Astra Schults will defend her doctoral thesis titled "First words of Estonian children: Early communicative development" on 20 June at 12:00.
Supervisor: prof Tiia Tulviste
Opponent: Suvi Stolt, PhD, Helsingi Ülikool
Summary: The main focus of this dissertation is the part of early communicative development that starts with understanding the words that the child is hearing, the gestures the child is using, and is followed by starting to talk and learning new words. We adapted to Estonian the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (henceforth CDI): Words and Gestures and used it to gather data to describe communicative development in Estonian children at the age of 0;8 to 1;4. Estonian children start to understand first words around the age of 0;8. We showed that if children understand many nouns compared to the other types of words they tend to say more words. Estonian children start to say their first words (aitäh thank you, nämm-nämm yum yum, ema mother, aidaa bye bye) at around the age of 0;10. These are the words that either imitate sound effects or are often used during daily routines. Most of the children say more than seven words at the time of their first birthday and at the age of 1;4 they say about 28 words. At this time names for important people as well as for interesting objects are added to children’s lexicon. The age when Estonian children start to talk and the number of words they are using at different ages are similar to children who are acquiring other languages, like English, Italian, or Finnish. Boys and girls use almost the same number of words at the earliest age. Girls start to say slightly more words compared to the boys only at the age of 1;2 to 1;4. We also used Estonian adaptation of CDI: Words and Sentences to gather data about preterm and full term born children’s communicative development at the age of 1;6 to 2;1. We found that if preterm born and full term born children were matched according to their age, gender, and number of words there were no differences in the types of words they were saying nor in the number of words they were combing together to form sentences.