Growing into Language: Developmental Trajectories and Neural Underpinnings

Liliana Tolchinsky, Ruth A. Berman

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


We argue that children undergo significant linguistic and socio-cognitive developments from childhood to adolescence and beyond, and that these derive from a combination of changes in the brain (based on genetic endowment) and environmental factors like ambient language(s), SES background, and literacy. Based on our own research backed up by findings of philosophers, (psycho)linguists, neurobiologists, and cognitive scientists, the book traces neurological underpinnings and developmental trajectories in authentic language use in diverse communicative contexts from storytelling and peer talk to writing academic essays. Following a brief prologue and a review of how the brain drives language at different periods in development (Chapter 1), Chapters 2 through 7 each embrace a particular world of knowledge and use of language. Beginning along a timeline, the book deals with using the past for narration (Chapter 2), talking and writing about events in the present (Chapter 3), and relating to (im)possible eventualities in the future (Chapter 4); it then proceeds to the domains of figurative language (Chapter 5), metalinguistic activities (Chapter 6), and gaining literacy in writing, reading, and digital communication (Chapter 7). Chapters 2 through 7 are constructed around an introduction to the domain, followed by a description of linguistic means of expression, neurological underpinnings, and developmental trajectories. The book concludes with an overview of fresh insights shed on these topics and the factors that booster development, finally pointing to questions for future study.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages352
ISBN (Electronic)9780192849984
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • adolescence
  • cognition
  • communication
  • development
  • genre
  • grammar
  • language
  • linguistics
  • neurobiology
  • schoolchildren


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