Bénédicte de Boysson-Bardies

How Children Acquire Speech Publication date : February 20, 2004

When children utter their first words, their parents react with happiness, amusement, delight. It all seems so natural that they do not even think to wonder where their infants’ first cries, first prattles, first syllables and first sentences came from. But how do newborns perceive the sounds that make up words? How do they hear these sounds and, above all, how do they select, recognise, organise and analyse them? How do they reach the stage of understanding them and then reproducing them— i.e. how do children acquire speech?
Bénédicte de Boysson-Bardies follows the development of an infant from birth to the moment it utters its first sentence, providing a detailed, step-by-step description of the entire language-acquisition process.
Drawing on an in-depth experimental approach, the author provides a complete picture of the current state knowledge on infancy and language acquisition. She advises parents on such issues as when they should speak to their infants in a particular manner or whether they should be concerned if a 20-month-old child has not spoken yet. Finally, she explains how, thanks to a powerful innate mechanism, humans are the only species capable of the miracle of speech.

Bénédicte de Boysson-Bardies is a psycholinguist specialising in language acquisition in young children. A director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), she is also the head of a research team studying vocal and gestural organisation at the Laboratory of experimental psychology at the University of Paris-V. She is the author of Le langage, qu’est-ce que c’est? (Editions Odile Jacob, 2003).