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Instructions for authors

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Journal of Child Language

Instructions for Contributors

A key publication in the field, Journal of Child Language publishes articles on all aspects of the scientific study of language behaviour in children, the principles which underlie it, and the theories which may account for it. The international range of authors and breadth of coverage allow the journal to forge links between many different areas of research including psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, and anthropology. This interdisciplinary approach spans a wide range of interests: phonology, phonetics, morphology, syntax, vocabulary, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and any other recognised facet of language study. Aspects of reading development are considered when there is a clear language component. The journal normally publishes full-length empirical studies or General Articles as well as shorter Brief Research Reports. To be appropriate for this journal, articles should include some quantitative data analyses, and articles based on case studies need to have a convincing rationale for this design. The journal publishes thematic special issues on occasion, the topic and format of which are determined by the editorial team.

General Submission Information

Papers should be submitted via the following website:

If there any difficulties please contact the editorial assistant, Miles Lambert, directly through the system or at

All submissions are initially read by the Editor or the Editor and an Associate Editor to check whether, with regard to readability and content, they are appropriate to send to reviewers. All eligible manuscripts are then sent, anonymously, to two reviewers. When the reviewers’ reports are received, each manuscript is evaluated by the Associate Editor and then the Editor. The Editor informs the author of their decision.

General Articles are full-length articles that make a substantive empirical and/or theoretical contribution and should not normally exceed 10,000 words. Brief Research Reports are shorter articles with smaller scope and/or smaller sample sizes and should not exceed 4,000 words. These lengths do not include the Abstract and References. There should be a maximum of 60 references for an Article and a maximum of 40 references for a Brief Research Report. In special circumstances, when the editors judge a comprehensive review of the literature to be a central component of the article and therefore warrants more references, they may allow up to 70 references.

JCL welcomes inquiries from authors interested in Registered Reports, an important new article type in the journal. Please familiarize yourself with the special information on Registered Reports at JCL.

The language of this journal is English. Authors, particularly those whose first language is not English, may wish to have their English-language manuscripts checked by a native speaker before submission. This is optional, but may help to ensure that the academic content of the paper is fully understood by the editorial team and the reviewers. Please note that submissions can be rejected if the level of English writing is not commensurate with the academic standards of the field. Cambridge partners with third-party services specialising in language editing and/or translation, and suggests that authors contact as appropriate:

Please note that the use of any of these services is voluntary, and at the author’s own expense. Use of these services does not guarantee that the manuscript will be accepted for publication, nor does it restrict the author to submitting to a Cambridge Core published journal.

Specific Instructions for the Preparation of Manuscripts

When not otherwise specified, style should follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition, 2010).

1. Each manuscript should have a separate title page giving the title, author names, affiliations, address for correspondence, any acknowledgments, and a competing interest declaration (guidance on what this should look like is in the paragraph below). At the top of the page, there should be a running headline of not more than 40 characters. No pages in the main text should carry the author’s name. On the title page, the authors’ surnames/family names should be written in block capitals. Three to five keywords should also be placed on the title page at the bottom.

Competing interest declaration: All authors must include a competing interests declaration in their title page. This declaration will be subject to editorial review and may be published in the article. Competing interests are situations that could be perceived to exert an undue influence on the content or publication of an author’s work. They may include, but are not limited to, financial, professional, contractual or personal relationships or situations. If the manuscript has multiple authors, the author submitting must include competing interest declarations relevant to all contributing authors. Example wording for a declaration is as follows: “Competing interests: Author A is employed at company B. Author C owns shares in company D, is on the Board of company E and is a member of organisation F. Author G has received grants from company H.” If no competing interests exist, the declaration should state “Competing interests: The author(s) declare none”.

2. Each copy should have an abstract on a separate page (not more than 150 words long for General Articles and 100 words for Brief Research Reports). The abstract should give the aims of the study, the general method, and the principal conclusions.

3. Spelling should be consistent – either British English or American English throughout. Emphasis (which should be used sparingly) should be marked by small capitals. Technical terms, e.g., ‘cue strength’, are given in small capitals on first mention and in lower case subsequently. Standard linguistic abbreviations are in large capitals throughout, e.g., AUX, NP. Double inverted commas should be used throughout for quotations, citations of words and sentences, glosses and cases where a term is used with some qualifying sense, as in referring to a “gold standard” test.

4. Articles should be clearly divided into unnumbered sections with appropriate headings, e.g., Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. Secondary level headings should be used within these sections, e.g. Participants, Procedure. Consult the APA Manual, chapter 3, for more information about headings.

5. Footnotes should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Information that is relevant to the article should generally be included in the body of the text, eliminating the need for footnotes. If used, footnotes should not contain phonetic characters, statistics, or tables, nor should they be used simply for bibliographical information. Their reference point in the text should be clearly indicated with a superscript number at the end of the relevant sentence. The footnotes themselves should be numbered and listed on a separate sheet at the end of the article.

6. As a general rule, ages should be stated in years;months and – if necessary – days, like this: 1;10.22. Terms for general age ranges, such as “three-year-olds”, are also acceptable, but not “36-month-olds” or “3-year-olds”. However, for research with infants and toddlers under 2;0, it is acceptable to use months when indicating ages. When groups of children are involved, either standard deviations or ranges should be provided in the Participants section.

7. Language examples in the text:

Phonetic transcriptions should, wherever possible, employ the symbols and conventions of the IPA.

Language examples in the body of the text should be in italics. If there is an example in a language other than English, put it in italics and give an English gloss in single quotes, as in lui ‘him’.

It will often be appropriate to number and indent linguistic examples, e.g.

(1) Adam burns the candle.
(2a) Adam ate the fish
(2b) The fish was eaten by Adam.

Examples that are excerpts of discourse interactions should also be numbered and be set out like this:

(3) (J. wants the tape recorder off. When the switch is up it is off).
J. Up that for me.
M. Can you turn that off, please.
Not ‘Off that for me’.
J. For me. Turn off.

For example sentences in languages other than English, give morpheme-by-morpheme glosses and a translation of the sentence, as in the following:

(4) Wati-ngki nga-rnu kuyu.
man-ERG eat-PAST meat
‘The man ate some meat.’

For more information on procedures for interlinear glossing, consult the following:

8. Tables and figures may be placed in the body of the text.

Tables should have a title above and notes/footnotes below, if necessary, to clarify any abbreviations and provide details. Figure captions should be placed below the figure. Table titles and notes and figure captions should have sufficient information for readers to understand the contents. Originals of the figures should be supplied, with artwork of reproduction quality.

Tables should not include underlining or vertical lines, and horizontal lines should be kept to a minimum. Use capital letters as sparingly as possible. In tables, it is better to put % at the top of the appropriate columns rather than putting it after each result. Decimal points for entries in a column should be aligned. Statistical significance can be marked with asterisks (with the level of significance given in a note below).

Consult the APA Manual, chapter 5, for more information about tables and figures.

Charges apply for all colour figures that appear in the print version of the journal. At the time of submission, contributors should clearly state whether their figures should appear in colour in the online version only, or whether they should appear in colour online and in the print version. There is no charge for including colour figures in the online version of the journal but it must be clear that colour is needed to enhance the meaning of the figure, rather than simply being for aesthetic purposes. If you request colour figures in the printed version, you will be contacted by CCC-Rightslink, who are acting on our behalf to collect Author Charges. Please follow their instructions in order to avoid any delay in the publication of your article.

9. Appendices and Online Supplementary Materials. If the article includes a substantial body of data, lengthy test materials, or detailed modelling outputs, it may be best to place these in an Appendix or as Supplementary Materials. Supplementary Materials will be accessible online but not in print and are not copy-edited.

10. Reporting of statistical results should follow guidelines in the APA Manual, chapter 4. When means are given, standard deviations should be given too. If the findings are reported in percentages, raw scores and the number of subjects/participants should usually be included. If the analysis techniques used might not be familiar to many readers, it is the author’s responsibility to ensure the explanation of the procedures and their purpose is comprehensible.

11. References in the text should be made in one of the following two forms:

According to Snow (1990, p. 698); OR, In the sixties and seventies, several authors published important work on combinatorial speech (Bloom, 1970; Braine, 1963; Miller & Irvin, 1964; Schlesinger, 1974).

Note that such references are in alphabetical order, and that pairs of authors are joined by & when the two names are in parentheses. The first reference to a work with several authors should list all their names; subsequent citations should give first author and et al.

Single sentences may be quoted within paragraphs, but where more than one sentence is quoted, it is preferable to start the quotation on a new line and to indent the whole quotation and exclude the double inverted commas.

12. Reference list at the end. All works referred to should be listed at the end of the article in alphabetical order. The reference list should not contain any works not referred to in the text.

Authors are asked to exclude their unpublished work from the reference list. These should always be cited in the text only, as ‘unpublished observations’. If one of these has been accepted while the manuscript has been under review, then the citation can be included formally as ‘in press’, provided the author can supply evidence of its status, such as a letter of acceptance.

References should be formatted according to the APA Manual (6th Edition 2010) in general. One exception is that DOIs are not required for works available in print. Some selected rules and examples are given here, but authors should follow APA guidelines in cases not specified here. For online ahead of print publications, see the example Paavola-Ruotsalainen et al. (2017) in the list below.

Where an author has collaborated with others, any single-author works should precede joint works. Joint works are sequenced according to the second author’s surname, and by date if the same or group of authors have written several papers. Works by the same author or group of authors should be date ordered with the earliest first.

Authors’ names should be in lower-case letters, apart from the first letter. Book titles should be in lower-case letters, apart from the first letter and any proper names, and they should be italicized. Journal titles are given in full and italicized. Run-on lines in each reference should be indented; there should not be any additional space between entries.

Books, chapters, conference papers, dissertations, and journal articles should be presented as in the following examples (note punctuation carefully):

Bates, E., Bretherton, I., & Snyder, L. (1988). From first words to grammar: individual differences and dissociable mechanisms. Cambridge University Press.

Casillas, M., & Amaral, P. (2013). Learning cues to category membership: patterns in children’s acquisition of hedges. In C. Cathcart, I.-H. Chen, G. Finley, S. Kang, C. S. Sandy, & E. Stickles (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 37(1), 33–45. doi: 10.3765/bls.v37i1.836

Clancy, P. (1985). The acquisition of Japanese. In D. I. Slobin (Ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition (pp. 75–93). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Naigles, L., Golinkoff, R., Gleitman, L. R., & Gleitman, H. (1988). Syntactic bootstrapping: evidence from comprehension. Paper presented at the 13th Annual Boston University Child Language Conference, Boston, MA.

Mitchell, P. R., & Kent, R. D. (1990). Phonetic variation in multisyllable babbling. Journal of Child Language, 17(2), 247–65.

Paavola-Ruotsalainen, L., Lehtosaari, J., Palomäki, J., & Tervo, I. (2017). Maternal verbal responsiveness and directiveness: consistency, stability, and relations to child early linguistic development. Journal of Child Language, 1–21. doi:10.1017/S030500091700023X

Van der Feest, S. V. (2007). Building a phonological lexicon: the acquisition of the Dutch voicing contrast in perception and production (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from .

Publication Policies for Journal of Child Language

Papers accepted for publication are published online, in FirstView, ahead of their print publication. Following online publication, authors will receive a PDF file of their article.

Open Access policies at Cambridge University Press

As a so-called hybrid OA journal, JCL allows authors to choose to publish their articles under a creative commons (CC) licence with the payment of an Article Processing Charge, also known as the Gold OA route. The editorial process – including the decision of whether or not an article is accepted for publication – is independent of the author’s decision to publish Gold OA. Further information is available at

Cambridge University Press’s policy on author self-archiving, known as Green OA, applies to all articles published in JCL via the standard route. In short, permissions for author self-archiving under this policy are as follows:

Personal Webpage Departmental / Institutional Repository Non-Commercial Subject Repository Commercial Repository / Scholarly Collaboration Networks
(e.g. ResearchGare, Academia,edu)
Submitted Manuscript Under Review At any time At any time At any time At any time
Accepted Manuscript On acceptance On acceptance On acceptance Abstract only
Version of Record Abstract only plus link to Cambridge site Abstract only plus link to Cambridge site Abstract only plus link to Cambridge site Abstract only plus link to Cambridge site

This policy is compliant with all known funding mandates and applies no embargo period to the non-commercial posting of the Accepted Manuscript. Under this policy Cambridge remains a SHERPA/RoMEO ‘Green’ Open Access publisher. The policy simultaneously acts to protect the exclusivity of the final Version of Record by prohibiting the posting of this version. By securing the Version of Record, we secure the value of a journal subscription and thus the revenue source on which the ‘Green’ model of Open Access relies.


This journal is registered with the Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Organisations in the USA who are also registered with C.C.C. may therefore copy material (beyond the limits permitted by sections 107 and 108 of US copyright law) subject to payment to C.C.C. of the per-copy fee of $16.00. This consent does not extend to multiple copying for promotional or commercial purposes.

Code 0305-0009/2017 $16.00. Organizations authorised by the Copyright Licensing Agency may also copy material subject to the usual conditions.

ISI Tear Sheet Service, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA, is authorised to supply single copies of separate articles for private use only.

For all other use, permission should be sought from the Cambridge or the American Branch of Cambridge University Press.


The journal is covered by relevant abstracting and indexing services, including:

Abstracts in Anthropology, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Handicapped Yearbook, Applied Social Sciences Index & Abstracts, Bibliography of Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, British Education Index, Chicorel Abstracts to Reading and Learning Disabilities, Child Development & Adolescent Studies, Communication Abstracts, Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Current Contents, Current Index to Journals in Education, E-psyche, EBSCO (various), Education Index, Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), European Reference Index for the Humanities and Social Sciences (ERIH PLUS), Family Studies Abstracts, FRANCIS, Language Teaching, Linguistic Abstracts, Linguistic Bibliography, Linguistics and Language Behaviour Abstracts, MEDLINE, Modern Language Association (MLA) International Bibliography, ProQuest (various), PsychFIRST, PsychINFO, Psychological Abstracts, PubMed, Scopus, Social Sciences Citation Index, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Science.

Last updated 2 January 2020