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Journal Article

Turn taking, timing, and planning in early language acquisition


Casillas,  Marisa
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
INTERACT, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Casillas, M., Bobb, S. C., & Clark, E. V. (2016). Turn taking, timing, and planning in early language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 43, 1310-1337. doi:10.1017/S0305000915000689.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-09E4-6
Young children answer questions with longer delays than adults do, and they don't reach typical adult response times until several years later. We hypothesized that this prolonged pattern of delay in children's timing results from competing demands: to give an answer, children must understand a question while simultaneously planning and initiating their response. Even as children get older and more efficient in this process, the demands on them increase because their verbal responses become more complex. We analyzed conversational question-answer sequences between caregivers and their children from ages 1;8 to 3;5, finding that children (1) initiate simple answers more quickly than complex ones, (2) initiate simple answers quickly from an early age, and (3) initiate complex answers more quickly as they grow older. Our results suggest that children aim to respond quickly from the start, improving on earlier-acquired answer types while they begin to practice later-acquired, slower ones.