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Child Dev. 2019 May;90(3):985-992. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13128. Epub 2018 Aug 13.

Language Matters: Denying the Existence of the 30-Million-Word Gap Has Serious Consequences.

Author information

1
University of Delaware.
2
Florida Atlantic University.
3
Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
4
New York University.
5
Temple University and Brookings Institute.

Abstract

Sperry, Sperry, and Miller (2018) aim to debunk what is called the 30-million-word gap by claiming that children from lower income households hear more speech than Hart and Risley () reported. We address why the 30-million-word gap should not be abandoned, and the importance of retaining focus on the vital ingredient to language learning-quality speech directed to children rather than overheard speech, the focus of Sperry et al.'s argument. Three issues are addressed: Whether there is a language gap; the characteristics of speech that promote language development; and the importance of language in school achievement. There are serious risks to claims that low-income children, on average, hear sufficient, high-quality language relative to peers from higher income homes.

PMID:
30102419
DOI:
10.1111/cdev.13128

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