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The child language data exchange system*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Brian MacWhinney
Carnegie-Mellon University
Catherine Snow
Harvard University


The study of language acquisition underwent a major revolution in the late 1950s as a result of the dissemination of technology permitting high-quality tape-recording of children in the family setting. This new technology led to major breakthroughs in the quality of both data and theory. The field is now at the threshold of a possible second major breakthrough stimulated by the dissemination of personal computing. Researchers are now able to transcribe tape-recorded data into computer files. With this new medium it is easy to conduct global searches for word combinations across collections of files. It is also possible to enter new codings of the basic text line. Because of the speed and accuracy with which computer files can be copied, it is now much easier to share data between researchers. To foster this sharing of computerized data, a group of child language researchers has established the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES). This article details the formation of the CHILDES, the governance of the system, the nature of the database, the shape of the coding conventions, and the types of computer programs being developed.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1985

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