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Birth Order Effects on Early Language Development: Do Secondborn Children Learn from Overheard Speech?

Yuriko Oshima-Takane, Elizabeth Goodz and Jeffrey L. Derevensky
Child Development
Vol. 67, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 621-634
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131836
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131836
Page Count: 14
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Birth Order Effects on Early Language Development: Do Secondborn Children Learn from Overheard Speech?
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Abstract

The language development of 16 firstborn and 16 secondborn children of English-speaking families was compared at the age of 21 months in order to investigate whether secondborn children benefit from overheard conversations between caregivers and older siblings in learning personal pronouns. The child's spontaneous language data as well as controlled tasks were used to measure production of first- and second-person pronouns. The mean length of utterance, total number of intelligible utterances, total vocabulary (types), and total number of words (tokens) were calculated as measures of general language development. A follow-up study was conducted 3 months later to examine the subsequent language development of 10 firstborn and 10 secondborn children using the same procedures and measures as used at 21 months. The results indicated that secondborn children were more advanced than firstborn children at both ages in pronoun production, while not differing in general language development. It is argued that overheard conversations between caregivers and older siblings in addition to child-directed speech are important resources for secondborn children learning personal pronouns.

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