You are here: Home Departments Language Development Introduction

Language Development -



Language is the most complex communication system known to man, yet children master it before they learn to tie their shoelaces. They learn to mimic the sounds of their language, to associate thousands of words with their meanings, to combine these words into long, grammatical sentences, and to use these sentences to convey complex messages about their world, their thoughts, their feelings and beliefs.   

The research of the Language Development Department (LaDD) is designed to discover how they achieve this. We build and test models of language acquisition that address the central question: How do the learning mechanisms in children’s brains use information in their environment to build mature linguistic knowledge?

We study what children say, what they understand, and how they learn from the sights, sounds and smells of the world around them. We study what changes in the brain during development, how children learn very different languages in different communities across the world, and why some children are so much quicker to learn to speak than others.

The department’s Senior Investigator, Evan Kidd , also leads the Language through Processing research group  here at the MPI for Psycholinguistics.

Parents and families can find out more about our work, including how to sign up to take part in our studies, at the Baby and Child Research Centre website  (link to site). Or follow us on Twitter at @LaDD_MPI.

Department themes

Our research is organised around three themes. Within our Language in the brain theme we test theories and models of how the mechanisms within the brain learn language. We use a range of methodological, and multi-methodological research designs, including computational modelling, corpus analysis, and behavioural and neurocognitive lab-based experiments. Within our Language across the world theme, we focus on cross-linguistic work. We test theories of language and communicative development for their ability to explain acquisition across different languages being learned in different cultural and multicultural environments. Within our Language over Development theme, we focus on tracking how language knowledge and use changes as children age. We use multiple measures from the same children studied at different ages to test theories of language acquisition for their ability to predict development change over time.

Our work is supplemented by a department-wide Innovations Team, who work with the Language Archive team to develop better methods and tools for research. We are developing tools for the semi-automated annotation of noisy real-world audio/video recordings of children and their families, creating more efficient, user-friendly experimental and corpus analysis tools, and working to improve the replicability and reproducibility of child language acquisition research.

Last checked 2018-11-08 by Nanjo Bogdanowicz
Language Development Department

Street address

Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:  +31 24 3521454


Director: Caroline Rowland

Secretary: Nanjo Bogdanowicz