Minas Gerais
Jeremy I. M. Carpendale
Simon Fraser University
Malinda Carpenter
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Julia M. Carroll
University of Warwick
Devin M. Casenhiser
University of Tennessee Health
Science Center
Yi-Jui Chen
University of California, Berkeley
Jane B. Childers
Trinity University
Anna Maria Chilosi
University of Pisa
Soonja Choi
San Diego State University
Morten H. Christiansen
Cornell University
Anne Christophe
École Normale Supérieure
Lynn E. Cohen
Long Island University
Max Coltheart
Macquarie University
Catherine Compton-Lilly
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Gina Conti-Ramsden
University of Manchester
Christopher M. Conway
Georgia State University
Mary L. Courage
Memorial University
Angela M. Crossman
John Jay College, City University of New York
Anne E. Cunningham
University of California, Berkeley
Suzanne Curtin
University of Calgary
Ineta Dabašinskiene
Vytautas Magnus University
Philip S. Dale
University of New Mexico
Jennifer Chang Damonte
University of Delaware
Isabelle Dautriche
Ecole Normale Supérieure
Annick De Houwer
University of Erfurt
Gedeon O. Deák
University of California, San Diego
Audrey Delcenserie
McGill University
Özlem Ece Demir
Northwestern University
Katherine Demuth
Macquarie University, ARC Center of
Excellence for Cognition and Its Disorders
Joanne A. Deocampo
Georgia State University
Gil Diesendruck
Bar-Ilan University
Holger Diessel
University of Jena
Nevena Dimitrova
Georgia State University
Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon
Northumbria University
Esther Dromi
Tel Aviv University
Lynne G. Duncan
University of Dundee
Linnea Ehri
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Paola Escudero
University of Western Sydney
Peter Feigenbaum
Fordham University
Larry Fenson
San Diego State University
Anna Fisher
Carnegie Mellon University
Stanka A. Fitneva
Queen’s University
List of Contributors
Roseanne L. Flores
Hunter College, City University of
New York
Lucia French
University of Rochester
Daniel Freudenthal
University of Liverpool
Martin Fujiki
Brigham Young University
Natalia Gagarina
Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft
Megan Galligan
University of Iowa
Linda Gambrell
Clemson University
Simon Garrod
University of Glasgow
Susan A. Gelman
University of Michigan
Fred Genesee
McGill University
Nathan R. George
Temple University
Lisa Gershkoff-Stowe
Indiana University
Judit Gervain
CNRS et Universite Paris Descartes,
Sorbonne Paris Cité
Kristen Gillespie-Lynch
College of Staten Island, City University of
New York
Steven Gillis
University of Antwerp
Jean Berko Gleason
Boston University
Lila Gleitman
University of Pennsylvania
Joseph Glick
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Lisa Goffman
Purdue University
Susan Goldin-Meadow
University of Chicago
Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
University of Delaware
Judith Goodman
University of Missouri, Columbia
Peter Gordon
Teachers College, Columbia University
Susan S. Graham
University of Calgary
Susanne Grassmann
University of Zurich
Maya Gratier
Paris West University Nanterre La Défense
Elena L. Grigorenko
Yale University, Haskins Laboratories,
Columbia University, and Moscow City
University of Psychology and Education
Julie Gros-Louis
University of Iowa
Annalisa Guarini
University of Bologna
Maria Teresa Guasti
University of Milano-Bicocca
Dominic F. Gullo
Drexel University
Pamela A. Hadley
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Brenna Hassinger-Das
University of Delaware
Emma Hayiou-Thomas
University of York
Lucy A. Henry
City University London
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Temple University
Tiffany P. Hogan
Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of
Health Professions
Elena Hoicka
University of Sheffield
Taylor F. Holubar
Stanford University
Carmel Houston-Price
University of Reading
Lorraine Howard
Northumbria University
Carla L. Hudson Kam
University of British Columbia
Falk Huettig
Max Planck Institute for
Paul Ibbotson
Open University
Hande Ilgaz
Temple University
Christopher Jarrold
University of Bristol
Harriet Jisa
University of Lyon
Megan Johanson
University of Delaware
List of Contributors
Evan Kidd
Australian National University
So Hyun Kim
Yale University School of Medicine
Christine Kitamura
University of Western Sydney
Haruka Konishi
University of Delaware
Sergey A. Kornilov
University of Connecticut, Yale University,
Haskins Laboratories, and Moscow State
Judith F. Kroll
Pennsylvania State University
Yana Kuchirko
New York University
Stan A. Kuczaj II
University of Southern Mississippi
Aylin C. Küntay
Koç University
Mariel Kyger
University of California, Los Angeles
Patrick Leman
Royal Holloway, University of London
David J. Lewkowicz
Florida Atlantic University
Ping Li
Pennsylvania State University
Ulf Liszkowski
University of Hamburg
Catherine Lord
Weill Cornell Medical College
Joan M. Lucariello
City University of New York
Jarrad A. G. Lum
Deakin University
Gary Lupyan
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Barbara C. Lust
Cornell University
Heidi Lyn
University of Southern Mississippi
Rose Maier
University of Oregon
Jason Mandelbaum
John Jay College, City University of
New York
Jean Matter Mandler
University of California,
San Diego
Michael P. Maratsos
University of Minnesota
Barbara A. Marinak
Mount St. Mary’s University
Ellen M. Markman
Stanford University
Klara Marton
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Nobuo Masataka
Kyoto University
Danielle Matthews
University of Sheffield
Sven Mattys
University of York
Christine A. Maul
California State University, Fresno
Janet McDonald
Louisiana State University
Laraine McDonough
Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center,
City University of New York
Andrea McDuffie
University of California, Davis
Sharynne McLeod
Charles Sturt University
Bob McMurray
University of Iowa
Lise Menn
University of Colorado
William E. Merriman
Kent State University
David Messer
Open University
Meredith Meyer
Otterbein University
Carol A. Miller
Pennsylvania State University
Jennifer Miller
Illinois Institute of Technology
Padraic Monaghan
Lancaster University
Silvina Montrul
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Gary Morgan
City University London
Julien Musolino
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Laura L. Namy
Emory University
Thierry Nazzi
CNRS, Université Paris Descartes
Elena Nicoladis
University of Alberta
List of Contributors
Anat Ninio
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Marilyn A. Nippold
University of Oregon
Ira Noveck
Centre de Recherche Francais à Jérusalem
Eva Nwokah
Our Lady of the Lake University
Jane Oakhill
University of Sussex
John W. Oller Jr.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
David R. Olson
University of Toronto
Luca Onnis
Nanyang Technological University
Yuriko Oshima-Takane
McGill University
Şeyda Özçalikan
Georgia State University
Anna Papafragou
University of Delaware
Barbara Zurer Pearson
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Elizabeth D. Peña
University of Texas–Austin
Sue Peppé
Independent Scholar
Irene M. Pepperberg
Harvard University
Amy Perfors
University of Adelaide
Lynn K. Perry
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Kimberly Peters
Western Washington University
Penny M. Pexman
University of Calgary
Martin J. Pickering
University of Edinburgh
David B. Pisoni
Indiana University School of Medicine
Heather Porter
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sandeep Prasada
Hunter College, City University of
New York
Anat Prior
University of Haifa
Adele Proctor
University of Illinois at
Nancy de Villiers Rader
Ithaca College
Natalia Rakhlin
Yale University
Franck Ramus
CNRS, École Normale Supérieure
Nan Bernstein Ratner
University of Maryland
Jessa Reed
Temple University
Leslie Rescorla
Bryn Mawr College
Thomas Roeper
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Alexa R. Romberg
Indiana University
Meredith L. Rowe
University of Maryland, College Park
Caroline Rowland
University of Liverpool
Susan Rvachew
McGill University
Edmund J. Safra
University of Haifa
Virginia Salo
University of Maryland, College Park
Larissa K. Samuelson
University of Iowa
Catherine M. Sandhofer
University of California, Los Angeles
Alessandra Sansavini
University of Bologna
Lynn Santelmann
Portland State University
Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
Great Ape Trust
Jeremy Sawyer
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Rachel Schmale
North Park University
Mariah G. Schug
Wesleyan University
Amanda Seidl
Purdue University
Irina A. Sekerina
College of Staten Island, City University of
New York
Monique Sénéchal
Carleton University
Ludovica Serratrice
University of Manchester
List of Contributors
Valerie L. Shafer
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Li Sheng
University of Texas–Austin
Catriona Silvey
University of Edinburgh
Virginia Slaughter
University of Queensland
Vladimir Sloutsky
Ohio State University
Kenny Smith
University of Edinburgh
William Snyder
University of Connecticut
Melanie Soderstrom
University of Manitoba
Patricia E. Spencer
Gallaudet University and P Spencer Counsulting
Michelle C. St. Clair
University of Cambridge
Joseph Paul Stemberger
University of British Columbia
Anna Stetsenko
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Carol Stoel-Gammon
University of Washington
Stephanie F. Stokes
University of Canterbury
Holly L. Storkel
University of Kansas
James A. Street
Northumbria University
Tricia Striano
Hunter College, City University of New York
Kristen Syrett
Rutgers University
Catherine Tamis-LeMonda
New York University Steinhardt
Christina Tausch
McGill University
Harriet Tenenbaum
University of Surrey
Anne Marie Tharpe
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Anna L. Theakston
University of Manchester
Michael S. C. Thomas
Birkbeck College University
of London
Karen Thorpe
Queensland University of Technology
Malathi Thothathiri
George Washington University
Rebecca Treiman
Washington University
Colwyn Trevarthen
University of Edinburgh
Michael T. Ullman
Georgetown University
Marieke van Heugten
Ecole Normale Supérieure
Jo Van Herwegen
Kingston University
Frank Rocco Vellutino
State University of New York, Albany
Edy Veneziano
CNRS, Paris Descartes University
Ludo Verhoeven
Radboud University Nijmegen
Marilyn M. Vihman
University of York
Athena Vouloumanos
New York University
Ena Vukatana
University of Calgary
Laura Wagner
Ohio State University
Daniel J. Weiss
Pennsylvania State University
Bill Wells
University of Sheffield
Nan Xu Rattanasone
Macquarie University
Jungmee Yoon
The Graduate Center, City University of
New York
Chen Yu
Indiana University
Xiaowei Zhao
Emmanuel College
Jennifer M. Zosh
Penn State University, Brandywine
Patricia Zukow-Goldring
University of California, Los Angeles
Language is the foundation of human society,
wherein each community creates and maintains its
own system of conventions for negotiating social
interactions and the sharing of ideas. Every human
language comprises a complex, hierarchically
structured system of symbols used for purposes of
communication—systems that, despite their complexity, are all readily learnable by children in their
first years of life. Hearing and deaf children alike
acquire language, either spoken or signed, while
engaging socially with others and they become
proficient conversationalists at remarkably young
ages. Nevertheless, whereas most children acquire
language with ease, many children show impairments in acquiring aspects of language and/or literacy, with cascading effects on the development
of social, cognitive, and academic skills.
Through cleverly designed studies, researchers
have shown that language learning and development begins in utero and extends well into
adulthood—encompassing increasingly complex
linguistic representations, sophisticated conversational skills, inferential abilities, and conceptual knowledge. Whereas the communicative
exchanges of young infants and caregivers mostly
revolve around issues of physical comfort and
rapport, infants over the first year of life come to
grasp that speakers’ utterances convey their social
intentions and that words can be used referentially
to draw attention to things in the world. From the
onset, children’s linguistic knowledge follows the
power law of practice, with accumulated knowledge facilitating the processing of unfamiliar
words and phrases, and with expertise diminishing the child’s attention to features of unfamiliar
languages. Language development undergoes further dramatic growth during the school years and
beyond, as children take on reading, writing, and
rhetoric, and display varying levels of mastery of
the complexities of language usage into adulthood.
In recent years, major advances have been made
in understanding how children acquire the formal
properties of the ambient languages to which they
are exposed, with research identifying biological,
sociocultural, cognitive, and evolutionary mechanisms that underlie learning processes. Still, many
questions remain unanswered with respect to the
extent to which language development unfolds
similarly across cultures, the universality of the
various properties of languages, the domainspecificity or generality of the social and cognitive
processes supporting language usage, the impact
of acquiring a specific language or multiple languages on cognition, and the sources of individual
differences in language learning trajectories and
outcomes. These topics are among those considered by contributing authors to this volume.
Language development continues to be of academic interest to an interdisciplinary group of
scholars attempting to integrate the diversity of
research findings into coherent theories that drive
further research. In addition to theoretical significance, research findings are of paramount interest to practitioners, including the speech-language
pathologists, pediatricians, and educators faced
with the tasks of evaluating the language learning
trajectories of individual children, and of devising
clinical and educational interventions that facilitate language development. Given the theoretical
and practical importance of this field of study,
sources of reference that provide regular updates
of knowledge for scholars and practitioners alike
are of immense importance. This volume attempts
to deliver such an updated overview.
Content of the Volume
Whereas the last decades of the 20th century saw
language development research dominated by
controversies between nativist/generativist versus functionalist/social-constructivist approaches,
21st-century language development research is a
theoretically and methodologically more diverse
and nuanced field. Narrow theoretical debates
have been supplanted by greater breadth of
empirical research on the development of a wider
range of linguistic skills across a wider age range,
as well as by increased interdisciplinary ties with
neighboring disciplines, such as speech and hearing sciences, education, cognitive science, behavioral genetics and epigenetics, neuroscience, and
evolutionary psychology. Thus, language development research is no longer just the provenance
of psychology and linguistics. The present volume
reflects this increased diversity and the interdisciplinary character of the field.
In addition, language development research
has gained considerable methodological sophistication by augmenting traditional observational
and experimental methods with a variety of
new behavioral, computational, and neuroscientific methods. The present volume reflects these
methodological developments by covering both
established methodologies such as use of the considerably expanded CHILDES database of caregiver-child interactions (S. Gillis), child-development inventories and assessment tests (L. Fenson
and P. Dale; I. Barriere), habituation and preferential looking paradigms (C. Houston-Price; K.
Byers-Heinlein), grammaticality judgment tasks
(B. Ambridge), and elicited production methods
(J. Gleason), as well as newer methodological
approaches including computational and connectionist modeling (D. Freudental and A. Alishani; P. Li and X. Zhao), corpus-based methods
(L. Onnis), cross-linguistic and cross-cultural
methods (L. Duncan; K. Marton and J. Yoon;
E. Peña), twin studies (E. Hayiou-Thomas), adoption studies (A. Delcenserie and F. Genesee),
visual world eye-tracking (I. Sekerina), functional
neuro-imaging (J. Brauer), and electrophysiology
(V. Shafer).
Structure of the Volume
This encyclopedia is designed with academic
researchers and practitioners in mind. For the
theoretically minded reader, it offers a range of
survey entries addressing current thinking in
the domains of phonological (L. Menn and C.
Stoel-Gammon), morphological (N. Gagarina),
lexical (W. Merriman), semantic (S. Prasada),
and pragmatic (A. Ninio) development, as well
as an overview of milestones in language development (J. Oller). The substantial and theoretically diverse research on syntactic development
is represented by several entries describing influential theoretical approaches to the subject—
generative grammar (T. Roeper), dependency
grammar (A. Ninio), and construction grammar (D. Casenhiser)—as well as research on the
development of complex syntactic structures
(R. A. Berman). In addition, several survey
entries cover research on the genetic (S. Kornilov,
N. Rakhlin and Grigorenko) and neural (J. Gervain) underpinnings of language development
and link it to social (M. Schug and T. Striano),
motor (L. Goffman), and cognitive (G. Deák)
development. Moreover, the volume offers stateof-the-art overviews of diverse aspects of language development such as bilingual language
development (A. De Houwer; A. Prior and
E. Safra), development of communicative gestures (E. Bavin), and sign language development
(J. Bonvillian).
The larger survey entries are complemented and
expanded on by middle-sized and smaller entries
covering different angles on various aspects of
language development of different levels of specificity, which offer the reader different entry points
into a topic. These entries include, but are not
limited to:
• Entries that focus on nonverbal aspects
of early communicative development,
including dyadic interaction (E. Nwokah),
baby sign systems (G. Doherty-Sneddon
and L. Howard), pointing (U. Liszkowski),
proto-conversations (C. Trevarthen), and
symbolic gestures (L. Namy).
• Entries that focus on specific speechrelated phenomena, such as articulation
of speech sounds (S. McLeod and J. Bernthal), accommodation to speech variability (A. Seidl and R. Schmale), cross-modal
perception of speech (D. Lewkowicz), linguistic tonal systems (N. Xu-Rattanasone
and K. Demuth), neonatal speech perception (J. Gervain), neonatal preferences for
speech (A. Vouloumanos), perseveration
and speech errors (J. Stemberger), phoneme
discrimination (P. Escudero), phonological
processes (H. Storkel), phonological templates (M. Vihman), prelinguistic vocalization (N. Masataka), speech perception and
processing (S. Curtin; B. McMurray and
T. Benders), speech prosody (S. Peppé and B.
Wells), and word segmentation (S. Mattys;
T. Nazzi).
• Entries that focus on phenomena
related to word learning, such as early word
learning (S. Curtin and S. Graham), fast
mapping (C. Houston-Price), cross-situational word learning (C. Yu), lexical innovations (J. Becker Bryant), noun bias (J. B.
Childers), over-extensions and under-extensions (E. Dromi), shape bias (L. GershkoffStowe), slow mapping (G. Deák), spoken
word recognition (H. Bortfeld), symbol formation (J. Glick), vocabulary growth curves
and spurts (B. McMurray; L. Verhoeven),
word-learning constraints (E. M. Markman
and T. F. Holubar), word-learning strategies
(M. A. Nippold), and word-to-world mapping (S. Graham and E. Vukatana).
• Entries that focus on specific structurerelated phenomena, such as filler syllables
and grammatical morphemes (E. Veneziano),
generalization and over-generalization of linguistic patterns (B. Ambridge; C. Bannard;
J. K. Boyd), long-distance dependencies (L.
Santelmann), sentence processing (E. Kidd),
and syntactic priming (M. Thothathiri).
• Entries that focus on conversational
aspects of language use, including conversational implicature (I. Noveck), conversational skills (E. Veneziano), discourse pragmatics (L. Serratrice), interactive alignment
(H. Branigan, S. Garrod, and M. Pickering),
referential communication (D. Matthews),
and speech acts (T. Cameron-Faulkner).
• Entries that cover the development of
specific linguistic categories such as adjectives (K. Syrett), argument structure (S.
Allen), aspect (L. Wagner), auxiliaries and
modals (A. L. Theakston), epistemic markers (S. Choi), evidential markers (S. A. Fitneva), grammatical categories (M. St. Clair,
P. Monaghan, and M. H. Christiansen),
grammatical gender (I. Arnon), pronouns (Y.
Oshima-Takane), quantifiers (J. Musolino),
questions (C. F. Rowland and B. Ambridge),
relational terms (L. French), and verbs (J. B.
• Entries that address development of language-related skills such as humor (E. Hoicka),
lying (J. Mandelbaum, L. Brimbal and A. M.
Crossman), metaphor (Ş. Özçalikan), narrative (Ö. Demir and A. Küntay), and nonliteral
language (P. M. Pexman).
• Entries that focus on meta-cognitive
aspects of language development, including
meta-linguistic awareness (M. Sénéchal),
phonological awareness (K. Cabbage and
T. Hogan), private/inner speech (P. Feigenbaum), and thinking for speaking
(E. Nicoladis).
• Entries that focus on aspects of literacy,
such as learning to read (C. Cardoso-Martins
and L. Ehri; H. Ilgaz, B. Hassinger-Das, K.
Hirsh-Pasek, and R. M. Golinkoff), cognitive
effects of literacy (D. R. Olson), developmental dyslexia (F. Ramus and I. Altarelli; F. R.
Vellutino), the dual-route model of reading
(M. Coltheart); Matthew Effects (A. E. Cunningham and Y.-J. Chen), reading comprehension (J. Oakhill and K. Cain), spelling (R.
Treiman), and written discourse (H. L. Jisa).
• Entries that elucidate underlying learning mechanisms, such as associative learning (A. R. Romberg and C. Yu), auditory
sequence learning (J. A. Deocampo and
C. M. Conway), chunk-based language
acquisition (I. Arnon and M. H. Christiansen), distributional learning and multiple
cue integration (I. Arnon; P. Monaghan and
M. H. Christiansen), induction (A. Fisher
and V. Sloutsky; S. A. Gelman and M. Meyer;
A. Perfors), frequency effects (H. Diessel), item-based/exemplar-based learning
(P. Ibbotson), lexical bootstrapping (J. Goodman), phonological and prosodic bootstrapping (M. van Heugten, I. Dautriche, and
A. Christophe), prediction (F. Huettig), syntactic bootstrapping (L. Gleitman), and statistical learning (D. J. Weiss).
• Entries that introduce theoretical approaches to language development
including Bayesian inference (A. Perfors),
cultural learning and transmission models
(T. Behne; C. Silvey and K. Smith), domain
specificity (M. T. Ullman, J. Lum, and
G. Conti-Ramsden), dynamic systems theory (L. Samuelson and M. Galligan), the
emergentist coalition model (J. Damonte,
M. Johanson, R. M. Golinkoff, and
K. Hirsh-Pasek), evolutionary perspectives
(M. H. Christiansen); the Less-Is-More
Hypothesis (J. McDonald), the principlesand-parameters framework (M. T. Guasti),
and universal grammar (W. Snyder).
• Entries that describe aspects of childdirected speech, including the use of diminutives (I. Dabašinskienė), hyper-articulation
(C. Kitamura), natural pedagogy (R. Maier
and D. Baldwin), parental responsiveness and scaffolding (C. Tamis-LeMonda,
L. Baumwell, and Y. Kuchirko), recasts,
clarifications, and indirect negative evidence (J. Bernicot), synchrony of speech and
gesture (P. Zukow-Goldring and N. Rader),
and variation in the quality and features
of child-directed speech (M. L. Rowe and
V. Salo; M. Soderstrom).
• Entries that explore social factors in
language development including imitiation
(M. Carpenter; M. Gratier), joint attention
(L. B. Adamson and N. Dimitrova), overheard speech (N. Akhtar), perspective taking (J. I. Carpendale and S. Atwood), play
(J. M. Zosh, J. Reed, R. M. Golinkoff, and
K. Hirsh-Pasek), and social conventions
(G. Diesendruck).
• Entries that focus on environmental influences on language development,
including effects of the home environment
(C. Compton-Lilly), schooling (L. E. Cohen),
and socioeconomic factors (D. F. Gullo)
• Entries that trace the relationship of
language development to other areas of cognitive development such as autobiographical memory (M. L. Courage), categorization
and concept formation (G. Lupyan and L. K.
Perry; L. McDonough and J. M. Mandler),
color cognition (C. M. Sandhofer and M.
Kyger), executive functions (L. A. Henry),
event and motion perception (N. R. George,
H. Konishi, K. Hirsh-Pasek, and R. M.
Golinkoff; A. Papafragou), numerical cognition (P. Gordon), spatial cognition (S. Choi),
theory of mind (V. Slaughter), and verbal
working memory (C. Jarrold).
• Entries that focus on language impairments, including apraxia (A. Proctor), stuttering (N. Bernstein Ratner), and specific
language impairment (N. Botting), which
may co-occur with delays or deficits in auditory processing (C. A. Miller), information processing (L. Archibald), grammatical development (P. A. Hadley), semantic
development (L. Sheng), social functioning
(M. Fujiki and B. Brinton), phonological
development (J. M. Carroll), and word finding (D. Messer).
• Entries that address language development in special populations such as children
with autism (S. H. Kim and C. Lord), genetic
syndromes (A. McDuffie and L. Abbeduto;
M. Thomas and J. V. Herwegen), focal
lesions (A. M. Chilosi), cochlear implants
(J. Beer, K. Peters, and D. B. Pisoni), deaf
children (S. Goldin-Meadow; P. E. Spencer), late talkers (L. Rescorla), pre-term
children (A. Sansavini and A. Guarini), and
twins (K. Thorpe).
• Entries that describe intervention methods and programs for general language
development (R. L. Flores; S. F. Stokes) and
for reading and literacy acquisition (B. A.
Marinak and L. Gambrell; F. R. Vellutino).
• Entries that focus on individual differences and variation in language development and usage, including age of acquisition
effects (C. Hudson Kam), the Critical
Period Hypothesis (G. Morgan), dialect
(B. Z. Pearson), first-language attrition
and loss (S. Montrul), gender differences
(H. Tenenbaum, A. Aznar, and P. Leman),
and individual differences in adult attainment (J. A. Street).
• Entries that provide a comparative
perspective by describing how language
learning in animals, such as avians (I. M.
Pepperberg), cetaceans (S. Kuczaj), dogs
(S. Grassmann), and nonhuman primates
(K. Gillespie-Lynch, S. Savage-Rumbaugh,
and J. Lyn), resembles, as well as differs,
from that of children.
• Entries that detail the contribution of
influential scholars who have shaped theoretical views of child language development
in profound ways, such as Noam Chomsky
(B. C. Lust), Jerome Bruner (J. M. Lucariello), Roger Brown (M. P. Maratsos), and
Lev Vygotsky (J. Sawyer and A. Stetsenko).
Structure of Entries
Entries are written in accessible language to be
suitable for a broad readership both from inside
and outside the field of language development
research. Technical terms are clearly defined from
the outset, crucial psychological and linguistic
concepts are explained in the Glossary, and further in-depth reading is suggested at the end of
each entry and at the end of the volume.
All entries contain pointers to related entries
allowing the reader to explore a specific topic in
greater depth by considering the relevant theoretical approaches, underlying mechanisms, developmental trajectories, research methodologies, and,
where applicable, diagnostic and intervention
methods. The pointers are organized in such a way
as to enable the reader to approach a topic either in
a top-down manner working from a broader survey down to specific phenomena associated with
the topic, or in a bottom-up manner starting with
a specific phenomenon and then using the pointers to find entries that put this phenomenon into
a broader theoretical and methodological context.
Finally, the pointers also allow readers to make
horizontal connections by linking a specific aspect
of language development to other, related aspects.
Last, but not least, this volume provides convincing evidence that the field of language development research continues to attract a wealth of
new talent. This is testimony to its success as a
burgeoning scientific discipline as well as its relevance for the wider public, and is reflected in the
broad authorship of entries ranging from established scholars to promising young researchers
who are just beginning to make their mark in the
field. We would like to thank all of them for their
valuable contributions.
Patricia J. Brooks
Vera Kempe
1600: In France, publication of the “Grammaire
Générale et Raisonnée,” commonly called the
Port Royal Grammar, an influential treatise that
discusses, among other things, the theory of linguistic universals.
German, and French, indicating that bilingualism was an accepted aspect of American life at
the time, and the government made efforts to
accommodate speakers of languages other than
1604: Robert Cawdrey publishes the first English-only (i.e., not bilingual) English dictionary
A Table Alphabetical of Hard Unusual English
1775: The Abbé Charles Michel de l’Epée develops a sign language for his deaf students in Paris,
drawing on several sources including the Spanish
manual alphabet and hand signals by monks during periods of silence.
1620: The Spanish priest Juan Pablo Bonet creates
and publishes one of the first systems of alphabetic signs for communication with deaf people.
1755: Samuel Johnson publishes A Dictionary of
the English Language, which he intended to be a
complete record of the language, with the exclusion of certain types of words (e.g., proper nouns)
and the inclusion of many literary quotations to
illustrate meaning.
1761: Josiah Priestly publishes Rudiments of
English Grammar, in which he argues that the
spoken, rather than the written, form of a language should be held up as the standard for the
1774–89: Many official documents of the U.S.
Continental Congress are published in English,
1798: An apparent feral child, Victor of Aveyron, is spotted in a forest, and is captured but
escapes; in 1800, he leaves the woods by choice
and is taken in and educated by the physician
Jean Marc Gaspard Itard. Victor achieves only
limited language use and his case is often cited
as supporting the Critical Period Hypothesis,
but it is also possible that his ability to acquire
language was impaired by mental retardation or
1812: The brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm
publish the first edition of their Children’s and
Household Tales, a collection of folk tales, which,
once edited and translated from German into
about 160 languages, provided early exposure to
literary narratives for subsequent generations of
children around the world.
1817: Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc
found the American School for the Deaf in
Hartford, Connecticut, using the Sign Language
developed by the Archbishop Roche Sicard in
1828: Noah Webster publishes An American Dictionary of the English Language, differentiating
American spelling (e.g., “honor” instead of “honour”) and usage from British, and including many
scientific terms and word etymologies.
1854: Peak rate of community deafness on Martha’s Vineyard. High rates of profound hereditary
deafness and full integration of deaf individuals in
community life lead to the formation of Martha’s
Vineyard Sign Language, which was influenced by
French Sign Language and served as an important
precursor to the development of American Sign
1857: The Philological Society of London calls
for the production of a new English dictionary,
which becomes the Oxford English Dictionary or
OED. Work begins in 1879 with the first volume
published in 1884, and the last in 1928, followed
by a series of supplements published from 1933
to 1986; the supplements are integrated into the
main text in the 1980s to form the second edition
of the OED.
1881: Oswald Berkhan identifies an inability to
read that in 1887 came to be described as dyslexia, a term coined by the German ophthalmologist Rudolf Berlin. Around the same time, the
British physician W. Pringle Morgan publishes a
description of a 14-year-old boy who had normal
intelligence and physical qualities, but was unable
to learn to read.
1886: A group of French language teachers found
the Phonetic Teacher’s Association to further the
use of phonetics in teaching; in 1897 the organization changes its name to the International Phonetic Association.
1887: Ludwig Zamenhof publishes a description,
in Russian, of Esperanto, the most successful artificial language ever created, and one that is still in
use today.
1888: The first version of the International Phonetic Alphabet is published, based on the idea
put forth by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen
that a single symbol should correspond to a
single sound, no matter what language is being
1906: In the United States, the Nationality Act
stipulates that the ability to speak English is a
requirement for persons wishing to become naturalized citizens.
1916: A Course in General Linguistics, written by the French-speaking Swiss linguist and
semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure, is published
1923: The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget publishes The Language and Thought of the Child,
putting forth his theories of the process of intellectual development of children, and how children
and adults think and use language differently.
1926: The British lexicographer Henry W. Fowler
publishes Modern English Usage, a prescriptive
guide to British English.
1933: The American linguist Leonard Bloomfield publishes Language, an influential textbook
describing the structuralist approach, using analyses of texts in a variety of languages and incorporating ideas based on the psychological theory
of behaviourism.
1934: Lev Vygotsky’s book Thinking and Speech
is published in Russian. In this book, Vygotsky
emphasizes the role of language in the development of thought and higher cognitive functioning.
The English translation appears in 1986.
1935: The epidemiologist Willis Beasley is
appointed by the U.S. Public Health Service to
conduct a national audiometric survey.
1936: Edmund Fowler describes the ABLB (alternate binaural loudness balance) hearing test, during which a tone is presented alternately to each
ear, held at a constant level in one and made
louder or softer in the other; the patient reports
when the sound is equal in both ears.
1941: The Russian linguist Roman Jakobson publishes Child Language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals, where he lays out his influential
theory of a universal progression in phonological
development, with development following a set of
structural laws that govern successive divisions of
phonological space into binary contrasts.
1943: The Austrian-American psychiatrist Leo
Kanner publishes a paper, “Autistic Disturbances of
Affective Contact,” describing “infantile autism”
as a condition whose characteristics include lack of
communication and affective contact, a desire for
sameness, and a fascination with objects.
1949: The German-American linguist Werner
Leopold publishes the first of four volumes of
Speech Development of a Bilingual Child, based
on his diary studies of the language development of his English-German bilingual daughter,
1953: Publication of Philosophical Investigations, in which the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein focuses on the many ways language is used
in so-called language games, and outlines a usagebased theory of meaning.
1954: Helmer Myklebust begins research on
auditory-specific perceptual disorder, making a
distinction between difficulties in learning language and difficulties in auditory processing.
1954: The British linguist A. S. C. Ross publishes
an article introducing the terms U and non-U,
meaning upper class and not upper class, in which
he describes differences in language usage (including pronunciation, vocabulary, and methods
of writing letters) that differentiated the British
upper classes from everyone else in the country.
1957: Noam Chomsky publishes Syntactic Structures, outlining his ideas about Generative Grammar, a theory that represented a distinct departure from previous structuralist and behaviorist
1958: Jean Berko publishes “A Child’s Learning
of English Morphology” in the journal Word. In
this paper, she describes a methodology to elicit
children’s structural knowledge through elicited
productions of artificial words; her methodology
later became known as the Wug Test.
1959: Iona and Peter Opie publish The Lore
and Language of Schoolchildren, a collection of
words, phrases, and language practices used primarily by children and passed along by them to
other children.
1959: Wilder Penfield and Lamar Roberts publish
their book Speech and Brain Mechanisms detailing recovery from aphasia and postulating the
importance of the left hemisphere for language.
In this book, they are the first to hypothesize the
existence of a critical period for language by suggesting that adequate rich language input needs
to be provided during the first years of life, otherwise full proficiency cannot be attained.
1960: In his book Word and Object, the philosopher W. V. O. Quine poses the problem of inscrutability or indeterminacy of reference, also known
as the “Gavagai-problem,” according to which
there are an infinite number of possible meanings
of a word in the absence of constraints. Much
language development research subsequently was
devoted to uncovering such constraints.
1960: William Stokoe, Jr. publishes Sign Language Structure, which describes American Sign
Language as a fully formed natural language,
with linguistic structure as complex and generative as that of any oral language.
1961: Alexander Gvozdev publishes Issues in the
Study of Child Language, an extensive diary study
of the language development of a Russian child,
which provides unique insight into the acquisition
of a morphologically rich language.
1962: Roger Brown initiates the longitudinal
study of the language development of three children, Adam, Eve, and Sarah, who were audiotaped at regular intervals. The obtained speech
corpus was the first of its kind to consist of transcribed recordings rather than anecdotal diaries. The analysis of this corpus culminated in
the publication of A First Language: The Early
Stages in 1973.
1964: In the United States, Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis
of (among other things) national origin in programs receiving federal money; one interpretation of this stipulation results in a 1970 order by
the Office of Civil Rights that language-minority students have to be provided with effective
1965: Founding of the Head Start Program, initially as a summer school program, to enhance
school readiness and preparation for literacy in
low-income American children. Forty years after
its inception, 22 million children had participated,
although its efficacy remains controversial.
1965: Noam Chomsky publishes the book Aspects
of the Theory of Syntax, in which he postulates
the existence of a Language Acquisition Device, a
brain module that is responsible for the maturation of innate knowledge (described as a Universal Grammar).
1966: The organization Teachers of English
to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is
founded, due in part to awareness of the growing need of professionals trained to teach English to students for whom it is not their native
1967: Eric Lenneberg publishes the book Biological Foundations of Language, in which he popularizes the Critical Period Hypothesis for language acquisition linking it to neuroplasticity and
postulating puberty as its endpoint.
1967: Beatrice and Allen Gardner, professors at
the University of Nevada, begin teaching American Sign Language to Washoe, a female chimpanzee. Washoe learned over 130 signs and was
able to combine them, although it was not clear
whether she acquired grammatical structure.
1968: In the United States, the Bilingual Education Act provides federal support for programs for
language-minority children; this is the first federal
effort to address the problem of children who are
not native English speakers, although (despite the
name) it does not specifically require bilingual
education be provided.
1970: Child welfare authorities in Los Angeles,
California, take custody of an abused, nonverbal 13-year-old girl, known by the pseudonym
“Genie.” The case provides an opportunity to test
whether language can be acquired past a critical
period. Although Genie is able to acquire some
language skills, experts disagree as to how much
progress is made and whether neurological abnormalities impaired her ability to learn.
1970: The International Association of the Study
of Child Language (IASCL) is founded to promote international and interdisciplinary research
in child language development. IASCL holds the
triennial International Congress for the Study of
Child Language; its publications include the Journal of Child Language, First Language, Child Language Bulletin and the edited book series Trends
in Language Acquisition Research (TiLAR).
1971: Peter Eimas and colleagues’ seminal Science paper “Speech Perception in Infants” demonstrates that 1-month-old infants are capable of
perceiving speech sounds in a categorical manner.
1972: Bettye Caldwell and Robert Bradley
develop the “Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Scale” to
provide a standardized measure of the quality of
the child’s learning environment at home; in particular, of the amount of stimulation provided for
infant cognitive and language development.
1976: Martin Braine publishes the monograph
“Children’s First Word Combinations,” which
describes the item-based learning of positional
formulae (pivot-grammar) in 11 children acquiring one of five different languages.
1978: In their paper “Acquiring a Single New
Word,” Susan Carey and Elsa Bartlett coin the
term fast mapping when describing 3-year-olds’
rapid acquisition of a new color word (“chromium”) in an experimental setting.
1979: Elizabeth Bates and colleagues publish The
Emergence of Symbols: Cognition and Communication in Infancy, in which they describe the
developmental continuity in infants’ use of communicative gestures and first words.
1980: Anthony DeCasper and William Fifer’s Science article “Of Human Bonding: Newborns Prefer Their Mothers’ Voices” provides first evidence
for prenatal learning of speech sounds.
Roger Bakeman and Lauren Adamson describe
the emergence of joint attention in infancy, and
the role of the mother in scaffolding infants’
attention to objects.
1980: Opening of a vocational school for the Deaf
in Nicaragua allows Judy Kegl, Ann Senghas and
others to document the emergence of a new sign
1984: In their chapter “Language Acquisition
and Socialization,” published in Culture Theory:
Essays on Mind, Self and Emotion, Elinor Ochs
and Bambi Schieffelin draw attention to the cultural diversity of children’s socialization through
1983: Shirley Brice Heath publishes Ways With
Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms, a classical ethnographic
study of language socialization as a critical factor
in literacy development.
1983: In the Science paper “Gestural Communication in Deaf Children: Noneffect of Parental
Input on Language Development,” Susan GoldinMeadow and Carolyn Mylander document the
spontaneous emergence of language-like gestural
systems called home sign in deaf children of hearing parents.
1983: The American linguist Jerome Bruner publishes Child’s Talk: Learning to Use Language,
putting forth his theory that children learn language in the context of social interaction with a
support system (the Language Acquisition Support System, or LASS) provided by their parents
and other caregivers.
1984: A group of language researchers, led by
Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow, establishes the Child Language Data Exchange System
(CHILDES) to facilitate research by sharing transcriptions through an openly accessible database.
1984: Janet Werker and Richard Tees publish
“Cross-Language Speech Perception: Evidence
for Perceptual Reorganization During the First
Year of Life” in Infant Behavior and Development, which documents infants’ loss of ability to
discriminate non-native speech sounds during the
first year of life as a result of experience with the
ambient language.
1984: In a Child Development paper titled
“Coordinated Attention to People and Objects
in Mother-Infant and Peer-Infant Interaction,”
1985: Adult clinical trials begin for the cochlear
implant, a device that transmits sound waves
directly to the cochlea, and thus restores a high
degree of hearing to many deaf people.
1985: Dan Slobin edits the first of five volumes of
The Cross-Linguistic Study of Language Acquisition, a collection of chapters that summarize
and discuss language development in over 20
1986: In “Matthew Effects in Reading: Some
Consequences of Individual Differences in the
Acquisition of Literacy,” published in Reading
Research Quarterly, Keith Stanovich describes
mechanisms underlying rich-get-richer and poorget-poorer patterns of reading achievement, with
broad implications for education.
1987: In a chapter titled “Learning the Past
Tenses of English Verbs: Implicit Rules or Parallel Distributed Processing,” David Rumelhart and
James McClelland introduce connectionist modeling, utilizing domain-general learning mechanisms inspired by neural processing, to the study
of child language development.
1987: Irene Pepperberg demonstrates in an African Grey parrot named “Alex” cognitive abilities found in toddlers, such as the ability to form
abstract categories, to verbally label a wide variety of objects, and to categorize objects by color,
shape, number, and material.
1989: In “Critical Period Effects in Second Language Learning: The Influence of Maturational
States on the Acquisition of English as a Second Language,” Jacqueline Johnson and Elissa
Newport assess the grammatical knowledge of
immigrants to the United States and conclude that
the ability to learn a second language declines
after puberty.
1990: Jane Hurst and colleagues publish “An
Extended Family With a Dominantly Inherited
Speech Disorder” in Developmental Medicine &
Child Neurology, providing the first description of
the KE family. This family exhibited a speech disorder initially classified as verbal dyspraxia, but
later publicized as a deficit of grammatical suffixation, triggering a search for the genetic basis of
1990: In their Child Development paper “Preference for Infant-Directed Speech in the First
Month after Birth,” Robin Cooper and Richard
Aslin demonstrate, through an auditory preference procedure, that young infants prefer childdirected speech to adult-directed speech.
with profound
1994: In the bestseller The Language Instinct,
Steven Pinker argues for the child’s innate capacity to learn language, and offers an adaptationist perspective on the evolution of the language
acquisition device. In response, Michael Tomasello publishes, in 1995, the book review “Language Is Not an Instinct,” and, in 2003, the book
Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory
of Language Acquisition, wherein he argues that
language development relies on social-cognitive
skills for inferring speakers’ communicative intentions and domain-general learning mechanisms
for discovering patterns.
1991: Laura Petitto and Paula Marentette report
in their Science paper “Babbling in the Manual
Mode: Evidence for the Ontogeny of Language”
the existence of babbling with the hands in deaf
infants exposed to Sign Language from birth.
1994: Ruth Berman and Dan Slobin publish the
edited volume Relating Events in Narrative: A
Crosslinguistic Study, which reports a study in
which child speakers of English, German, Spanish, Hebrew, or Turkish provided the words to
a wordless picture book (Frog, Where Are You?
by Mercer Mayer). By the time of publication,
the methodology has taken off, with over 150
researchers collecting frog story narratives in 50
1992: Patricia Kuhl and colleagues publish the
Science paper “Linguistic Experience Alters Phonetic Perception by 6 Months of Age,” in which
they show, using the head-turn procedure, that
children’s phonetic prototypes (‘magnets’) are
language-specific at 6 months of age.
1994: The first norming study of the MacArthurBates Communicative Development Inventories
(CDI) is published. The CDI comprise a set of
standardized, parent-completed report forms that
track infant and toddlers’ language and communication skills.
1993: Katherine Nelson, in a Psychological Science paper titled “The Psychological and Social
Origins of Autobiographical Memory” explores
the phenomenon of infantile amnesia and the critical role of narrative language in the development
of memory for personal experiences.
1995: Betty Hart and Todd Risley publish the
book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday
Experiences of Young American Children, which
documents, as a function of household income,
drastic differences in the amount of talk children
are exposed to and its implications for language
1994: Esther Thelen and Linda Smith publish
the book A Dynamic Systems Approach to the
Development of Cognition and Action, which
applies non-linear dynamics systems theory to
infant development. Their approach emphasizes
the role of embodied sensori-motor experience,
perception-action feedback, and the interaction
of multiple factors in development processes,
1995: Dorothy Bishop and colleagues publish
“Genetic Basis of Specific Language Impairment: Evidence rom a Twin Study” in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, in
which they show, for the first time, that Specific
Language Impairment is to a substantial degree
1995: Adele Goldberg publishes her book Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach
to Argument Structure, in which she proposes
the construction—comprising a pairing of a specific form and its meaning—to be the basic unit
of grammar; this theoretical framework argues
against the view that syntactic processes are
independent of semantics (meaning), and views
lexicon (vocabulary) and grammar as acquired
through similar mechanisms.
language development, especially with regards to
vocabulary acquisition.
1996: Anat Ninio and Catherine Snow publish
Pragmatic Development, which details how children acquire rules for appropriate and communicatively effective language use.
2000: In her doctoral dissertation, Cynthia
Breazeal describes the building of Kismet, a sociable, child-like robot able to acquire communication skills by eliciting child-directed interactions
that afford rich learning opportunities. This leads
to the advent of developmental (aka epigenetic)
robotics as a new methodology in understanding
developmental processes.
1996: Drawing on speech act theory, in his book
Using Language, Herb Clark proposes an integrative theory of language that views speaking and
listening as coordinated joint action.
1996: In the Science paper “Statistical Learning
by 8-Month-Old Infants,” Jenny Saffran, Richard
Aslin, and Elissa Newport describe babies’ ability
to track co-occurrence statistics of adjacent syllables to solve the problem of segmenting uninterrupted speech into discrete words.
1996: John Gumperz and Stephen Levinson edit
the volume Rethinking Linguistic Relativity,
which re-opens debates about the status of the
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. This leads to a proliferation of studies examining whether features of specific languages impact aspects of cognition, such
as perception and memory.
1998: In their letter to Nature titled “Localisation of a Gene Implicated in a Severe Speech
and Language Disorder,” Simon Fisher and colleagues report the results of a genome-wide linkage study of the KE family, which implicates a
small region of the long arm of chromosome 7
in the disorder.
1998: In their article “The Phonological Loop as
a Language Learning Device,” published in Psychological Review, Alan Baddeley and colleagues
propose that the phonological loop, a component
of working memory dedicated to short-term shortage of verbal information, plays a critical role in
1999: Ellen Bialystok suggests, in the Child
Development paper “Cognitive Complexity and
Attentional Control in the Bilingual Mind,” that
bilingual children develop superior executive
functions related to inhibitory control, due to
the cognitive demands of alternating use of more
than one language.
2001: In their letter to Nature titled “A ForkheadDomain Gene is Mutated in a Severe Speech and
Language Disorder,” Cecilia Lai and colleagues
identify a mutation on the FOXP2 gene as underlying language disorders like the ones described in
the KE family.
2002: Angela Friederici and colleagues demonstrate, in their paper “Brain Signatures of Artificial Language Processing: Evidence Challenging
the Critical Period Hypothesis” published in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
that the time course of electrical brain potentials
in adults processing a newly learned artificial language is similar to that of adults processing their
native language.
2004: Ann Senghas and colleagues publish a paper
in Science titled “Children Creating Core Properties of Language: Evidence From an Emerging Sign
Language in Nicaragua,” documenting the contribution of younger cohorts of children to the creation of structure in the emerging sign language.
2004: Juliane Kaminski and colleagues publish a
Science paper “Word Learning in a Domestic Dog:
Evidence for ‘Fast Mapping,’” which documents
the ability of a border collie to learn a vocabulary of over 200 words by associating novel labels
with hitherto unnamed objects.
2005: Michael Ullman and Elizabeth Pierpont
publish a paper in Cortex titled “Specific Language
Impairment Is Not Specific to Language: The Procedural Deficit Hypothesis,” linking this impairment to a brain network which subserves the learning and execution of motor and cognitive skills.
2007: Heather Bortfeld and colleagues publish
the study “Assessing Infants’ Cortical Response
to Speech Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy” in
Neuroimage. This is the first study to demonstrate
the viability of NIRS for the study of speech processing in 6- to 9-month-old infants.
2007: In their Psychological Review paper “Word
Learning as Bayesian Inference,” Fei Xu and Joshua
Tenenbaum introduce Bayesian probabilistic inference as an alternative model to deductive hypothesis testing and associative learning in explaining
children’s word learning from limited input.
2008: Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater publish an article in Brain and Behavioral Sciences
titled “Language as Shaped by the Brain,” which
reframes the debate about the evolution of language by focusing on how the evolution of language structure might reflect constraints of neural
development and processing.
2011: Brian MacWhinney receives the IASCL’s
Inaugural Roger Brown award, given in recognition of theoretical and methodological contributions to the field of child language. Among his
outstanding achievements are the development
of the Competition Model, with Elizabeth Bates,
and the creation of the Child Language Data
Exchange System (CHILDES), with Catherine
2012: Elka Bergelson and Daniel Swingley publish
a paper titled “At 6–9 Months, Human Infants
Know the Meanings of Many Common Nouns” in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
in which they demonstrate that infants know the
meaning of many words before being able to say
them, and earlier than previously assumed.
Adjectives are words that denote properties of objects,
such as size (big), shape (round), color (red), texture
(rough), material (wooden), state (sleeping), and aesthetic qualities (beautiful), among many others. As a
grammatical category in English, adjectives modify
nouns, appearing in either a prenominal position
(before the noun, such as What an adorable baby!)
or in predicative position, often after a copular verb
(as in, Your baby is adorable!). Their surface-level
distribution is linked to their position in the syntactic structure and their semantic representation, and
therefore distinguishes them from quantificational
terms, such as some and every, and number words,
such as two, which have a partially overlapping distribution. Adjectives are among the first words produced
by young children. Moreover, a range of adjectives
appears frequently in child-directed speech, providing children with information about semantic differences within the category of adjectives.
For example, gradable adjectives such as big are
likely to appear in comparative constructions (X is
bigger than Y) and are modified by adverbs such as
very, indicating that size depends on a standard of
comparison. Although number words and quantifiers also appear prenominally, neither can appear with
the comparative morpheme –er or be preceded by the
intensifier very. By contrast, these words can appear in
partitive constructions (X of the Y), whereas adjectives
cannot. Kristen Syrett and colleagues have shown
that preschoolers are able recruit these distributional
characteristics when learning new words. Even some
gradable adjectives differ with respect to the adverbs
allowed to modify them as well as inferences based on
their appearance in a comparative construction. For
example, while it is acceptable to say that something is
completely full or clean, it is not permissible to describe
something as completely tall or big. Saying that x is
fuller or bigger than y does not entail that either x or y
is full or big, but saying that x is bumpier or dirtier than
y requires x to be bumpy or dirty and may presuppose
that y is as well. Work by Kristen Syrett and Jeffrey
Lidz shows that 2-year-olds are aware of restrictions
on adverbial modification and can recruit this information when classifying novel adjectives.
Gradable adjectives come in multiple varieties.
Kristen Syrett, Christopher Kennedy, and Jeffrey Lidz
have demonstrated that 3- to 5-year-olds (like adults)
differentiate among these adjectives with respect to
the role of the context in setting the standard of comparison. With adjectives like big, children readily shift
the standard of comparison with the context, while
they do not with full or spotted. For example, no matter how big or long two items are, as long as the size of
one exceeds the other, it is the big or long one; that’s
not so with full or spotted. Likewise, the cutoff for what
counts as big or long in a series of objects is approximately the midpoint, whereas what counts as full or
spotted depends on whether or not the maximal or
minimal standard has been met, respectively. (See Figures 1 and 2.) Other work has shown that preschoolers take into account real-world knowledge, the range
of comparison, and object kind when setting the
standards. Susan Gelman and Karen Ebeling have also
shown that preschoolers can move between different
types of standards, for example, a normative standard
(what counts as big for objects of a particular kind), a
perceptual standard (what counts as big in the context
at hand), and a functional standard (what is too big
for the present purposes).
Preschoolers also appear to be aware that the syntactic position of an adjective and its prosodic prominence can carry implications about the speaker’s
intentions. For example, the daxy one is likely to be
interpreted as a contrast between an object that is
daxy and another object of the same kind that is not
daxy, while the one that is daxy is likely to be interpreted as picking out an object that simply has the
property of being daxy. By age 5, children are not only
aware of these contrasts but treat gradable adjectives
like big differently from color terms. A request for a
BIG dax is more likely to launch a search for a withinkind contrast object than a request for a YELLOW dax
or a dax that is yellow or big. This finding is consistent
with the input children receive. Although color terms
can be gradable, they are typically not treated as such
in child-directed speech. Parents are likely to ask their
children, “What color is this?” but instead, “Where or
which is the big one?” or “Which one is bigger?” Many
children take years to master color terms but, in the
interim, seem to be aware of which adjectives refer
to color, often supplying an incorrect color term in
response to a question about color.
When children learn a new adjective, they need to
know whether to extend the label and corresponding
property to a new referent. Taxonomic level—that is,
what kind of conceptual category something belongs
to—plays an important role. A series of experiments
by Sandra Waxman and her colleagues has shown that
when 3-year-olds are shown a spotted green elephant
labeled by a novel adjective such as blickish contrasted
with another elephant that is solid green and described
as not blickish, they are likely to interpret the adjective
as spotted. They do not do so when shown a contrasting object from another basic-level category (such as
solid green rabbit) or when the adjective is not present.
However, when shown objects from across basic-level
categories that share the same property and that are
labeled with a common adjective, 3-year-olds willingly
extend the property to yet another basic-level category.
The adjective seems to serve as an invitation for the
child to perform a comparison and notice commonalities among category members. Such comparisons are
most effective when children are shown multiple exemplars and when presented with familiar objects.
Within the grammatical category of adjectives,
there are those that express stage-level properties (like
thirsty) and those that express more stable traits or
individual-level properties (like friendly or gentle).
Across experiments, children routinely confer a privileged status to the basic-level category (for example,
dog) and subordinate level (beagle) rather than to the
superordinate-level category (animal). For example,
Figure 1 Adults
Figure 2 Children
Yes/no judgments reported in Syrett et al. (2006), rendered by adults (Figure 1) and children (Figure 2), along a 7-point scale of
objects ranging from high to low degree of the property indicated to the right. Participants saw cubes (big), rods (long), disks ranging
from very spotted to one with no spots (spotted), and small containers ranging from full to empty (full).
Adolescent Language Development and Use
when shown an animal labeled with one of these
adjectives, 4-year-olds are willing to extend the property to another animal when the property is a stable
trait and when the animal is a member of the same
basic-level category.
There are a number of challenges facing the young
word learner acquiring adjectives. Children must
recruit real-world knowledge to know whether the
adjective–noun combination yields a true statement.
They must also learn the ordering between adjectives
and nouns in their language. To become efficient language processors, they need to recognize that it may
not be necessary to hold off assigning interpretation
until they hear the modified noun. They must learn
that many adjectives are linked to a contrasting antonym in their polarity (big/small). Finally, they must
learn that, in languages such as Spanish or French,
morphosyntax requires that the determiner, noun,
and adjective all agree in gender (une robe bleue, “a
blue dress”), that the noun may be dropped (el rojo,
“the red one”), and that different interpretations arise
from the verb combining with the adjective (estar v.
ser alto, to be “high up” v. “tall”). Despite the fact that
it may take children years to incorporate these linguistic constraints, many adult-like semantic features
of adjectives appear to be in place by age 5, perhaps
even earlier.
Kristen Syrett
Rutgers University
See Also: Child-Directed Speech (Features of); Color
Cognition and Language Development; Early Word
Learning; Grammatical Categories; Quantifiers; Semantic
Development; Syntactic Bootstrapping; Word Learning
Further Readings
Ebeling, K. S. and S. A. Gelman. “Children’s Use of Context
in Interpreting Big and Little.” Child Development, v.65
Graham, S., C. Cameron, and A. Welder. “Preschoolers’
Extension of Familiar Adjectives.” Journal of
Experimental Child Psychology, v.91 (2005).
Nadig, A., J. Sedivy, A. Joshi, and H. Bortfeld. “The
Development of Discourse Constraints on the
Interpretation of Adjectives.” In Proceedings of the
27th Annual Boston University Conference on Language
Development, B. Beachley, A. Brown, and F. Conlin, eds.
Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, 2003.
Smith, L. B., N. Cooney, and C. McCord. “What Is High?
The Development of Reference Points for High and
Low.” Child Development, v.57 (1986).
Syrett, K., E. Bradley, C. Kennedy, and J. Lidz. “Shifting
Standards: Children’s Understanding of Gradable
Adjectives.” In Proceedings of the Inaugural Conference
on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition: North
America, Honolulu, HI, Vol. 2, K. Ud Deen, J. Nomura,
B. Schulz, and B. D. Schwartz, eds. University of
Connecticut Occasional Papers in Linguistics, v.4 (2006).
Syrett, K., C. Kennedy, and J. Lidz. “Meaning and Context
in Children’s Understanding of Gradable Adjectives.”
Journal of Semantics, v.27 (2010).
Syrett, K. and J. Lidz. “30-Month-Olds Use the Distribution
and Meaning of Adverbs to Interpret Novel Adjectives.”
Language Learning and Development, v.6 (2010).
Syrett, K., J. Musolino, and R. Gelman. “How Can Syntax
Support Number Word Acquisition?” Language
Learning and Development, v.8 (2012).
Waxman, S. R. and R. S. Klibanoff. “The Role of
Comparison in the Extension of Novel Adjectives.”
Developmental Psychology, v.36 (2000).
Adolescent Language
Development and Use
Many years ago, it was widely believed that language
development was virtually complete by the time a child
reached 5 or 6 years of age and that further growth
in language beyond those years consisted mainly of
refinements in the use of grammar and the addition
of school-related vocabulary words. In the 1970s, however, researchers in the United States began publishing
studies of language development in older children and
adolescents, reporting that substantial growth occurred
well beyond the preschool years in areas such as the use
of complex syntax in spoken and written language.
Since those early days, researchers from around the
world have continued to study later language development with intensity, reporting that substantial changes
occur not only in syntax and vocabulary but also in
the areas of figurative language, verbal reasoning, and
pragmatics—the social use of language. This article will
highlight some of the key aspects of spoken and written
language that develop during adolescence, encompassing the years between 12 and 18. It should be noted that
changes that occur during these years are gradual, and
Adolescent Language Development and Use
that growth is most apparent when individuals from
widely separated age groups (e.g., 12 versus 15 years)
are compared in research studies. It should also be
noted that an adolescent’s performance on measures of
later language development is impacted by a variety of
external factors, including educational opportunities,
socioeconomic status, and family influences, and that
teens whose schools, neighborhoods, and parents support academic achievement are likely to demonstrate
more advanced spoken and written language skills than
their less fortunate peers. It also must be mentioned
that growth in language in all areas continues beyond
adolescence and into adulthood.
Adolescence is sometimes viewed as a stage in human
development when communication is marked by a
predominance of sarcasm and single-word utterances,
particularly in response to adults’ questions. Although
simplified communication does occur in adolescents,
typically, developing teens also demonstrate a remarkable ability to express themselves in ways that are
complex yet clear, precise, and efficient. The secret to
revealing this hidden linguistic competence is to engage
adolescents in tasks that call upon their knowledge and
enthusiasm for topics studied in school or encountered
beyond the classroom during free-time activities. For
example, when adolescents are prompted to speak
or write in the narrative, expository, or persuasive
genres, they are likely to use sentences that are longer
and contain a greater number of subordinate clauses
than when they are engaging in typical conversations.
For example, the following passage was produced by a
17-year-old girl during a narrative writing task:
As I was walking down the street with my friend
Sadie, we came upon a house that has always been
rumored to be haunted.
It was quite large and looked to have once been
painted bright colors.
But years of neglect and disuse had turned it a
brown color and left it peeling.
There were the usual trespassing signs posted.
But most everyone ignored those.
Adding to the home’s mystique was the fact that
none of the neighboring houses had been able to
keep their occupants for very long.
The syntactic complexity of this passage is far
greater than what one might expect to find in the
narrative writing of a typical 10-year-old child or
even in the daily conversational speech of the same
adolescent girl. The first sentence, for example, which
is 24 words long, contains one main clause and three
different types of subordinate clauses (adverbial, relative, and infinitive) embedded within it. The sentence
also employs both active and passive voice constructions. The final sentence also contains four types of
clauses (one main and three subordinate) and is 24
words long. Furthermore, just in this short passage,
the author has employed some rather sophisticated
vocabulary words. These include a metalinguistic
(rumored) and a metacognitive (ignored) verb, five
abstract nouns (neglect, disuse, mystique, fact, occupants), and four derived adjectives (haunted, trespassing, posted, neighboring), illustrating the overlap
between later syntactic and lexical development, a
phenomenon known as the syntax-lexicon interface.
A similar level of syntactic complexity can be seen
in the following passage of expository discourse produced by a 15-year-old boy who was asked to describe
the goal of chess:
When you are playing chess, you are trying to
capture your opponent’s pieces.
And often a way to do this is to gradually push
them back across the board with an advancing wall
of pawns or other pieces, to sort of trap them into a
smaller space and to gradually pick off all the outlying pieces until eventually the king is trapped.
The second sentence, which is 49 words long, reflects
a sophisticated level of knowledge of the game of chess.
And yet, despite its length, the sentence expresses the
speaker’s knowledge in a way that is clear, precise, and
efficient through the use of one main clause, five subordinate clauses, and an apt selection of literate words
and phrases (e.g., advancing wall of pawns).
A high level of syntactic complexity can also be
observed when adolescents are engaged in persuasive
discourse tasks, as in the following excerpt from a
16-year-old girl who was writing about the controversial topic of training animals to perform in circuses:
I believe animals should only be trained and put
in a circus if they have no possible way of living a
life of their own in the wild.
If an elephant is born and its mother dies and
the baby gets hurt and then someone brings it in,
then that animal could be trained.
Adolescent Language Development and Use
Even though people may lose their jobs, we as a
world are losing our wild animals.
We can’t spare animals just to train them for our
I think it is wrong to have these animals in the
circus. Humans can find other ways of amusing
The first two sentences of this passage are particularly dense with information. In the first sentence,
which contains 28 words, the author expresses her
views in a forthright manner through the use of one
main clause and four subordinate clauses. The second sentence with its 26 words is syntactically even
more complex, y…
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