The subject of language skills offers numerous fascinating opportunities for research. For instance, investigators are making intriguing discoveries about language skill development in infants. Infancy and early childhood are periods when human capacities for language learning are immense. Children’s language skills typically skyrocket after their first birthdays, vastly surpassing adult capacities. By employing a brain-imaging technique, researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences recently determined that language skills can be predicted in infancy by the anatomy of the cerebellum and hippocampus in the brain. Curiously, these areas of the brain are not associated with language skills but with memory processing and motor abilities. The findings raise several possibilities for further research, including efforts to identify and treat children with developmental disabilities at earlier ages.
Another intriguing research topic concerns the relationships between language skills and emotional development. Psychologists at various institutions, including Pennsylvania State University, are currently investigating how early frustrations with language skill development may have long-term effects on emotional regulation. Children who develop sophisticated language skills during the first three years of life appear to communicate more calmly and to be more effective at finding outlets for their frustrations, while those with experience linguistic challenges are more likely to throw tantrums, apparently because of difficulties with expressing their needs and frustrations. The emotional patterns linked to early language development may affect how children generally respond to challenges and frustrations as life continues.