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Journal: Journal of child language


ABSTRACT For sixty-seven children with ASD (age 1;6 to 5;11), mean Total Vocabulary score on the Language Development Survey (LDS) was 65·3 words; twenty-two children had no reported words; and twenty-one children had 1-49 words. When matched for vocabulary size, children with ASD and children in the LDS normative sample did not differ in semantic category or word-class scores. Q correlations were large when percentage use scores for the ASD sample were compared with those for samples of typically developing children as well as children with vocabularies <50 words. The 57 words with the highest percentage use scores for the ASD children were primarily nouns, represented a variety of semantic categories, and overlapped substantially with the words having highest percentage use scores in samples of typically developing children as well as children with lexicons of <50 words. Results indicated that the children with ASD were acquiring essentially the same words as typically developing children, suggesting delayed but not deviant lexical composition.

Concepts: Autism, Language, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, Speech, Lexicography, Word game, Vocabulary


This study investigated how forty-six mothers modified their talk about familiar and unfamiliar nouns and verbs when interacting with their children with Down Syndrome (DS), language impairment (LI), or typical development (TD). Children (MLUs < 2·7) were group-matched on expressive vocabulary size. Mother-child dyads were recorded playing with toy animals (noun task) and action boxes (verb task). Mothers of children with DS used shorter utterances and more verb labels in salient positions than the other two groups. All mothers produced unfamiliar target nouns in short utterances, in utterance-final position, and with the referent perceptually available. Mothers also talked more about familiar nouns and verbs and labelled them more often and more consistently. These findings suggest that mothers of children in the early period of language development fine-tune their input in ways that reflect their children's vocabulary knowledge, but do so differently for nouns and verbs.

Concepts: Down syndrome, Object, Noun, Verb, Speech, Reference, Grammatical number, Word game


The aim of this longitudinal study, carried out on a sample of Slovenian-speaking toddlers, was to analyze developmental changes and stability in early vocabulary development; to establish relations between toddler’s vocabulary and grammar; and to analyze the effects of parental education and the frequency of shared reading on toddlers' vocabulary and grammar. The sample included fifty-one toddlers, aged 1;4 at the time of the first, and 2;7 at the time of the last, assessment. Toddlers' vocabulary and grammar were assessed six times during a 15-month period using the Slovenian adaptation of the CDI. Our findings suggest great individual differences in both size and rate of toddlers' vocabulary development. Toddlers' vocabulary scores remained relatively stable across a 3-month period. Early vocabulary at 1;7 predicted vocabulary, sentence complexity, and mean length of utterance (MLU) at 2;7, while the frequency of shared reading mediated the effect of parental education on toddlers' vocabulary and grammar at 2;7.

Concepts: Time, Educational psychology, Grammar, Human development, Rate


We report a longitudinal comprehension study of (long) passive constructions in two native-Spanish child groups differing by age of initial exposure to L2 English (young group: 3;0-4;0; older group: 6;0-7;0), where amount of input, L2 exposure environment, and socioeconomic status are controlled. Data from a forced-choice task show that both groups comprehend active sentences, not passives, initially (after 3·6 years of exposure). One year later, both groups improve, but only the older group reaches ceiling on both actives and passives. Two years from initial testing, the younger group catches up. Input alone cannot explain why the younger group takes five years to accomplish what the older group does in four. We claim that some properties take longer to acquire at certain ages because language development is partially constrained by general cognitive and linguistic development (e.g. de Villiers, 2007; Long & Rothman, 2014; Paradis, 2008, 2010, 2011; Tsimpli, 2014).

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Developmental psychology, Second language acquisition, Passive


We designed a parent-directed home-visiting intervention targeting socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in children’s early language environments. A randomized controlled trial was used to evaluate whether the intervention improved parents' knowledge of child language development and increased the amount and diversity of parent talk. Twenty-three mother-child dyads (12 experimental, 11 control, aged 1;5-3;0) participated in eight weekly hour-long home-visits. In the experimental group, but not the control group, parent knowledge of language development increased significantly one week and four months after the intervention. In lab-based observations, parent word types and tokens and child word types increased significantly one week, but not four months, post-intervention. In home-based observations, adult word tokens, conversational turn counts, and child vocalization counts increased significantly during the intervention, but not post-intervention. The results demonstrate the malleability of child-directed language behaviors and knowledge of child language development among low-SES parents.

Concepts: Scientific method, Experimental design, Randomized controlled trial, Socioeconomic status, Science, Hypothesis, Developmental psychology, Human development


ABSTRACT Research with adults has shown that spoken language processing is improved when listeners are familiar with talkers' voices, known as the familiar talker advantage. The current study explored whether this ability extends to school-age children, who are still acquiring language. Children were familiarized with the voices of three German-English bilingual talkers and were tested on the speech of six bilinguals, three of whom were familiar. Results revealed that children do show improved spoken language processing when they are familiar with the talkers, but this improvement was limited to highly familiar lexical items. This restriction of the familiar talker advantage is attributed to differences in the representation of highly familiar and less familiar lexical items. In addition, children did not exhibit accent-general learning; despite having been exposed to German-accented talkers during training, there was no improvement for novel German-accented talkers.

Concepts: Improve, Language, Word, Speech recognition


Both the input directed to the child, and the child’s ability to process that input, are likely to impact the child’s language acquisition. We explore how these factors inter-relate by tracking the relationships among: (a) lexical properties of maternal child-directed speech to prelinguistic (7-month-old) infants (N = 121); (b) these infants' abilities to segment lexical targets from conversational child-directed utterances in an experimental paradigm; and © the children’s vocabulary outcomes at age 2;0. Both repetitiveness in maternal input and the child’s speech segmentation skills at age 0;7 predicted language outcomes at 2;0; moreover, while these factors were somewhat inter-related, they each had independent effects on toddler vocabulary skill, and there was no interaction between the two.

Concepts: Infant, Developmental biology, Skill, Linguistics, Language, Speech, Speech repetition, Vocabulary


The ability to make inferences is essential for effective language comprehension. While inferencing training benefits reading comprehension in school-aged children (see Elleman, 2017, for a review), we do not yet know whether it is beneficial to support the development of these skills prior to school entry. In a pre-registered randomised controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of a parent-delivered intervention intended to promote four-year-olds' oral inferencing skills during shared book-reading. One hundred children from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds were randomly assigned to inferencing training or an active control condition of daily maths activities. The training was found to have no effect on inferencing. However, inferencing measures were highly correlated with children’s baseline language ability. This suggests that a more effective approach to scaffolding inferencing in the preschool years might be to focus on promoting vocabulary to develop richer and stronger semantic networks.


What is the function of babbling in language learning? We examined the structure of parental speech as a function of contingency on infants' non-cry prelinguistic vocalizations. We analyzed several acoustic and linguistic measures of caregivers' speech. Contingent speech was less lexically diverse and shorter in utterance length than non-contingent speech. We also found that the lexical diversity of contingent parental speech only predicted infant vocal maturity. These findings illustrate a new form of influence infants have over their ambient language in everyday learning environments. By vocalizing, infants catalyze the production of simplified, more easily learnable language from caregivers.


Learners preferentially interpret novel nouns at the basic level (‘dog’) rather than at a more narrow level (‘Labrador’). This ‘basic-level bias’ is mitigated by statistics: children and adults are more likely to interpret a novel noun at a more narrow label if they witness ‘a suspicious coincidence’ - the word applied to three exemplars of the same narrow category. Independent work has found that exemplar typicality influences learners' inferences and category learning. We bring these lines of work together to investigate whether the content (typicality) of a single exemplar affects the level of interpretation of words and whether an atypicality effect interacts with input statistics. Results demonstrate that both four- to five-year-olds and adults tend to assign a narrower interpretation to a word if it is exemplified by an atypical category member. This atypicality effect is roughly as strong as, and independent of, the suspicious coincidence effect, which is replicated.