From variation to explanation: Understanding development in different learners and different languages.

This research stream will take what we have discovered in Phase 1 about word learning and grammatical development and use it to explain development in different learners and different languages.

Language learning is subject to considerable variation as a result both of differences in the processing abilities that individual children bring to the language learning task (Leonard, 2014) and of differences in the characteristics of the language being learned (Slobin, 1997). Theories of language learning must be able to deal with both kinds of variation. Building learning models that work across different populations and different languages is therefore a highly effective way of testing whether our theories have sufficient explanatory power.

In the first phase of LuCiD, we built models of lexical development that can explain how children’s curiosity-based learning mechanisms interact with the structure of the environment to drive word learning (e.g. Twomey & Westermann, 2017), and models of morpho-syntactic development that can explain the pattern of verb-marking errors in different languages (e.g. Freudenthal, Pine, Jones, & Gobet, 2015). In this stream, we will use differences in the language of typically developing children and children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) to build models of lexical and morpho-syntactic development that work across typical and atypical populations and across languages. 

This research stream has 3 projects:

Together these projects will tell us how children use the language that they hear to build linguistic representations and enable us to advise practitioners about how to support vocabulary and grammar learning in children with DLD.


Leonard, L. B. (2014). Children with specific language impairment. Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Slobin, D. I. (1997). The universal, the typological and the particular in acquisition. In D. I. Slobin (Ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition, Vol. 5: Expanding the contexts (pp.1-39). Mahwah: NJ: Erlbaum.

Twomey, K. E. & Westermann, G. (2018). Curiosity-based learning in infants: A neurocomputational approach. Developmental Science.

Freudenthal, D., Pine, J. M., Jones, G., & Gobet, F. (2015b). Simulating the cross-linguistic pattern of Optional Infinitive errors in children’s declaratives and Wh- questions. Cognition, 143, 61-76.