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How children break into language and become interesting talkers within 3 years.

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Within the first year of life, infants demonstrate the ability to communicate with others using gesture and vocalisations. Soon after they break into conventional language and begin to use words. Having done so they begin to engage in proto-conversations that others naturally find interesting. The preschool years then form a period of forming and testing out expectations about how language works as a tool for facilitating the conversations they wish to have. By drawing on longitudinal studies of individual differences, corpus-based experiments and a randomized controlled trial, I will discuss how children make these qualitative leaps forward in language development and why a social gradient in language ability emerges around 18 months.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society series.

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