Social and linguistic factors influencing adaptation in children's speech. Academic Article uri icon


  • The ability to appropriately reciprocate or compensate a partner's communicative response represents an essential element of communicative competence. Previous research indicates that as children grow older, their speech levels reflect greater adaptation relative to their partner's speech. In this study, we argue that patterns of adaptation are related to specific linguistic and pragmatic abilities, such as verbal responsiveness, involvement in the interaction, and the production of relatively complex syntactic structures. Thirty-seven children (3-6 years of age) individually interacted with an adult for 20 to 30 minutes. Adaptation between child and adult was examined among conversational floortime, response latency, and speech rate. Three conclusions were drawn from the results of this investigation. First, by applying time-series analysis to the interactants' speech behaviors within each dyad, individual measures of the child's adaptations to the adult's speech can be generated. Second, consistent with findings in the adult domain, these children generally reciprocated changes in the adult's speech rate and response latency. Third, there were differences in degree and type of adaptation within specific dyads. Chronological age was not useful in accounting for this individual variation, but specific linguistic and social abilities were. Implications of these findings for the development of communicative competence and for the study of normal versus language-delayed speech were discussed.

published proceedings

  • J Psycholinguist Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Street, R. L., & Cappella, J. N.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Street, RL||Cappella, JN

publication date

  • September 1989