Parents’ Linguistic Alignment Predicts Children’s Language Development

AbstractChildren quickly gain enormous linguistic knowledge during early development, in part due to low-level features of their parents’ speech. Some posit that parents contribute to their child’s language development by tuning their own language according to their child’s developmental abilities and needs (Bruner, 1985; Snow, 1972). Here, we investigate this hypothesis by examining ‘alignment’ at the level of syntax and function words in a large-scale corpus of parent-child conversations and measuring its association with language development out- comes. To do so, we employ a statistical model of alignment to estimate its presence in our dataset and its predictive impact on a measure of vocabulary development. Our results corroborate previous findings, showing strong alignment for both parents and children; in addition, we demonstrate that parental alignment is a significant predictor of language maturity independent of demographic features, suggesting that parental tuning has strong ties to a child’s language development.

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