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The development of vocabulary and grammar: a longitudinal study of European Portuguese-speaking toddlers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2019

Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, Portugal
Psychology Research Center (CIPsi), University of Minho, Portugal
Ana Lúcia SANTOS
Centre of Linguistics of the University of Lisbon (CLUL), Portugal
Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, Portugal
Psychology Research Center (CIPsi), University of Minho, Portugal
Fernanda Leopoldina VIANA
Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, Portugal
*Corresponding author: Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, Gualtar Campus, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal. E-mail:


The goals of this study were to analyze the growth and stability of vocabulary, mean length of the three longest utterances (MLLUw), and sentence complexity in European Portuguese-speaking children aged 1;4–2;6, to explore differences in growth as a function of personal and family-related variables, and to investigate the inter-relationships among the three language dimensions. Fifty-one European Portuguese-speaking toddlers were longitudinally assessed at 1;4, 1;9, 2;1, and 2;6, through parent reports. Exponential growth models best described acquisition patterns during this period, but the vocabulary growth accelerated across the full age-range, whereas the growth of grammar dimensions accelerated mainly after 1;9. High variability was observed in the scores, but the toddlers’ relative positions were mostly stable over time. Gender approached significance as a predictor of vocabulary growth. Maternal educational level did not predict the growth of any of the three language dimensions. Both vocabulary and MLLUw predicted sentence complexity.

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