Milestones of Language

Parents wanted for co-research!

We rely on your support as parents to collect significant data from authentic environments: the families.

For the study "Milestones of Language" we are looking for parents of children aged between 0 and 24 months who would be interested in observing and documenting important steps in language and non-verbal development with the help of a development calendar.

In the column on the right you will find information on how to participate in our online survey.

Thank you very much in advance for your participation and your support!

Overview of our study, the scientific rationale and the goals we are aiming at:

In our research project "Milestones of Language" we are investigating the development of communication in children at the age of 0 to 24 months by using a new, future-oriented approach in our research project "Milestones of Language".

The study is divided into the following subprojects:

(1) a macro study in which parents keep track of the communicative milestones of their children (aged 0 to 24 months) with the help of a specially designed development calendar as well as bedtime rituals, and

(2) a Citizen Science Event at which every interested citizen with close contact to a pre-linguistic child can become a part of the research process by recording the communicative abilities of the child using our development calendar, describing bedtime rituals and sending the information to us.

Cause of Research

Cultural differences and their impact on the communicative development of small children

Although numerous studies have shown that (a) spoken language and gestures are closely linked and (b) human cultures differ in gesture frequencies and forms, most of them have focused on spoken language and neglected the impact of culture. Therefore the goal of our research project "Milestones of Language" is a broad investigation of the development of communicative signals in pre-linguistic children from different cultural backgrounds: German culture, French-Canadian culture, English-Canadian culture, Columbian culture and Turkish culture.


Time investment of the mother and the importance of bedtime rituals

A theory claims that language may have been developed in the context of bedtime rituals between mother and child, based on singing and eye contact. The motherly investment has thus a very high impact on language development. We are interested in what extent bedtime rituals and time investment of mothers have changed in our society and whether they differ throughout cultures.


Updating relevant development charts

Many records on communicative development and related milestones are either contradictory or have been focusing mainly on the development of spoken language. In addition, it is unclear from relevant development charts and calendars (a) which empirical data they were based on, (b) when they were collected, (c) from what kind of cultural background they originated, and (d) how big the sample size had been.

Today’s assessment of a child’s communicative development by qualified medical or psychological staff is therefore based on out-dated and partially contradictory analyses based on small sample sizes.


Research Goals

The aim of this study is to update the current level of knowledge about the communicative development of children by using a systematic and cross-cultural data design.

Additionally, parents will be provided with the opportunity to better understand, follow and assess the communicative development of their children. We want to contribute to a more competent and informed understanding of children development (i.e. in case a child does not show the milestones "pointing" and "one-word phase"). Parents as well as qualified personnel from the areas of Paediatric medicine, Psychology or Pedagogy will get a more detailed understanding of the variability of communicative developmental processes.

Furthermore, we aim to investigate to what extend bedtime rituals, involved language-use, time investment and eye contact have an impact on speech development and differ between cultures.

We are interested in the following questions:

(1) Are some communicative milestones passed by all children?

(2) Does culture influence the use of particular vocalizations or gestures (i.e. the use of cultural specific gestures like "waving" up and down to the front compared to "waving" to the side, showing the number "one" with the index finger or thumb, Pika, Nicoladis & Marentette, 2009)?

(3) Are gestures used before words?

(4) When are the first communicative gestures used (i.e. object offer)?

(5) When are the first conventional gestures used (i.e. clapping)?

(6) When are multimodal gestures used (gesture and vocalization)?

(7) When are words combined with gestures?

(8) Are bedtime rituals culture-specific?

(9) Do cultures differ in the general investment of mothers?

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