Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 329–343 | Cite as

The Influence of Child-Directed Speech on Word Learning and Comprehension

  • Cassandra Foursha-StevensonEmail author
  • Taylor Schembri
  • Elena Nicoladis
  • Cody Eriksen


This paper describes an investigation into the function of child-directed speech (CDS) across development. In the first experiment, 10–21-month-olds were presented with familiar words in CDS and trained on novel words in CDS or adult-directed speech (ADS). All children preferred the matching display for familiar words. However, only older toddlers in the CDS condition preferred the matching display for novel words. In Experiment 2, children 3–6 years of age were presented with a sentence comprehension task in CDS or ADS. Older children performed better overall than younger children with 5- and 6-year-olds performing above chance regardless of speech condition, while 3- and 4-year-olds only performed above chance when the sentences were presented in CDS. These findings provide support for the theory that CDS is most effective at the beginning of acquisition for particular constructions (e.g. vocabulary acquisition, syntactic comprehension) rather than at a particular age or for a particular task.


Child-directed speech Word learning Sentence comprehension 



This study was funded by a Mount Royal University Internal Research Grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cassandra Foursha-Stevenson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Taylor Schembri
    • 2
  • Elena Nicoladis
    • 3
  • Cody Eriksen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMount Royal UniversityCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Yorkville UniversityFrederictonCanada

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