The Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) Project seeks to broaden and deepen our scientific understanding of language development by providing new ways of analyzing real world face-to-face interactions. The computational tools that were developed in the previous phases of the project now constitute the primary methodological basis for new empirical research on the development of spontaneous use of a first language. This work has examined all aspects of language development, including word learning, sound learning, grammatical development, and communicative development. All of these methods and data sets are provided without charge to researchers. Moreover, the database that has been collected using these tools is now the largest spoken language database available anywhere. However, we can achieve still greater efficiency and analytic precision by building even more powerful computational tools. The next phase of this project will develop new techniques to support analytic methods in the study of language development. These methods include rapid computer-assisted transcription of interactions, automatic analysis of words into their component parts, automatic linkage of words into syntactic structures, a simple user interface for searching for patterns, a system for analyzing links between speech and gesture, web-based support for collaborative commentary between research groups, and methods for moving data between different programs for alternative analyses. In addition, we will promote the use of these programs by constructing new web-based teaching tools, a new user interface, and conducting workshops and presentations at conferences.

Public Health Relevance

To help children with language delays and disorders, we need to understand the basic facts about language learning. The CHILDES project does this by allowing rapid searching for developmental patterns across a large database of transcripts from children learning language. These tools can also be applied to other health- related areas, including the study of adult language disorders, such as aphasia and dysarthria.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Carnegie-Mellon University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Arbib, Michael A; Bonaiuto, James J; Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Ina et al. (2014) Action and language mechanisms in the brain: data, models and neuroinformatics. Neuroinformatics 12:209-25
Sagae, Kenji; Davis, Eric; Lavie, Alon et al. (2010) Morphosyntactic annotation of CHILDES transcripts. J Child Lang 37:705-29
Booth, James R; Harasaki, Yasuaki; Burman, Douglas D (2006) Development of lexical and sentence level context effects for dominant and subordinate word meanings of homonyms. J Psycholinguist Res 35:531-54
Sagae, Kenji; MacWhinney, Brian; Lavie, Alon (2004) Automatic parsing of parental verbal input. Behav Res Methods Instrum Comput 36:113-26
MacWhinney, Brian (2004) A multiple process solution to the logical problem of language acquisition. J Child Lang 31:883-914
Booth, J R; MacWhinney, B; Thulborn, K R et al. (2000) Developmental and lesion effects in brain activation during sentence comprehension and mental rotation. Dev Neuropsychol 18:139-69
Booth, J R; MacWhinney, B; Harasaki, Y (2000) Developmental differences in visual and auditory processing of complex sentences. Child Dev 71:981-1003
Booth, J R; Macwhinney, B; Thulborn, K R et al. (1999) Functional organization of activation patterns in children: whole brain fMRI imaging during three different cognitive tasks. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 23:669-82
Booth, J R; Perfetti, C A; MacWhinney, B (1999) Quick, automatic, and general activation of orthographic and phonological representations in young readers. Dev Psychol 35:3-19