The Varieties of Speech to Young Children

Janellen Huttenlocher*, Marina Vasilyeva, Heidi R. Waterfall, Jack L. Vevea, Larry V. Hedges

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


This article examines caregiver speech to young children. The authors obtained several measures of the speech used to children during early language development (14-30 months). For all measures, they found substantial variation across individuals and subgroups. Speech patterns vary with caregiver education, and the differences are maintained over time. While there are distinct levels of complexity for different caregivers, there is a common pattern of increase across age within the range that characterizes each educational group. Thus, caregiver speech exhibits both long-standing patterns of linguistic behavior and adjustment for the interlocutor. This information about the variability of speech by individual caregivers provides a framework for systematic study of the role of input in language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1062-1083
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • caregiver education
  • caregiver speech
  • speech to children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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