Colloquium: Lyle Lustigman (California State University, San Jose)

Event Date: 

Monday, January 22, 2018 - 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • Arts 1353

Speaker: Lyle Lustigman (California State University, San Jose)

Topic: "The role of co-construction in early language acquisition: Findings from adult-child conversations in Hebrew"

Reception: All are invited to a reception following the talk

The role of co-construction in early language acquisition:

Findings from adult-child conversations in Hebrew


Lyle Lustigman

San Jose State Univeristy


The study examines adult-child conversational interaction in order to account for the role of adult speech in supporting children’s language acquisition. Adult-child conversational interaction has been studied extensively from various perspectives, including the role of joint attention (Clark, 2001; Tomasello, 2003), common ground (Clark, 1999; 2007; Clark & Bernicot, 2008), and adult reformulations (Chouinard & Clark, 2003; Clark & de Marneffe, 2012) in early interactional contexts. The present analysis focuses on how linguistic units are co-constructed across turns in adult-child conversations (Clancy, 1996, 2014; Jacoby & Ochs, 1995; Ochs, Schieffelin, & Platt, 1979; Scollon, 1979; Veneziano, 2013). The data-base for this study consists of longitudinal speech samples from Hebrew-acquiring toddlers, recorded weekly for over a year, during natural interaction with their caregivers. Children’s productions were analyzed for their grammatical structure (e.g., verb inflection, inter-clausal connectivity) and for the degree to which they were supported by adult speech. That is, child productions were either autonomous, prompted by adult scaffolding, or in the form of co-constructed sequences, where the child and the adult collaborated on constructing linguistic units together. Analyses of the data show the following developmental trends: (a) children develop the use of grammatical markers (e.g., inflections, connectives) gradually, with prolonged transitional periods restricted to subsets of forms, before mastering the full array of the markers; (b) some linguistic constructions are initially restricted to adult-supported contexts while others emerge mainly in autonomous child productions; and (c) there is a concurrent increase in both the rates of adult-child co- construction, and the functional diversity in autonomous child constructions. These findings shed new light on the crucial role of adult-child conversational interaction in fostering and advancing early language development.