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WP3. Task 1. Understanding language development and impairments



  • Describe French language development (LD) in a cross-linguistic comparative perspective
  • Identify and weigh social, linguistic, interactional, and neurocognitive factors impacting LD
  • Model the complex cognitive processes involved in speech production and perception and evaluate their impact in language impairments
  • Provide evaluation and remediation tools for French children with delayed or disordered LD and for language‑impaired French speakers



The role of input is considered important in early LD within a function based perspective (e.g. Cameron Faulkner, Lieven & Tomasello, 2003). But it has hardly been considered in its integrated relationship with the output patterns foound in the child's productions. Moreover, there are only very few large‐‑scale studies of early LD in the French child and no tools are available to evaluate very early French development. To fill this gap, large cohorts as well as individual child trajectories will be studied, extending upon our previous work on vocabulary development (Kern & Gayraud, 2010) and articulatory development (Canault & Laboissière, to appear). Early and late LD (including the development of literacy) will also be studied in spontaneous interaction and experimental settings, focusing on verb constructions, following Chenu & Jisa (2006).
Despite intensive work on language processing over the last decades, our knowledge of the neurocognition of language is still limited. Previous work has, for instance, shown that the motor system plays an important role in shaping phonological and semantic representations in adults (e.g. Boulenger et al., 2006; Pulvermüller et al., 2006). However, the specific interactions between motor and perceptual processes are still poorly understood. In addition, several language impairments are shaped by more general cognitive deficits (e.g. Bedoin et al., 2002 on epileptic children).
Designing a coherent model of neurocognitive language processing that integrates psycholinguistic, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data is thus essential in order to i) understand language typical and impaired development and processing and ii) develop methods of evaluation and remediation for language impaired people.


Description of work and Criteria of achievement

  • Study of large cohorts of children over a long period of time, in a cross-linguistic and complexity oriented perspective
  • Multidimensional study of acquisition trajectories in children with various cognitive, social, and linguistic profiles (articulatory, linguistic, multimodal, psycho- and neurocognitive)
  • Description and modelling of the constraints influencing language development in early and late development, including the development of literacy
  • Comparison of the mechanisms observed in French development with those observed in other languages
  • Modelling of the interactions between motor and perceptual processes in speech communication in a cross-linguistic perspective
  • Characterization of neurocognitive and linguistic deficits in language impaired speakers (from acquisition in children to pathological attrition, e.g. Alzheimer in ageing)
  • Elaboration of evaluation and remediation tools for pediatricians, speech pathologists and psychologists


Some recent works

Bedoin, N., Ferragne, E. & Marsico, E. (2010) Hemispheric asymmetries depend on the phonetic feature: A dichotic study of place of articulation and voicing in French stops. Brain and Language 115:2, 133-140
Bedoin, N., Ferragne, E., Lopez, C., Herbillon, V., De Bellescize, J. & des Portes, V. (2011) Atypical hemispheric asymmetries for the processing of phonological features in children with rolandic epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior 21:1, 42-51
Boulenger, V., Shtyrov, Y. & Pulvermüller, F. (2012) When do you grasp the idea? MEG evidence for instantaneous idiom understanding. NeuroImage 59:4, 3502-3513
Canault, M. & Laboissière, R. (2011) Le babillage et le développement des compétences articulatoires : indices temporels et moteurs. Faits de Langue 37, 173-188
Gayraud, F. & Kern, S. (2007) Caractéristiques phonologiques des premiers noms : depuis le babillage jusqu’à la langue cible. Enfance 59:4, 324-338
Jisa, H. & Tolchinsky, L. (2009) Developing a depersonalised discourse stance in typologically different languages: Written expository texts. Written Language and Literacy 12, 1-25
Jisa, H., Chenu, F., Fekete, G. & Omar, H. (2010) Promoting patients in narrative discourse : A developmental perspective. In Kail, M. & Hickmann, M. (eds), Language Acquisition across Linguistic and Cognitive Systems. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 161-177
Kern, S. & Gayraud, F. (2007) Influence of preterm birth on early lexical and grammatical acquisitions in French. First Language 27:2, 159-173
Maggio, S., Lété, B., Chenu, F., Jisa, H. & Fayol, M. (2012) Tracking the mind during writing: Immediacy, delayed, and anticipatory effects on pause and writing rate. Reading and Writing, doi:10.1007/s11145-011-9348-1
Nazir, T., Fargier, R., Aravena, P. & Boulenger, V. (2012) When words trigger activity in the brain’s sensory and motor systems: It is not Remembrance of Things Past. In Coello, Y. & Bartolo, A. (eds), Language and action in cognitive neuroscience. Psychology Press