University of Massachusetts Amherst

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For Parents

How do children acquire a system as complex as language so quickly and so well? What are the differences between child and adult language, and how do children eventually converge on the adult grammar?


Our research studies provide us (and you) with a source of information about one of the most exciting aspects of a child's growth. You can find answers to some commonly asked questions below.


What is your research about?

We study how children acquire language by looking at how they interpret and understand a variety of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic phenomena. Some recent projects have studied how they understand quantifiers like “each” and “every,” how they assign reference for pronouns, and how they treat sentences with multiple question words. Check out our Recent Studies page for more info!

Is my child eligible to participate?

The requirements of each study vary with regards to age range, linguistic background (native language and/or linguistic environment at home), and the presence or absence of language disorders. Therefore, it is very likely that your child can participate in some of our studies. Kids often participate in several studies over the course of a year.

How do you run a typical study?

Studies typically last 10-15 minutes per child, and often involve listening to a short story, playing a game with puppets, or answering questions about a series of pictures. The kids enjoy the novelty and individual attention of the task, but participation is always completely voluntary. We make every effort to ensure that they are comfortable and coordinate convenient testing times for teachers and students. 

How do I get started?

Simply return a signed consent form to your child’s teacher! Currently all studies are run through schools. If you did not receive a consent form through your child’s teacher, we regret that we cannot work with your child at this time. We hope to open our on-campus lab to parents and kids this coming spring, so check back for more info!

What are some of your results?

Check out our Recent Studies page.

This lab is part of the UMass Amherst Linguistics Department