Journal of Child Language

Review Article and Commentaries

Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development*


a1 University of Pittsburgh


During the first eighteen months of life, infants acquire and refine a whole set of new motor skills that significantly change the ways in which the body moves in and interacts with the environment. In this review article, I argue that motor acquisitions provide infants with an opportunity to practice skills relevant to language acquisition before they are needed for that purpose; and that the emergence of new motor skills changes infants' experience with objects and people in ways that are relevant for both general communicative development and the acquisition of language. Implications of this perspective for current views of co-occurring language and motor impairments and for methodology in the field of child language research are also considered.

(Received June 24 2009)

(Revised August 06 2009)

(Accepted September 14 2009)

(Online publication January 25 2010)


[*] Preparation of this article was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01 HD54979). I am grateful to Erin Koterba, Meg Parladé and Nina Leezenbaum for discussion of many of the ideas presented here, to Robert H. Wozniak for extensive and insightful comments, and to Edith Bavin and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions on previous versions of the manuscript. This article is dedicated to the memory of Michael M. Iverson.