The Language 0-5 Project

The Language05 project sat at the heart of the LuCiD centre and followed the language development of 80 English-learning children from 6 months to 4;6 years. It served as a ‘big data’ resource for the Centre adding a critical individual differences dimension to the other four research programmes. It coordinated with the other four programmes to establish how differences in processing abilities interact with linguistic knowledge, socio-cognitive skills and the environment across development, and, thus, built models that integrate ideas from all five research streams.

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We collected a detailed longitudinal corpus of naturalistic, experimental, questionnaire and standardised measures of cognitive, socio-cognitive and linguistic development.

Our preliminary analyses show that a number of factors predict how quickly children are likely to learn words: gender, statistical learning ability at 16 months, speed of language processing at 19 months, verbal working memory at 25 and 31 months, executive function ability at age 3 years. However, a number of factors do not (conceptual knowledge at 9 months, visual sequence learning ability at 12 months, sentence processing at 36-67, 42-43, and 48-9 months).

Our overarching conclusions so far:

  • Individual differences emerge very early on (e.g. from 8 months of age in vocabulary comprehension).
  • Many of the predictors we have tested explain only a small amount (albeit significant) of the differences we see in vocabulary growth across children.  
  • Vocabulary size itself is always a strong predictor of later growth. For example, how many words a child knows at 8 months seems to be a strong predictor of vocabulary growth between 9 and 18 months.
  • We are exploring the idea that vocabulary size and language learning ability may have a mutually beneficial dynamic relationship during acquisition. Children who are very communicative early on in life have an advantage in that they a) elicit more speech from caregivers, b) are able to process new, incoming information more quickly, and c) can use existing knowledge to bootstrap into new knowledge (put crudely, a child who already knows the word “ball” has an advantage in understanding, and learning, the sentence “kick the ball”).
  • We are exploring how best to analyse individual differences from looking time experiments.   Our preliminary conclusion is that reaction time measures, but not proportion of looking time measures, reflect meaningful individual differences in ability/knowledge.

You can follow our progress on Facebook, Twitter, and the Open Science Framework.

Project Team: Caroline Rowland (Lead), Amy BidgoodSamantha DurrantPaula McLaughlinMichelle PeterJulian Pine, Hannah Sawyer and Heather Turnbull

Start Date: September 2014

Duration: 5 years

Selected Outputs

Jago, L.S., Peter, M., Durrant, S., Bidgood, A., Pine, J.M., & Rowland, C.F., (under review). Individual differences in productive vocabulary: Identifying children who are slow to talk. Cognitive Development.

Durrant, S., Jessop, A., Chang, F., Bidgood, A., Peter, M.S., Pine, J.M., & Rowland, C.F. (Accepted). Does the understanding of complex dynamic events at 10 months predict vocabulary development. Language and Cognition. Preprint DOI: 10.31234/

Frost, R.L., Jessop, A., Durrant, S., Peter, M.S., Bidgood, A., Pine, J.M., Rowland, C.F., & Monaghan, P., (2020). Non-adjacent dependency learning in infancy, and its link to language development. Developmental Psychology, 120,  DOI: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2020.101291

Peter, M.S., Durrant, S., Jessop, A., Bidgood, A., Pine, J.M., & Rowland, C.F. (2019). Does speed of processing or vocabulary size predict later language growth in toddlers? Cognitive Psychology. 115, DOI: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2019.101238