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The onset of linguistic understanding

  • Claire M. Fletcher-Flinn (a1) and Catherine J. McCormack (a1)


It is generally accepted that word comprehension emerges between 8 to 10 months of age and that speech production occurs several months later. In contrast, sign production appears earlier than its counterpart in speech and, by inference, suggests an earlier onset for comprehension. Most studies examining comprehension have tended to use older infants and have reported measures that may overestimate when words first are understood.This study examined the comprehension abilities of 33 infants between the ages of 5 and 11 months, using a parental diary-keeping method.The results support an early onset of comprehension within the context of common social routines and converge with a growing body of data on the cognitive precocity of infants.


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Department of Psychology, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand, E-mail:


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