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

  • JANA M. IVERSON (a1)

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.

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:
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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.

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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.

L. Bloom (1993). The transition from infancy to language. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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.

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

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.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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