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BabyLing – How do children learn languages?

We aim at identifying the role of the learning environment on infants’ and toddlers’ language acquisition.

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About the project

There is a remarkable variability in language development across children: while one infant may produce over 100 words at the age of 16 months, another infant might still have not pronounced a single word by the same age. Yet, both infants are within the range of typically developing infants. Thus, early diagnostic is extremely difficult and early intervention is rarely possible. Yet, we know that while some low-scoring infants will catch up easily with their peers and without further consequences, others will struggle throughout early childhood and will never achieve the same level of academic achievement as others.

In order to minimise and, in turn, prevent learning difficulties, we need to understand why some infants are delayed in their development from a very early age. Large differences in cognitive performance between infants are not uniquely driven by genetic differences; the learning environment plays a crucial role in cognitive development.

To this end, developing a finer comprehension of the roles of parental input, of the structures of the household and of the community is a mandatory first step so that policy makers can make informed, data-driven decisions to narrow the gap between low- and high achievers, even before children enter formal education.


This project has three main goals:

  1. Establish reliable tools to assess early vocabularies
  2. Evaluate environmental moderators of early vocabulary acquisition
  3. Identify language learning mechanisms used by young children


Do you have a child below three years of age? Are you interested in contributing to the advancement of our knowledge on how children learn languages?

Our studies typically last less than 15 minutes, with the total duration of your visit about half an hour, although you are welcome to stay longer if you have questions! Your visit will include some playtime with your child (you are with your child during the whole duration of your visit) and, after that, your child (and you) will watch brief animations on a screen. In these animations, your child will hear familiar words as well as words we have created for the study, and will see familiar pictures of familiar objects as well as made-up ones. We will measure how long your child will be looking at the different images in different contexts. At the end of the session, your child will be rewarded with a small gift and you will get the opportunity to ask questions related to our research.

All our studies take place in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo:

Forskningsveien 3A, Harald Schjelderups hus, 0373 OSLO.

Currently, we have studies for 6-12 month-old babies. If interested, please contact us at: !


The project has been and is being funded by external grants from Norway, Switzerland, Malaysia, as well as internal grants from the University of Oslo.


The ongoing project is a part of an international collaboration with a number of Universities and research centres in Europe (Oxford, Göttingen, UEA, BCBL), Asia (UNMC, USM), Central- (UNAM) and North-America (Stanford, Maryland, Gordon).


Eye-tracking, tablet-based paradigms, acoustic analyses, ERP, imitation games, computational modelling.

Published Feb. 8, 2018 2:07 PM - Last modified June 8, 2021 12:57 PM