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IASCL - Child Language Bulletin - Vol 31, No 1: July 2011
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Updates about the 12th International Congress for the Study of Child Language, Montréal, 19-23 July 2011

By Henri Cohen, Université du Québec à Montréal & Université Paris Descartes –CNRS

Conference website:

IASCL Montréal 2011

A few more days and we'll have the pleasure of welcoming all of you in Montreal. The scientific program of this 12th IASCL meeting offers rich and varied presentations on many aspects of language acquisition and performance. There are 62 symposia and close to 360 posters that will be offered to the participants, promising exciting and scintillating discussions. This year, in addition to our distinguished invited speakers, we'll also be treated to four oral student presentations on the last day of the conference.

There will be a cocktail reception on the opening evening, followed by the first guest lecture (Prof. Fred Genesee, Mc Gill University). There is now an almost final schedule of symposium and poster sessions for your perusal. If you are a presenter (symposium or poster), please, check that you are correctly listed in the program.

Program Schedule:

As you will note, there are 7-8 symposium presentations during each session. We have made an effort to avoid parallel presentations dealing with similar or closely related topics. However, we have received a large number of requests (from nearly every symposium convener :-) that constrain the symposium schedule. We are still working on answering every request.

This IASCL congress will also provide a great opportunity to meet with colleagues, students and reinforce or develop networks, as we are expecting around 600 participants. I invite you to visit the conference web site and learn about the conference venue, as well as important details about city life around the university and in Montreal. As you may know, the city is abuzz with festivals and we'll be, literally, in the midst of several popular events.

I hope that you are as excited as I am about this coming meeting. We are all very much looking forward to welcoming you in Montreal, this July.

IASCL: Appointment of New Officers and Election Results of New Members of the Executive Committee

By the IASCL Nominating and Appointing Committee: Fred Genesee, Aylin Kuntay and Edy Veneziano (Chair)

We are delighted to announce that Eve Clark and Dorit Ravid have accepted the invitation of the Nominating and Appointing Committee to serve as President and Vice-President respectively, from August 2011 to July 2014.

In addition, Ludovica Serratrice (Secretary), Brian MacWhinney (Assistant Secretary), and Anna Theakston (Treasurer) have all accepted to serve for another term.

Regarding the election of new members of the Executive Committee, we are pleased to announce that 120 votes were cast and that the 13 new elected members, from 12 different countries, are:

These elected member positions are tenable for six years (2011-2017). The Nominating and Appointing Committee’s recommendations for the appointment of the new officers of the Association and for the new members of the Executive Committee will be ratified at the Business Meeting in Montreal.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the incoming members of the Executive Committee and to thank all the nominees for standing for election. Thank you also to all the IASCL members who participated in the voting process.

The Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development

This web-based resource was originally developed by the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRNet) and was launched in 2007. It is now overseen by the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at The University of Western Ontario.

The Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development (Encyclopedia) is the first comprehensive, authoritative, archival, science-based, bilingual online resource focused on children's language and literacy development for the Canadian education sector. The Encyclopedia helps to provide answers to questions about children's language and literacy – answers that are based on relevant and up-to-date research presented in an easily accessible format. Early learning childcare practitioners, teachers, policymakers, and parents can all draw on the Encyclopedia for reliable, evidence-based information to support their daily practices and to make decisions in the best interests of the children in their care.

The Encyclopedia aims to cover a wide range of topics, including the development of oral language, reading, writing, and numeracy. In order to provide in-depth, quality information, each topic (section) is broken down into several Encyclopedia entries, and each entry (an article about 2,000 words in length) focuses on a specific aspect of the topic. Each topic is coordinated by leading Canadian language and literacy researchers who help to identify authors and review entries. The participation of these section editors has been critical to the project's success to date. These individuals will continue to play an invaluable role in the ongoing growth and expansion of the Encyclopedia.

Moreover, the goal of the Encyclopedia is to bring the best international research on language and literacy development to Canada. Thus, in addition to the many expert Canadian researchers contributing to the Encyclopedia, an increasing number of researchers from other countries are becoming involved in this project, including researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Finland, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, China, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates.

As more research is conducted and our understanding of language and literacy expands and changes, the Encyclopedia will grow in parallel. Please visit often, as new entries and commentaries are currently under review and will be added as they become available.

The Polish Frequency List of Child-Directed Speech

By Ewa Haman, University of Warsaw

An Excel tabulation of the frequencies of words in child-directed speech gathered from 8 corpora of Polish parent-child conversations was contributed by Ewa Haman, Bartłomiej Etenkowski, Magdalena Łuniewska, Joanna Szwabe, Ewa Dąbrowska, Marta Szreder and Marek Łaziński.

Polish is a highly inflected language and thus frequencies are provided for each word form and summed up for each lexeme as well.

Although only two of the corpora are currently in CHILDES, the remaining ones will eventually be added. All corpora used include more than 1,179,000 word tokens with more than 794,000 word tokens in CDS (speech directed to children aged between 0;10 and 6;11 by people aged 8;0 or more), about 44,500 different inflected forms in CDS, and about 21,000 different lexemes in CDS.

More information:

New Version of Phon Available

By Yvan Rose, Memorial University of Newfoundland

We are pleased to announce the release of Phon 1.5, which offers a vast array of improvements over all previous versions of the application. Please see the Release notes (link below) for a highlight of the most important changes.

Brief description
Phon is a software program that greatly facilitates a number of tasks required for the analysis of phonological development. Phon supports multimedia data linkage, unit segmentation, multiple-blind transcription, automatic labeling of data, and systematic comparisons between target (model) and actual (produced) phonological forms. All of these functions are accessible through a user-friendly graphical interface. Databases managed within Phon can also be queried using a powerful search interface. This software program works on Mac OS X, Windows and Unix/Linux platforms, is fully compliant with the CHILDES/TalkBank XML format, and supports Unicode font encoding. Phon is being made freely available to the community as open-source software. It meets specific needs related to the study of first language phonological development (including babbling), second language acquisition, and speech disorders. Phon facilitates data exchange among researchers and the construction of a shared PhonBank database, which supports research in all areas of phonological development.

Important links

Links to Phon:

Release notes:

Links to the PhonBank corpora:
-Corpora in CHAT format:
-Corpora in Phon format:

Discussion group:
Phon users are encouraged to subscribe to the discussion group (no Gmail account required to subscribe):
-To join the group, click on the “Apply for group membership” and follow the instructions.
-Group's email address (for message posting):


Funding: Current development of Phon and PhonBank is supported by the National Institute of Health. Earlier development of Phon was funded by grants from National Science Foundation, Canada Fund for Innovation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Petro-Canada Fund for Young Innovators, and the Office of the Vice-President (Research) and the Faculty of Arts at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Special thanks: While it is impossible to name everyone who ended up being involved in one way or another in this project, we owe special thanks to a wonderful group of early adopters and beta testers, without whom it would have been much more difficult to produce the current software.

Forthcoming Conferences and Workshops

What: The 12th International Pragmatics Conference
When: 3-8 July 2011
Where: Manchester, UK

What: Language Development Courses at the Linguistic Institute
When: 7 July – 2 Aug 2011
Where: University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

What: Workshop on the Acquisition of Modality
When: 9 July 2011
Where: London, UK

What: The 11th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference (ICLC 11, 2011)
When: 11-17 July 2011
Where: Xi’an, China

What: Younger = Better?: Comparing 5, 7 and 11 Year Olds Learning French in the Classroom
When: 14-15 July 2011
Where: Newcastle University, UK

What: The 13th Symposium on Cochlear Implants in Children (CI2011)
When: 14-17 July 2011
Where: Chicago, Illinois, USA

What: The 12th International Congress for the Study of Child Language (IASCL 2011)
When: 19-23 July 2011
Where: Montreal, Canada

What: The 2011 Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2011)
When: 20-23 July 2011
Where: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

What: Association for Linguistic Typology 9th Biennial Meeting (ALT9)
When: 21-24 July 2011
Where: Hong Kong, China

What: The 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS XVII) 2011
When: 17-21 August 2011
Where: Hong Kong, China

What: The 16th World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA2011)
When: 23-28 August 2011
Where: Beijing, China

What: The IEEE Conference on Development and Learning, and Epigenetic Robotics
When: 24-27 August 2011
Where: Frankfurt am Main, Germany

What: The 17th Annual Conference on Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP 2011)
When: 1-3 September 2011
Where: Paris, France

What: The British Psychological Society Developmental Section Annual Conference 2011
When: 7-9 September 2011
Where: Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK

What: The 21st Annual Conference of the European Second Language Association (EUROSLA21)
When: 8-10 September 2011
Where: Stockholm, Sweden

What: 20 Years of Learner Corpus Research: Looking Back, Moving Ahead
When: 15 -17 September 2011
Where: Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

What: PhD Course "Constructing Meaning in Language Acquisition”
When: 19 -22 September 2011
Where: Trondheim, Norway
Details: Dr. Valentin Vulchanov (Course Organizer): (Application Deadline: 15 August 2011)

What: The Seventh International Conference on Third Language Acquisition and Multilingualism
When: 15 -17 September 2011
Where: Warsaw, Poland

What: The International Fall School Multilingualism: European and Asian Perspectives
When: 26 September – 1 October 2011
Where: Hamburg, Germany

What: New Trends in Experimental Psycholinguistics
When: 29 -30 September 2011
Where: Madrid, Spain

What: The 17th meeting of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology
When: 29 September – 2 October 2011
Where: Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain

What: Second Language Research Forum (SLRF)
When: 6-9 October, 2011
Where: Ames, Iowa, USA

What: Child Language & Eyetracking: Analyses and Rationale (CLEAR)
When: 7 October, 2011
Where: Potsdam, Germany

What: The 36th Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 36)
When: 4-6 November 2011
Where: Boston, USA

What: The 2011 ASHA Convention
When: 17-19 November 2011
Where: San Diego, USA

What: Experimental Methods in Language Acquisition Research (EMLAR VIII)
When: 1-3 Feb 2012
Where: Utrecht, Netherlands
Details: announced later

What: The 13th Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics 2012 (TCP2012)
When: 9-10 March 2012
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Details: announced later

Conference and Workshop Calls

What: The 14th International Conference on the Processing of East Asian Languages (ICPEAL) and Symposium on Brain and Communication
When: 28-30 October 2011
Where: Nagoya, Japan
Submission Deadline: 30 June 2011

What: The 86th Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America
When: 5-8 January 2012
Where: Portland, Oregon, USA
Submission Deadline: 31 July 2011

What: Workshop on Conceptual Salience and Early Child Morphology
When: 11 -12 February 2012
Where: Vienna, Austria
Submission Deadline: 15 Sep 2011

What: The Bilingual and Multilingual Interaction
When: 30 March – 1 April 2012
Where: Bangor, United Kingdom
Submission Deadline: to be announced in summer 2011

What: The Fifth International Conference on Language, Culture and Mind (LCM V)
When: 27–29 June 2012
Where: The Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal
Submission Deadline: 15 Dec 2011

What: The 14th Meeting of the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association
When: 27–30 June 2012
Where: Cork, Ireland
Submission Deadline: 1 Sep 2011 (panel proposals), 30 Nov 2011 (abstracts)

What: International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development 2012 Biennial Meeting
When: 8- 12 July 2012
Where: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Submission Deadline: 30 Sep 2011

What: The 4th UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference (UK-CLC4)
When: 10–12 July 2012
Where: London, UK
Submission Deadline: 15 Dec 2011

What: Measuring Behavior 2012: The 8th International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research
When: 28 - 31 August 2012
Where: Utrecht, The Netherlands

What: Τhe 13th Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Adolescence (EARA)
When: 29 August – 1 Sep 2012
Where: Spetses, Greece
Submission Deadline: 30 Jan 2012

New CHILDES Corpus

New Dutch Narrative Corpus

A new corpus of narrative data from Dutch, called Asymmetries, has been contributed by Petra Hendriks, Charlotte Koster, and Sanne Kuiper. Data from normal participants includes child, adult, and elderly participants describing four six-picture story sequences. Some time next year data from children with ASD and ADHD will be added to the corpus. Audio is available, but it is not yet linked to the transcripts.

Book Announcements

Authors: Ben Ambridge and Elena Lieven
Title: Child Language Acquisition: Contrasting Theoretical Approaches
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-0-52-176804-7 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-0-52-174523-9 (Paperback)

Is children's language acquisition based on innate linguistic structures or built from cognitive and communicative skills? This book summarizes the major theoretical debates in all of the core domains of child language acquisition research (phonology, word-learning, inflectional morphology, syntax and binding) and includes a complete introduction to the two major contrasting theoretical approaches: generativist and constructivist. For each debate, the predictions of the competing accounts are closely and even-handedly evaluated against the empirical data. The result is an evidence-based review of the central issues in language acquisition research that will constitute a valuable resource for students, teachers, course-builders and researchers alike.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Speech perception, segmentation and production
  3. Learning word meanings
  4. Theoretical approaches to grammar acquisition
  5. Inflection
  6. Simple syntax
  7. Movement and complex syntax
  8. Binding, quantification and control
  9. Related debates and conclusions

As the name implies, the authors’ aim in writing the book was to compare the competing theoretical accounts of all the major language-acquisition phenomena, in as even-handed and comprehensive a manner as possible. The authors therefore hope that this will be a useful textbook for course-leaders of all theoretical persuasions! Free inspection copies are available from Cambridge University Press:

Editors: Nick Danis, Kate Mesh, Hyunsuk Sung
Title: BUCLD 35
Subtitle: Proceedings of the 35th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
ISBN: 978-1-57-473165-1 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-1-57-473065-4 (Paperback)

The 35th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development was held November 5-7, 2010, in Boston, MA. The two-volume proceedings contains 55 of the papers from the conference, including the plenary address by William Snyder. The complete table of contents is available at

Authors: Wyn Johnson and Paula Reimers
Title: Patterns in Child Phonology
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
ISBN13: 978-0-74-863820-8
ISBN10: 0748638202

This advanced introduction to non-disordered phonological acquisition is the first textbook of its kind. Relevant to theoretical, applied and clinical phonology, this student-friendly text will enable the reader to enhance their observational skills and develop an understanding of the connection between child data and phonological theory. The authors provide a clear overview of issues in phonological acquisition, investigating child phonological patterns, phonological theory, the pre-production stages of phonological acquisition and non-grammatical factors affecting acquisition.

Wyn Johnson and Paula Reimers first present a rich set of cross-linguistic data calling for phonological analyses before introducing a broad spectrum of phonological theory, which ranges from defining what is meant by 'markedness' to demonstrating how Optimality Theory explains child patterns. The question of when acquisition begins in the child also entails an investigation of pre-production stages, which casts doubt on the validity of phonological theory and necessitates the examination of alternative accounts of child patterns. By steering the reader to investigate the extent to which theories of speech production can explain recurring sound patterns in child language and introducing perceptual aspects of acquisition, this book provides readers with a sound understanding of the processes in phonological acquisition, essential to students and practitioners.

More information:

Author: Anat Ninio
Title: Syntactic Development, Its Input and Output
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN13: 978-0-19-956596-2
ISBN10: 0199565961

This book places the syntactic learning process under close scrutiny. The focus is on the characteristics of the linguistic input and resultant output. The conclusions are that young children's early syntactic combinations are surprisingly similar to parents' input in their global features.

Unique to this book is its reliance on very large English corpora of parental speech and child utterances, hand-analyzed for core grammatical relations. Drawing on mainstream linguistic theory (the Minimalist Program, Dependency Grammar), Complexity Theory (self-organization), and quantitative linguistics (corpus-based linguistics, Zipf curves), it analyzes the input and output languages both theoretically and empirically, building on the contribution of the different source theories in a detailed and explicit manner. Unique in combining mainstream generative or Chomskian linguistics with a learning theory, it provides a model of the acquisition of syntax as similar to vocabulary learning - with possible applications in education and remedial intervention.

The book has an introduction and five chapters:

  1. Core syntactic relations
  2. Registers and corpora
  3. Verbs
  4. Input and output
  5. Frequencies

The introduction is available in the publisher's online catalogue

More information:

Author: Johanne Paradis, Fred Genesee & Martha Crago
Title: Dual Language Development and Disorders: A Handbook on Bilingualism and Second Language Learning (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Brooks Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-59857-058-8

As more and more dual language learners enter the school system, now's the ideal time for this second edition of the bestselling textbook—essential for preparing SLPs and educators to work with young children who are bilingual or learning a second language.

This comprehensive, student-friendly text takes the popular first edition to the next level, enriching it with 6 years of new research and the latest guidance on best practices. Dispelling the many myths about dual language development, the expert authors arm future professionals with the information they need to support young bilingual children and their families, all while meeting Head Start's guidelines on cultural and linguistic responsiveness. Pre-service professionals will get a solid foundation of knowledge to help them

Undergraduate and graduate students will also benefit from detailed profiles of dual language learners, definitions of key terms, and summary sections that juxtapose key points with their implications for effective practice.

With the clear information in this state-of-the-art textbook—also a valuable resource for in-practice SLPs and educators—professionals will be ready to make informed decisions that help young dual language learners thrive, both at home and in the classroom.

More information:

Editors: A. Lynn Williams, Sharynne McLeod & Rebecca J. McCauley
Title: Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children
Publisher: Brookes Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-59857-018-2

With detailed discussion and invaluable video footage of 23 treatment interventions for speech sound disorders (SSDs) in children, this textbook and DVD set should be part of every speech-language pathologist's professional preparation. Focusing on children with functional or motor-based speech disorders from early childhood through the early elementary period, this textbook gives preservice SLPs critical analyses of a complete spectrum of evidence-based phonological and articulatory interventions.

This textbook fully prepares SLPs for practice with

An essential core text for pre-service SLPs—and an important professional resource for practicing SLPs, early interventionists, and special educators—this book will help readers make the best intervention decisions for children with speech sound disorders.

More information:

Thesis Announcements

Author: Irina Dubinski
Title: Bilingual Dialogic Book-Reading Intervention for Preschool Children with Slow Expressive Vocabulary Development: A Feasibility Study
Institution: University of Toronto

The purpose of the study was to examine the feasibility of a dialogic book-reading intervention for bilingual preschool children with expressive vocabulary delays. The intervention was provided in English and Spanish concurrently to an experimental group of six children, while six children were in a delayed treatment control group. Dialogic book-reading has been shown previously to be effective with monolingual children, and the current study was the first to extend it to bilingual children. The children participating in the study were 22 - 41 months-old and were recruited from the waiting list of an agency providing speech-language services. The intervention was provided in English in the children's homes by the primary investigator and in Spanish by the children's mothers, who were trained in the techniques of dialogic book-reading. Thirty fifteen-minute sessions in each language using dialogic book-reading strategies were provided to each child in the intervention group over six weeks. The study examined the acquisition of ten target words selected for each child in English and Spanish separately, in addition to overall increases in the children's vocabularies. The children in the intervention group learned significantly more target words in each language following the intervention than did the children in the control group. The children in the intervention group were also able to produce the acquired words at a delayed posttest six weeks following the posttest. The intervention also led to an improvement in the ability of the children in the intervention group to stay focused on book-reading tasks. The gains in the overall vocabulary of the children in the two groups did not differ significantly. The mothers' evaluations of the intervention revealed their satisfaction with the approach. The mothers were successful in learning dialogic book-reading strategies and stated that they felt empowered to improve their child's vocabulary development.

Author: Sara Feijoo
Title: Learning from the Input: Syntactic, Semantic and Phonological Cues to the Noun Category in English
Institution: University of Barcelona

Over the past years, mainstream linguistic theories have described first language acquisition and development as a process involving innate knowledge about the grammatical properties of language on the part of infant language learners. Such accounts of syntactic development assume the primary linguistic input to be too poor for language learning to take place (i.e. the so-called Poverty from the Stimulus Argument). Innate linguistic knowledge would thus provide children with the information they need to become fully competent speakers of their native language. The present dissertation aims at challenging such a view by showing that children get to syntax from the information available in the speech signal.

One of the most important linguistic tasks that children must accomplish throughout their development is that of categorizing words into their corresponding grammatical categories. Knowledge of the grammatical category membership of words is an essential part of language development, since it is a prerequisite to know how to use words and produce grammatically correct sentences. How do English-learning children know that “table” is a noun, “eat” is a verb, and “kiss” can be both a noun and a verb? Under nativist accounts, abstract grammatical categories are innate, that is, children have the a priori knowledge of the fact that the language to which they are exposed contains such things as nouns, verbs or adjectives. Their task is simply to learn the lexical items of their native language’s lexicon and to map these items into their categories. However, recent empirical research shows that infants possess a series of learning mechanisms which are more powerful than previously assumed and which enable them to extract regularities from their linguistic environment and use them to acquire basic grammatical information. Consequently, if evidence is found that grammatical categories are reliably and consistently represented in the speech addressed to young language learners, given the fact that learners are able to track these regularities, there will be no need of postulating neither a presumably impoverished linguistic input nor any kind of innate knowledge about the nature of grammatical categories.

The present study examines the reliability with which the noun category is represented in the speech addressed to English-learning children up until the age of two and a half years old. A close examination is undertaken at a series of phonological, distributional and semantic criteria which most English nominal elements have in common and which would potentially make up the English noun category. The results from this study reveal that each of the above-mentioned criteria alone can account for a considerable proportion of the whole inventory of nouns to which children are exposed. More interestingly, when combined, all those three sources of information subsume most of the nouns under consideration.

Therefore, on the one hand, this study provides evidence for the fact that phonology, syntax and semantics are not clear-cut dimensions of linguistic description, but they are rather interconnected and interact with one another in a systematic way. On the other hand, the study presents compelling evidence for the fact that the usefulness of linguistic experience has been underestimated under nativist accounts of language development. Thus, the results show that the environmental speech stream to which very young language learners are exposed contains information which is sufficient and reliable enough so as to form an abstract grammatical category for nouns on the basis of experience alone and without any a priori linguistic knowledge.

Author: Francesca La Morgia
Title: Bilingual First Language Acquisition: The Nature of the Weak Language and the Role of the Input
Institution: Dublin City University

Full text available at

This thesis investigates the development of the weak language in early bilingual language acquisition and its results are based on longitudinal and experimental data from 4 Italian-English bilingual children and their parents. The purpose of this thesis is twofold: firstly, to present a new method to assess weak language development and the role of the input in bilingual first language acquisition; secondly, to determine whether there is a relationship between input, weak language development and the acquisition of new information structure. The factors included in the analysis of the weak language are rate of acquisition, production of target-deviant forms, vocabulary, MLU and discourse pragmatics. The results are summarised in the Weak Language Scale. The results are further tested by examining longitudinal and experimental data which are used to test the hypothesis that children who develop Italian as a weak language have difficulty processing subject inversion structures, which require a high processing load due to the interface between syntax and pragmatics. The results of the Weak Language Scale are then compared to those of the Input Scale, which represents the amount of qualitative and quantitative input each child has been exposed to. The final results show that the input plays a major role in bilingual first language acquisition and it has an effect on weak language development. The findings also suggest that linguistic properties at the interface between syntax and pragmatics are harder to process for children who develop Italian as a weak language.

Book Review

Review of Ben Ambridge & Elena Lieven (2011). Child Language Acquisition: Contrasting Theoretical Approaches. Cambridge University Press. By Chloë R. Marshall, City University London

Ben Ambridge and Elena Lieven have done the field of child language acquisition a great service in producing a book that is remarkably balanced in its treatment of the two main theoretical approaches that frame our research – the nativist/generativist/Universal Grammar approach on the one hand, and the constructivist/emergentist/socio-pragmatic/functionalist/usage-based approach on the other. The authors explain that their goal is to “identify key debates in (...) the “core” domains of language acquisition (…) and to outline the empirical evidence for and against each theoretical proposal, in an even-handed, systematic and (…) comprehensive manner” (page xiii). They succeed admirably. The book is unique in its critical, yet remarkably fair, analysis of classic through to very recent studies, across not just syntax (which deservedly gets most space, given its centrality to theories of acquisition), but also phonology, the lexicon and morphology.

The authors repeatedly and convincingly make the point that many studies claiming to provide evidence for or against one or the other theoretical approach do not actually do so, either because researchers do not code and analyse data in a way that is fair to the opposing approach, or because they do not include control conditions that would allow alternative explanations to be ruled out. I therefore particularly appreciated the authors’ ideas for to how future studies should be designed in order to better tease apart the predictions of the two approaches; all researchers should take note of this guidance. I also appreciated the tables in each chapter that summarise the evidence for and against each approach from the studies discussed up until that point. These tables are particularly helpful when they’re summarising research with which the reader is less familiar.

My only (minor) criticism is that studies of children with language impairments, and in particular those with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), are not covered until the final chapter, chapter 9, entitled “Related debates and conclusions”. The book’s opening sentence is a question: “How do children acquire their native language” (page xiii). To be fair, the authors do state clearly in the preface that their focus is on language acquisition in typical (and monolingual) children. However, I’m sure I would not be alone in arguing that studying how certain children struggle to acquire their native language has revealed much over the last few decades about how typical acquisition proceeds. This research arguably deserves a place earlier in the book, and more than the 3 pages allocated to it. For example, work by van der Lely and colleagues (e.g. van der Lely and Ullman, 2001; Marshall & van der Lely, 2006) and Joanisse and colleagues (e.g. Joanisse & Seidenberg, 1998; Joanisse, 2004) on English past-tense realisation in children with SLI forms an important part of the body of research on the single versus dual route models of morphology, but it does not feature in the otherwise comprehensive coverage of that topic on pages 169-187.

Aside from its value to researchers, Ambridge and Lieven’s book is sure to be welcomed by lecturers and students alike. I teach trainee speech and language therapists, who invariably find theoretical approaches to language acquisition the most challenging part of their module on typical speech and language development. Some, as they explore the literature, remark on the heatedness of the theoretical debates, wondering why it is that researchers care so much which approach is right. I can now direct them to this book; inside its covers they will get caught up in the passion that child language researchers have for their research, but will also come away with the tools to better evaluate just how convincing the competing evidence is. And given Ambridge and Lieven’s clear and engaging writing style, students (and their lecturers) will find reading this book a pleasure, not a chore.

Chloe Marshall is Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology and Language Acquisition, and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Department of Language and Communication Science of City University London.
Email Address:


Joanisse, M.F. (2004). Specific Language Impairments in Children: Phonology, Semantics and the English Past Tense. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 156-160.

Joanisse, M.F., Seidenberg, M.S. (1998). Specific Language Impairment in children: An impairment in grammar or processing?. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2, 240-246.

Marshall, C. R. & van der Lely, H. K. J. (2006) A challenge to current models of past tense inflection: the impact of phonotactics. Cognition, 100, 2, 302-320.

van der Lely, H. K. J., & Ullman, M. (2001). Past tense morphology in specifically language impaired children and normally developing children. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16, 177-217

Further Announcements

Extended Deadline for the Journal of Child Language Special issue on Atypical Language Development: 15 Sep 2011

By Edith Bavin, La Trobe University

This is a call for papers for a special issue of JCL, focusing on Atypical Language Development. Such papers would include theory and data on children who are acquiring their first language in atypical ways, attributable to either developmental (i.e., genetic, including but not limited to children with autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Specific Language Impairment) or acquired (e.g., neonatal or early experienced brain damage or maltreatment) etiologies. Highest priority will go to papers which are not just descriptions of the problem in various clinical populations, but test theories and/or compare children cross-linguistically.

Relevant questions could involve what the attested language delays and deficits reveal about:

Papers should be a maximum of 10,000 words, but shorter papers would be preferred. The deadline for submission HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO SEPTEMBER 15th 2011.

Submissions should be made on Manuscript Central:

In the covering letter please state that the manuscript is to be considered for this special issue. Instructions for Contributors are available on Manuscript Central.

Additional CLAN Dialogs, iPad CLAN, XML CLAN

By Brian MacWhinney, Carnegie Mellon University

A number of new features have been added to CLAN. They are:

  1. CLAN programs now run inside the TalkBank web browser. For CHILDES, this browser is found at For TalkBank, it is found at
  2. Leonid has added additional dialog buttons to CLAN's Commands window for "TIERS" and "SEARCH". Having these buttons is particularly useful for new users of CLAN, but it can also be helpful for experienced users who are having trouble with certain fussy details, particularly in regard to the SEARCH commands based on the +s switch. After selecting the program one wishes to use, such as COMBO or FREQ, these buttons will become available. Hopefully, the interface is pretty intuitive.
  3. The TalkBank browser (with its CLAN commands) can also run on iPhone and iPad using a standard browser. Because the iPad and iPhone do not support streaming media using Apple's Streaming server, Spencer Sugarman has created a separate demo site where one can see TalkBank materials broadcast using an alternative server called Wazoo. Curious iPhone and iPad devotees can see a demo by going to One needs JavaScript and pop-ups enabled.
  4. There is an initial existence proof of the running of CLAN programs through web browsers using XML.

Bibliography of Empirical and Theoretical Studies based on the Competition Model

By Brian MacWhinney, Carnegie Mellon University

Brian MacWhinney has composed a bibliography of published papers based on Competition Model ideas. So far the list is at 147 articles. He is including work on the DevLex model, which is tightly compatible, but not general PDP work which is more loosely compatible. This list is available on the web at:

Brian has been working over the last few years on expanding the model to better deal with issues in L2 (fluency, training, resonance), to integrate DevLex concepts, to deal with the shift from prototypes to cue focusing, and to match up with new online methods (ERP, self-paced reading, eye movements, mouse-tracking). He welcomes both positive and negative feedback on any of these attempts.

New version of Spanish MOR Part of Speech Tagger

By Brian MacWhinney, Carnegie Mellon University

Brian has recently been fixing problems with the Spanish MOR part of speech tagger, recreating the POST disambiguator, and running MOR and POST on the 9 corpora on CHILDES that have been tagged before. The tagging is improved and the system has much fewer problems now with disambiguation. However, the training corpus still needs another day or two of checking to improve accuracy. If anyone wants to volunteer, that would help a lot. It may also be a good idea to consider using the new tag markers in Spanish corpora to delimit initial and final vocatives and communicators. Marking these in current corpora would be extra work, but if colleagues are creating new corpora, it would probably help tagging accuracy.

The new version of Spanish MOR is on the web at

Children's Language and Poverty

By Keith Nelson, Penn State University

For anyone interested in the disturbing extent of language delays for children in poverty, in implications for prevention and intervention, and in implications of individual differences for language acquisition theories -- here is a new large study just out. Comments, associations, and so on would be very much welcomed by the authors.

Nelson et al. (2011) Language delays of impoverished preschool children in relation to early academic and emotion recognition skills. First Language, 31, 164-194.

Talk by Patricia Kuhl: The Linguistic Genius of Babies

There is an interesting talk in the TED series by Patricia Kuhl on child language. The URL is

About the talk:

At TEDxRainier, Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one language over another -- by listening to the humans around them and "taking statistics" on the sounds they need to know. Clever lab experiments (and brain scans) show how 6-month-old babies use sophisticated reasoning to understand their world.

Special Issue in Journal of Communication Disorders

Special Issue: Clinics in Communication Disorders: Assessment and Intervention of Bilingual Children with SLI

Edited by Luigi Girolametto and Patricia Cleave
Journal of Communication Disorders, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 453 – 556 (November – December 2010)

Special Issues in Lingua

Special Issue: Specific Language Impairment
Edited by Petra Schulz and Naama Friedmann
Lingua, Volume 121, Issue 3, Pages 333-566 (February 2011)

Special Issue: Acquisition at the Linguistic Interfaces
Edited by Jason Rothman and Roumyana Slabakova
Lingua, Volume 121, Issue 4, Pages 567-688 (March 2011)

From the Editor

The Child Language Bulletin is the official newsletter of the IASCL Association, and it is published twice a year on the website. All members of the association will receive an e-mail message each time a new issue of the Bulletin is published.

I encourage members to submit news and information that might be relevant to our research community, for instance, report on a conference or workshop, announcements about forthcoming conferences and workshops, new CHILDES corpora, books, and completed PhD Theses, conference and workshop calls, book reviews, and surveys. We need your contributions to keep the Bulletin abreast of developments in our field.

Please send any items that are of interest to the IASCL community to

I look forward to receiving your submissions!

Angel Chan
Room GH632
Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hunghom, Hong Kong SAR

IASCL Donation Drive

The IASCL is a worldwide organization, which means that it aims to serve child language researchers in all countries of the world. Child language research is important everywhere, both from a theoretical perspective (cf. for instance the significance of cross-linguistic evidence) and from a more applied point of view (cf. for instance the need for good description to allow for the assessment of language learning problems). Unfortunately financial considerations are often a hindrance to the development of scientific disciplines in countries with severe economic problems. The IASCL has always been supportive of would-be IASCL members working in such countries by waiving membership fees for them.

IASCL funds are limited, though. In the past, donations from regular IASCL members have been very helpful in supporting colleagues from economically disadvantaged countries. In order to continue offering that support, your donations are very welcome indeed. Each donation, whatever the amount, will be acknowledged by a receipt signed by the IASCL Treasurer (useful perhaps for tax purposes). Please contact Dr Theakston for further details.

Cheques in pounds sterling payable to IASCL can be sent to:

Dr Anna Theakston
IASCL Treasurer
University of Manchester
Department of Psychology
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL

Cash payments in pounds sterling can also be made by prior arrangements with Dr Theakston at the above address.

The IASCL as a whole will be sure to benefit from the more diversified nature of its membership as a result of your donations. Many thanks in advance!

Anna Theakston, IASCL Treasurer


You are strongly encouraged to join IASCL or renew your membership by paying membership fees through our conference web site around the time of each triennial conference. If, however, you did not attend the last conference, and have not since renewed your membership, you can do so now. Current membership fees are £50 for regular members, and £27 for students. Members are eligible for a substantial discount for volumes 1-6 of TiLAR, and for a reduced subscription fee to the following journals: the Journal of Child Language, First Language, and the International Journal of Bilingualism. Your fees will contribute to the organization of the upcoming Congress and they will be especially valuable in the provision of student travel bursaries.


Membership (£50 for regular members; or £27 for students*) is for three years, and expires on the first day of the next triennial Congress, to be held in the summer of 2011 in Montreal. Members in countries with nonconvertible currencies or currency transfer restrictions or other economic difficulties should request a waiver of the membership fee. Additional contributions for the support of colleagues and program in countries with currency and/or economic difficulties are welcomed. Please get in touch with the Treasurer.

To join IASCL or renew your membership, please complete the online registration form. To make your payment, please telephone 00 44 1361 884466 and ask to speak to Colette or Katherine, explaining that you wish to pay IASCL membership fees OR email We will be able to take most credit/debit cards except American Express and Diners Club Card. Please note that credit card payments attract an administration fee of £5. *If you wish to pay the student membership fee, please send proof of student status to the treasurer at the address below:

Dr Anna Theakston
IASCL Treasurer
Coupland Building
School of Psychological Sciences
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL

For more information, please visit