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January 2022

Why do infants begin to talk? Language as an unintended consequence

Journal/Book: J Child Lang. 1996; 23: 40 West 20TH Street, New York, NY 10011-4211. Cambridge Univ Press. 251-268.

Abstract: Scholars have addressed a range of questions about language development, but for some reason have neglected to ask why infants begin to talk. Biologists often prefer 'how' to 'why' questions, but it is possible to ask about the immediate consequences of developing behaviours - an acceptable strategy for attacking causation - and psycholinguists can study the immediate consequences to the infant of behaviours that lead to linguistic competence. This process is demonstrated with a series of illustrative proposals as to the short- and long-term consequences of vocal learning and utterance storage, two developmental phases that lead to talking, as well as the act of talking itself. The goal is to encourage investigation of behavioural dispositions that nudge the child, by degrees, towards proficiency in the use of spoken language.

Note: Article JL Locke, Univ Sheffield, Dept Human Commun Sci, 18A Claremont Crescent, Sheffield S10 2TA, S Yorkshire, England

Keyword(s): INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES; SPEECH-PERCEPTION; NATIVE LANGUAGE; SOUND PATTERNS; RECOGNITION; ACQUISITION; VOCALIZATIONS; SPECIFICITY; CONTINUITY; IMITATION


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