Everyday language input and production in 1,001 children from six continents

Bergelson, E., Soderstrom, M., Schwarz, I.-C., Rowland, C. F., Ramírez-Esparza, N., Rague Hamrick, L., Marklund, E., Kalashnikova, M., Guez, A., Casillas, M., Benetti, L., Van Alphen, P. M., & Cristia, A. (2023). Everyday language input and production in 1,001 children from six continents. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120(52): 2300671120. doi:10.1073/pnas.2300671120.
Language is a universal human ability, acquired readily by young children, whootherwise struggle with many basics of survival. And yet, language ability is variableacross individuals. Naturalistic and experimental observations suggest that children’slinguistic skills vary with factors like socioeconomic status and children’s gender.But which factors really influence children’s day-to-day language use? Here, weleverage speech technology in a big-data approach to report on a unique cross-culturaland diverse data set: >2,500 d-long, child-centered audio-recordings of 1,001 2- to48-mo-olds from 12 countries spanning six continents across urban, farmer-forager,and subsistence-farming contexts. As expected, age and language-relevant clinical risksand diagnoses predicted how much speech (and speech-like vocalization) childrenproduced. Critically, so too did adult talk in children’s environments: Children whoheard more talk from adults produced more speech. In contrast to previous conclusionsbased on more limited sampling methods and a different set of language proxies,socioeconomic status (operationalized as maternal education) was not significantlyassociated with children’s productions over the first 4 y of life, and neither weregender or multilingualism. These findings from large-scale naturalistic data advanceour understanding of which factors are robust predictors of variability in the speechbehaviors of young learners in a wide range of everyday contexts
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