Published April 2, 2024 | Version v1
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Early, typical, and late talkers: an exploratory study on predictors of language development in the first two years of life

  • 1. University of Foggia


Background: The consensus in scientific literature is that each child undergoes a unique linguistic development path, albeit with shared developmental stages. Some children excel or lag behind their peers in language skills. Consequently, a key challenge in language acquisition research is pinpointing factors influencing individual differences in language development.

Methods: We observed children longitudinally from 3 to 24 months of life to explore early predictors of vocabulary size. Based on the productive vocabulary size of children at 24 months, 30 children met our sample selection criteria: 10 late talkers and 10 early talkers, and we compared them with 10 typical talkers. We evaluated interactive behaviors at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, considering vocal production, gaze at mother's face, and gestural production during mother-child interactions, and we considered mothers' report of children's actions and gestures and receptive-vocabulary size at 15 and 18 months.

Results: Results indicated early precursors of language outcome at 24 months identifiable as early as 3 months in vocal productions, 6 months for gaze at mother's face and 12 months for gestural productions.

Conclusions: Our research highlights both theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, identifying the early indicators of belonging to the group of late or early talkers underscores the significant role of this developmental period for future studies. On a practical note, our findings emphasize the crucial need for early investigations to identify predictors of vocabulary development before the typical age at which lexical delay is identified.


Funding provided by: University of Chieti-Pescara
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This study included 30 monolingual Italian mother–child dyads. The dyads were selected from a larger and longitudinal study on parenting and infant development in Italy at University of Chieti before the lockdown due to Covid-19. The vocabularies of 10 late talkers (LT), 10 typical talkers (TT) and 10 early talkers (ET) were selected out of a pool of 80 MB-CDI forms (Caselli, Bello, Rinaldi, Stefanini, & Pasqualetti, 2015) completed by parents for children (42 males and 38 females) aged 24 months. Specifically:

­       LT (9 males and 1 female) produced less than 50 words (M = 37; range: 15-59), corresponding to the 10th percentile of productive vocabulary size,

­       ET (2 males and 8 females) produced more than 500 words (M = 562, range: 509-640), corresponding to the 90th percentile of productive vocabulary size,

­       TT (4 males and 6 females) produced around 225 words (M = 290, range: 222-350), and their vocabulary size was closer to the 50th normal mean value.


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