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Children's emergent literacy skills have been found to be predictive of concurrent and subsequent academic achievement. Proponents of a nurture-driven approach to learning posit that children's linguistic competencies are associated with the quantity and richness of language input that they receive from primary caregivers. The primary goal of this study was to investigate the longitudinal relations between the properties of parent language addressed to children when they were 3 years old and children's emergent literacy skills (vocabulary, grammar, and phonological awareness) a year later. This study also examined longitudinal continuity of children's emergent literacy skills and explored how two different types of parent language input (contextualized and decontextualized) predict children's outcomes. Participants included 69 parent-child dyads from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Participants were audio-recorded at home during completion of two semi-structured tasks: conversation about past events and free play. Parent and child verbal communication was transcribed, coded and analyzed. About a year later, participating children were assessed using a battery of standardized tests measuring vocabulary, grammatical skill, and phonological awareness skills. The results indicated that children's early oral language skills, vocabulary in particular, predict their later emergent literacy skills. Parent oral language input, specifically its lexical diversity, predicts later child emergent literacy skills when child prior language is not in the model. Finally, parent language input from different communication contexts did not differentially predict child outcomes. Overall, the findings tentatively supported a nurture-driven account of language acquisition in children and highlight the importance of providing sophisticated language models to children in early stages of language development.
emergent literacy, language development, language sample analysis, parent language input, standardized assessment, vocabulary skills
Date of Defense
April 4, 2017.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Beth M. Phillips, Professor Directing Dissertation; Carla Wood, University Representative; Alysia Roehrig, Committee Member; Insu Paek, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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