Semin Speech Lang 2005; 26(1): 44-53
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-864215
Copyright © 2005 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Starting Over: A Preliminary Study of Early Lexical and Syntactic Development in Internationally Adopted Preschoolers

Joy Geren1 , Jesse Snedeker1 , Laura Ax1
  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
24 February 2005 (online)


To explore early language acquisition in internationally adopted preschoolers, we collected parental reports (CDI-2) and speech samples from 14 children adopted from China between the ages of 2 years, 7 months and 5 years, 1 month. Their lexical and syntactic development was qualitatively similar to infants acquiring English as a first language: nouns and social words dominated early vocabularies; verbs and closed-class items became more frequent as vocabulary size increased; and lexical and syntactic development were tightly correlated. This research has several implications for clinicians. First, it demonstrates that parental reports provide valid information during the first year after adoption and could be useful in identifying preschool children in need of further assessment. Nine to 15 months after arrival many children reached the ceiling of the CDI-2, suggesting that this instrument has limited utility after the first year. Finally, the rapid lexical and syntactic growth of these children suggests that many of them may eventually catch up with their native-born peers.


Joy Geren

Laboratory for Developmental Studies

Shannon Hall, 25 Francis Ave., Room 202

Cambridge, MA 02138

Email: [email protected]