Research Topic

Developmental Linguistics: The Role of Linguistic Theory in Child Language Research

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In recent years, experimental approaches have come to play an increasingly important role in child language research, prompted by the goal of testing the linguistic theories that are used to explain and predict children’s language acquisition, as well as by the greater availability of child-friendly ...

In recent years, experimental approaches have come to play an increasingly important role in child language research, prompted by the goal of testing the linguistic theories that are used to explain and predict children’s language acquisition, as well as by the greater availability of child-friendly experimental methods.

Linguistic theories are important because they provide a framework for understanding children’s linguistic behavior and development. The Theory of Universal Grammar, for example, provides a basis for understanding how children acquire so much about language in such a short period, given that the linguistic knowledge children acquire vastly exceeds the linguistic input available to them. Linguistic theories allow us to study children’s language development in an explanatory manner. Through the lens of these theories, we can take a closer look at how language acquisition takes place in young children and why it follows certain developmental trajectories, as well as how different language components interact during this process.

Linguistic theories create a basis for child language research. Researchers use theories to form hypotheses that can then be tested using experiments. The obtained data can, in turn, inform us about linguistic theories. Theories are dynamic. As new discoveries are made, theories are modified and adapted to account for new data. This two-way traffic between linguistic theories and child language data has important bearings on our understanding of the nature of human language.

This Research Topic highlights the importance of linguistic theories in child language research, and encourages submissions that investigate child language acquisition within a theoretical framework, in particular theory-motivated child language research that applies experimental techniques to distinguish between theoretical accounts of child language acquisition.


Keywords: Developmental linguistics, Theory-motivated research, Experimental methods, Linguistic theory, Child language research


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