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?

The length of the activities range anywhere from 10-20 minutes per child to upwards of 45 minutes for some of our fun Language Adventures. Many activities are very interactive, and some involve listening to a short story, playing a game with puppets, or answering questions about a series of pictures. Participation is always completely voluntary, and we make every effort to ensure that children are comfortable. When studies are carried out in schools, we coordinate convenient participation times for teachers and students. Kids often enjoy the novelty and individual attention of the task and ask "When are we going to do this again!"

How do I get started?

Simply use the "Join Us!" link and register your child. If a study is being carried out in your child's school, their teacher will coordinate with you. 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