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Input to interaction to instruction: three key shifts in the history of child language research



In the early years of the Journal of Child Language, there was considerable disagreement about the role of language input or adult–child interaction in children's language acquisition. The view that quantity and quality of input to language-learning children is relevant to their language development has now become widely accepted as a principle guiding advice to parents and the design of early childhood education programs, even if it is not yet uncontested in the field of language development. The focus on variation in the language input to children acquires particular educational relevance when we consider variation in access to academic language – features of language particularly valued in school and related to success in reading and writing. Just as many children benefit from language environments that are intentionally designed to ensure adequate quantity and quality of input, even more probably need explicit instruction in the features of language that characterize its use for academic purposes


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*Address for correspondence: Catherine Snow, HGSE, Larsen Hall, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. e-mail:


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Catherine Snow was supported during the writing of this paper by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, through Grant R305F100026 to the Strategic Education Research Partnership as part of the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the views of the Institute or the US Department of Education.



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Input to interaction to instruction: three key shifts in the history of child language research



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