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Mechanisms of Early Language Acquisition

Project description

Advancing understanding of how young infants acquire language

Today, little is known about the earliest form of language acquisition – an area of fascination in cognitive science. Helping to enhance understanding of this is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions MELA project. It aims to examine the role of the early language environment in shaping two aspects of language development: vocabulary growth and semantic organisation. To do this, the project will conduct a longitudinal investigation of lexical development between 9 and 18 months of age, allowing the project team to map the structure of individual parents’ speech onto their child’s language development. Strengthening connections between language acquisition and semantic development is key in this project.


Successful communication in humans critically depends on two aspects of language development: how many words we know (vocabulary growth) and whether we know how to combine them to understand and express meaningful ideas (semantic organization). This fellowship is designed to examine the role of early language environment in shaping these two aspects of language development. This aim will be addressed by conducting a longitudinal investigation of lexical development between 9 and 18 months of age. This will make it possible to map the structure of individual parents’ speech to the individual language development of their children. The focus on individual development promises not only to advance our theoretical understanding of typical development, but also to inform theory-based enrichment programs for atypical lexico-semantic development. To achieve these aims, the proposed research will strengthen connections between two fields in infant research, language acquisition and semantic development. Additionally, it will use a combination of complementary methods: analyses of naturalistic language input, parental reports, experimental paradigms, and cognitive modeling. Bridging the two research fields through a multi-method approach places this fellowship at the intersection of the fellow’s current expertise and the research lines currently active at the host institution (BCBL). Specifically, the semantic development aspect builds on the fellow’s strong background in category learning and lexico-semantic organization, while the language acquisition part aligns closely with the BCBL’s research lines. On the methodological side, the fellow will bring expertise in experimental designs, while skills related to the longitudinal approach, infant research, and cognitive modeling are those that the fellow will develop by training during this fellowship. Hence, this fellowship will strongly support the development of the prospective fellow’s independent line of research.


Net EU contribution
€ 181 152,96
20009 San Sebastian

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Noreste País Vasco Gipuzkoa
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
No data

Partners (1)