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Progressive modularization: Reframing our understanding of typical and atypical language development

D'Souza, D; Filippi, R; (2017) Progressive modularization: Reframing our understanding of typical and atypical language development. First Language , 37 (5) pp. 518-529. 10.1177/0142723717720038. Green open access

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Abstract

The ability to acquire language is a critical part of human development. Yet there is no consensus on how the skill emerges in early development. Does it constitute an innately-specified, language-processing module or is it acquired progressively? One of Annette Karmiloff-Smith’s (1938–2016) key contributions to developmental science addresses this very question. Karmiloff-Smith persistently maintained that the process of development itself constitutes a crucial factor in phenotypic outcomes. She proposed that cognitive modules gradually emerge through a developmental process – ‘progressive modularization’. This concept helped to advance the field beyond the stale nature–nurture controversy. It enabled language researchers to develop more nuanced transactional frameworks that take seriously the integration of genes and environment. In homage to Karmiloff-Smith, the current article describes the importance of her work to the field of developmental psychology and language research. It examines how the concept of progressive modularization could be applied to language development as well as how it has greatly advanced our understanding of language difficulties in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Finally, it discusses how Karmiloff-Smith’s approach is inspiring current and future research.

Type: Article
Title: Progressive modularization: Reframing our understanding of typical and atypical language development
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0142723717720038
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723717720038
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Atypical language development, bilingualism, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, language development, modularization, neuroconstructivism, neurodevelopmental disorders
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1564612
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