First Language Acquisition, Developmental Psychology of

R. A. Berman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this article, motivations for cross-linguistic comparisons of how children acquire their native language are noted, and major approaches to the field are reviewed, from traditional diary-studies of bilingual children, via the Anglocentric orientation of early developmental psycholinguistics, to extensive data collection and research in a wide range of languages and language-types over the last two decades of the twentieth century. Claims for universal underpinnings of language acquisition are discussed, including Chomskyan-based nativist claims for formal principles of Universal Grammar (UG) on the one hand, and psychologically motivated claims for extralinguistic perceptual and cognitive constraints shared by children acquiring different languages, on the other. In production of language, children across the world proceed from prelinguistic babbling to one-word utterances and on to early word combinations, grammatical clause structure, and clause combining. Such shared trends are compared with current research which emphasizes the marked impact of caretaker input and the effect of target-language typology on very young children in a range of domains, including early speech perception and babbling; the noun vs. verb bias in children's early lexicons; spatial distinctions; null subjects; word formation strategies; expression of reference, temporality, and locative motion in narratives; and differential deployment of structural devices such as passive voice for expressing impersonal perspectives in discourse. The article concludes by noting the need for further research designed for comparability between both those languages which are typologically closely related and those which differ in critical respects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2015


  • Field approaches
  • Language development universal trends
  • Target-language properties impact


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