Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Access
  • Cited by 116
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Pereira, Alfredo F. Smith, Linda B. and Yu, Chen 2014. A bottom-up view of toddler word learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Vol. 21, Issue. 1, p. 178.

    Arunachalam, Sudha and Luyster, Rhiannon J. 2016. The integrity of lexical acquisition mechanisms in autism spectrum disorders: A research review. Autism Research, Vol. 9, Issue. 8, p. 810.

    Reuterskiöld, Christina and Grigos, Maria I. 2015. Nonword Repetition and Speech Motor Control in Children. BioMed Research International, Vol. 2015, p. 1.

    MURILLO, EVA and CAPILLA, ALMUDENA 2016. Properties of vocalization- and gesture-combinations in the transition to first words. Journal of Child Language, Vol. 43, Issue. 04, p. 890.

    Leonard, Hayley C. and Hill, Elisabeth L. 2014. Review: The impact of motor development on typical and atypical social cognition and language: a systematic review. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, p. n/a.

    Yu, Chen and Smith, Linda B. 2012. Embodied attention and word learning by toddlers. Cognition, Vol. 125, Issue. 2, p. 244.

    Suggate, Sebastian Pufke, Eva and Stoeger, Heidrun 2016. Do fine motor skills contribute to early reading development?. Journal of Research in Reading,

    Weng, Juyang 2011. The 2011 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks. p. 2983.

    Goffman, Lisa 2015. The Handbook of Speech Production.

    LeBarton, Eve Sauer and Iverson, Jana M. 2013. Fine motor skill predicts expressive language in infant siblings of children with autism. Developmental Science, p. n/a.

    Hellendoorn, Annika Wijnroks, Lex and Leseman, Paul P. M. 2015. Unraveling the nature of autism: finding order amid change. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 6,

    Libertus, Klaus and Landa, Rebecca J. 2013. The Early Motor Questionnaire (EMQ): A parental report measure of early motor development. Infant Behavior and Development, Vol. 36, Issue. 4, p. 833.

    Lee, Joanna C. and Tomblin, J. Bruce 2015. Procedural Learning and Individual Differences in Language. Language Learning and Development, Vol. 11, Issue. 3, p. 215.

    Finlay, Jennifer C.S. and McPhillips, Martin 2013. Comorbid motor deficits in a clinical sample of children with specific language impairment. Research in Developmental Disabilities, Vol. 34, Issue. 9, p. 2533.

    Favazza, Paddy C. and Siperstein, Gary N. 2016. Handbook of Early Childhood Special Education.

    Bedford, Rachael Pickles, Andrew and Lord, Catherine 2016. Early gross motor skills predict the subsequent development of language in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, Vol. 9, Issue. 9, p. 993.

    Walle, Eric A. 2016. Infant Social Development across the Transition from Crawling to Walking. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 7,

    Martin, Mary 2014. Moving on the spectrum: Dance/movement therapy as a potential early intervention tool for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol. 41, Issue. 5, p. 545.

    White, E.J. Peter, M. and Redder, B. 2015. Infant and teacher dialogue in education and care: A pedagogical imperative. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 30, p. 160.

    Hodgson, Jessica C. and Hudson, John M. 2016. Atypical speech lateralization in adults with developmental coordination disorder demonstrated using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound. Journal of Neuropsychology, p. n/a.


Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development*

  • JANA M. IVERSON (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 25 January 2010

During the first eighteen months of life, infants acquire and refine a whole set of new motor skills that significantly change the ways in which the body moves in and interacts with the environment. In this review article, I argue that motor acquisitions provide infants with an opportunity to practice skills relevant to language acquisition before they are needed for that purpose; and that the emergence of new motor skills changes infants' experience with objects and people in ways that are relevant for both general communicative development and the acquisition of language. Implications of this perspective for current views of co-occurring language and motor impairments and for methodology in the field of child language research are also considered.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development*
      Your Kindle email address
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development*
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development*
      Available formats
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Jana M. Iverson, Dept. of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 3415 Sennott Square, 210 S. Bouquet St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260USA. tel: +001 (412) 624-6160; fax: +001 (412) 624-4428; email:
Hide All

Preparation of this article was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01 HD54979). I am grateful to Erin Koterba, Meg Parladé and Nina Leezenbaum for discussion of many of the ideas presented here, to Robert H. Wozniak for extensive and insightful comments, and to Edith Bavin and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions on previous versions of the manuscript. This article is dedicated to the memory of Michael M. Iverson.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

E. Bates , L. Benigni , I. Bretherton , L. Camaioni & V. Volterra (1979). The emergence of symbols: Cognition and communication in infancy. New York: Academic Press.

E. Bates & F. Dick (2002). Language, gesture, and the developing brain. Developmental Psychobiology 40, 293310.

P. Bernardis , A. Bello , P. Pettenati , S. Stefanini & M. Gentilucci (2008). Manual actions affect the vocalizations of infants. Experimental Brain Research 184, 599603.

D. V. M. Bishop (2002). Motor immaturity and specific speech and language impairment: Evidence for a common genetic basis. American Journal of Medical Genetics (Neuropsychiatric Genetics) 114, 5663.

D. V. M. Bishop & A. Edmundson (1987). Specific language impairment as a maturational lag: Evidence from longitudinal data on language and motor development. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 29, 442–59.

J. J. Campos , D. I. Anderson , M. A. Barbu-Roth , E. M. Hubbard , M. J. Hertenstein & D. Witherington (2000). Travel broadens the mind. Infancy 1, 149219.

O. Capirci , A. Contaldo , M. C. Caselli & V. Volterra (2005). From action to language through gesture: A longitudinal perspective. Gesture 5, 155–77.

M. W. Clearfield , C. N. Osborne & M. Mullen (2008). Learning by looking: Infants' social looking behavior across the transition from crawling to walking. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 100, 297307.

J. Darrah , M. Hodge , J. Magill-Evans & G. Kembhavi (2003). Stability of serial assessments of motor and communication abilities in typically developing infants – implications for screening. Early Human Development 72, 97–110.

B. D'Entremont , S. M. J. Hains & D. W. Muir (1997). A demonstration of gaze following in 3- to 6-month-olds. Infant Behavior and Development 20, 569–72.

R. Eilers , D. K. Oller , S. Levine , D. Basinger , M. P. Lynch & R. Urbano (1993). The role of prematurity and socioeconomic status in the onset of canonical babbling in infants. Infant Behavior and Development 16, 297315.

K. Ejiri (1998). Relationship between rhythmic behavior and canonical babbling in infant vocal development. Phonetica 55, 226–37.

K. Ejiri & N. Masataka (2001). Co-occurrence of preverbal vocal behavior and motor action in early infancy. Developmental Science 4, 4048.

L. Elbers (1982). Operating principles in repetitive babbling: A cognitive continuity approach. Cognition 12, 4563.

M. K. Fagan & J. M. Iverson (2007). The influence of mouthing on infant vocalization. Infancy 11, 191202.

L. Fenson , J. Kagan , R. B. Kearsley & P. R. Zelazo (1976). The developmental progression of manipulative play in the first two years. Child Development 47, 232–36.

M. Gentilucci , P. Santunione , A. C. Roy & S. Stefanini (2004). Execution and observation of bringing a fruit to the mouth affect syllable pronunciation. European Journal of Neuroscience 19, 190202.

M. Gentilucci , S. Stefanini , A. C. Roy & P. Santunione (2004). Action observation and speech production: Study on children and adults. Neuropsychologia 42, 1554–67.

L. J. Gogate & L. E. Bahrick (1998). Intersensory redundancy facilitates learning of arbitrary relations between vowel sounds and objects in 7-month-old infants. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 69(2), 133–49.

L. J. Gogate , L. E. Bolzani & E. Betancourt (2006). Attention to maternal multimodal naming by 6- to 8-month-old infants and learning of word-object relations. Infancy 9(3), 259–88.

J. R. Green & E. M. Wilson (2006). Spontaneous facial motility in infancy: A 3D kinematic analysis. Developmental Psychobiology 48, 1628.

E. L. Hill (1998). A dyspraxic deficit in specific language impairment and developmental coordination disorder? Evidence from hand and arm movements. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 40, 388–95.

E. L. Hill (2001). Non-specific nature of specific language impairment: A review of the literature with regard to concomitant motor impairments. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 36, 149–71.

J. M. Iverson , A. J. Hall , L. Nickel & R. H. Wozniak (2007). The relationship between onset of reduplicated babble and laterality biases in infant rhythmic arm movements. Brain and Language 101, 198207.

J. M. Iverson & R. H. Wozniak (2007). Variation in vocal-motor development in infant siblings of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 37, 158–70.

F. J. Koopmans-van Beinum & J. M. van der Stelt (1986). Early stages in the development of speech movements. In B. Lindbom & R. Zetterstrom (eds), Precursors of early speech, 3750. New York: Stockton Press.

D. J. Lewkowicz (2000). Development of intersensory temporal perception: An epigenetic systems/limitations view. Psychological Bulletin 126(2), 281308.

K. Lifter & L. Bloom (1989). Object knowledge and the emergence of language. Infant Behavior and Development 12, 395423.

J. L. Locke , K. E. Bekken , L. McMinn-Larson & D. Wein (1995). Emergent control of manual and vocal-motor activity in relation to the development of speech. Brain and Language 51, 498508.

P. F. MacNeilage & B. L. Davis (2000). On the origin of internal structure of word forms. Science 288, 527–31.

R. P. Meier , C. E. Mauk , A. Cheek & C. J. Moreland (2008). The form of children's early signs: Iconic or motoric determinants? Language Learning and Development 4, 6398.

R. P. Meier , L. McGarvin , R. A. E. Zakia & R. Willerman (1997). Silent mandibular oscillations in vocal babbling. Phonetica 54, 153–71.

V. J. Molfese & J. C. Betz (1987). Language and motor development in infancy: Three views with neuropsychological implications. Developmental Neuropsychology 3, 255–74.

K. Nelson (1973). Structure and strategy in learning to talk. Society for Research in Child Development Monographs 38, (1–2 Serial No. 149).

I. S. B. Nip , J. R. Green & D. B. Marx (2009). Early speech motor development: Cognitive and linguistic considerations. Journal of Communication Disorders 42, 286–98.

D. K. Oller & R. E. Eilers (1988). The role of audition in infant babbling. Child Development 59, 441–66.

J. Piaget (1952). The origins of intelligence in children, trans. M. Cook. New York: International Universities Press.

M. M. Rodgon , W. Jankowski & L. Alenskas (1977). Journal of Child Language 4, 2344.

D. Rosenbaum (2005). The Cinderella of psychology: The neglect of motor control in the science of mental life and behavior. American Psychologist 60, 308–17.

H. A. Ruff (1984). Infants' manipulative exploration of objects: Effects of age and object characteristics. Developmental Psychology 20, 9–20.

H. A. Ruff , L. M. Saltarelli , M. Capozzoli & K. Dubiner (1992). The differentiation of activity in infants' exploration of objects. Developmental Psychology 28, 851–61.

E. Thelen (1979). Rhythmical stereotypies in normal human infants. Animal Behaviour 27, 699715.

M. Tomasello & J. Farrar (1986). Joint attention and early language. Child Development 57, 1454–63.

H. Viholainen , T. Ahonen , M. Cantell , P. Lyytinen & H. Lyytinen (2002). Development of early motor skills and language in children at risk for familial dyslexia. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 44, 761–69.

H. Viholainen , T. Ahonen , P. Lyytinen , M. Cantell , A. Tolvanen & H. Lyytinen (2006). Early motor development and later language and reading skills in children at risk of familial dyslexia. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 48, 367–73.

V. Volterra , E. Bates , L. Benigni , I. Bretherton & L. Camaioni (1979). First words in language and action: A qualitative look. In E. Bates (ed.), The emergence of symbols: Cognition and communication in infancy, 141222. New York: Academic Press.

R. M. Willems & P. Hagoort (2007). Neural evidence for the interplay between language, gesture, and action: A review. Brain and Language 101, 287–98.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *