Language Development Lab

The Mills College Language Development Lab is under the direction of Dr. Priya Shimpi Driscoll in the School of Education. Our goal is to study the social and linguistic influences contributing to children's communicative development, from approximately six months through six years of age. Our studies examine:

  • How infants, toddlers, and young children develop one or multiple languages
  • How toddlers learn from direct instruction and from overhearing/observing others
  • How young children develop a sense of self
  • How children gain information from different sources: adults, children, siblings, video, and other media
  • How differences in children's experience (e.g., having a sibling) relate to differences in learning and attention
  • How picturebook reading helps children use complex sentences

Early Experience & Language Development

Our current work focuses on children’s language learning from a variety of input sources, including from parents, siblings, from overhearing others’ conversations, and from observing televised events. The goal of this research is to understand how children’s early experiences relate to language learning.

Relevant Publications

Shimpi, P., Fedewa, A., & Hans, S. (in press). Social and linguistic input in low-income African American mother-infant dyads from one month through two years: Relations to vocabulary development. Applied Psycholinguistics.

O’Doherty, K., Troseth, G., Shimpi, P., Goldenberg, E., Akhtar, N., & Saylor, M. (in press). Third-party social interaction and word learning from video. Child Development.

Shneidman, L., Sootsman Buresh, J., Shimpi, P., Knight-Schwartz, J., & Woodward, A.  (2009). Social experience, social attention and word learning in an overhearing paradigm. Language Learning and Development, 5, 1–16.

Shimpi, P., & Huttenlocher, J.  (2007).  Maternal labels and infant attention: Relations to early vocabulary development. Journal of Child Language, 34, 1–15.

Development of Syntax

Our other area of research is in the development of syntax in monolingual and second-language learners. Through playing a turn-taking game in which children describe pictures with an adult, we examine how children use complex sentence patterns.

Relevant Publications 

Vasilyeva, M., Waterfall, H., Gámez, P., Gόmez, L., Bowers, E., & Shimpi, P. (2010). Cross-Linguistic syntactic priming in Spanish-English bilingual children.  Journal of Child Language 37(5), 1047-1064.

Gámez, P., Shimpi, P., Waterfall, H., & Huttenlocher, J.  (2009). Priming a perspective in Spanish monolingual children: The use of syntactic alternatives. Journal of Child Language, 36(2),269–290. 

Shimpi, P., Gámez, P., Huttenlocher, J., & Vasilyeva, M. (2007). Using syntactic priming to track emerging linguistic representations of transitive and dative constructions. Developmental Psychology, 43, 6, 1334–1346.

Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., & Shimpi, P. (2004).  Syntactic priming in young children. Journal of Memory and Language, 50, 182–195.