Emergence of Language Abilities: ontogeny and phylogeny

Lyon, December -8-10, 2005

The general topic of this conference is early ontogenetic development and its relation to the phylogeny of language.

It is generally assumed in the field of the ontogeny of language that the child's first years of life are particularly crucial. This period is even sometimes considered as predictive at least in the short term, of the later abilities to communicate. During these first two years, phonetico-phonological, lexical and morpho-syntactic skills chronologically emerge. Explanations are provided for this sequence of development: the increase of articulatory control allows for example for the growth and diversification of vocabulary. Similarly, once a certain amount of words is acquired, the child starts to combine linguistic units and develops the morpho-syntactic aspects of his/her native language. The study of the development of communication also needs to include the gestural component since children use commonly also gestures instead of words.

Ontogenesis was often proposed as a source of knowledge about phylogenesis by virtue of the famous principle according to which "ontogenesis recapitulates phylogenesis". However, the validity of this principle that initially has concerned a specific domain (embryology) deserves careful evaluation in its applications to specific domains.

The first aim of this conference is to bring together researchers working on the development of phonetico-phonological, lexical and morpho-syntactic developments in children under age 3.

Our second aim is to evaluate if, and to what extent, language is a domain to which this principle applies. In the pursuit of that goal, we request the contribution of researchers addressing the issue of similarities and differences between the development of language in children and in early hominids.


  • Comparison between ontogenetic and phylogenetic development,
  • Language development before age three: phonetics, phonology, lexical semantics, morphosyntax,
  • Communicative media (gestural and oral),
  • Crosslinguistic and cross-species comparisons.



Last update / Dernière mise à jour le : 07-Jan-05