Infant Communication

Authored by: Barbara Gruenbaum , Nicole Depowski , Kathleen E. Shaw , Heather Bortfeld

The Routledge Handbook of Family Communication

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  November  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415881982
eBook ISBN: 9780203848166
Adobe ISBN: 9781136946370


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We know that a great deal of language development takes place in the first year of life. During this initial period, infants are immersed in the ambient language(s), which– coupled with a dynamic period of neural development—drives rapid and robust language learning. A key factor in this process is the infant's own active elicitation of responses from his or her caregivers. This communicative give-and-take helps create for the infant an environment rich in linguistic structure, which is fundamental for language development to take place. In this chapter, we will review data that highlight the dynamic nature of caregiver–child interaction and how such interaction supports language learning. Specifically, we will discuss the degree to which children enter the world primed to learn the ambient language(s), the learnable structures that are inherent in languages, and how communicative interaction between caregivers and infants potentiates and supports infants’ learning of these structures.

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