Toy talk: Simple strategies to create richer grammatical input

Pamela A. Hadley, Kathleen M. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this initial feasibility study was to determine whether brief instruction in toy talk would change grammatical properties of adult language, specifically 3rd person lexical noun phrase (NP) subjects. Method: Eighteen college students participated in the study. The use of 3rd person subjects was examined before and after instruction on toy talk strategies (i.e., talk about the toys, give the item its name). Change in the input informativeness for tense (i.e., the proportion of verb forms marked for tense out of all verb forms) was also examined, although adults were not instructed on use of tense/agreement morphemes. Results: Following instruction, statistically significant increases with large effect sizes were observed for use of 3rd person subjects, lexical NP subjects, and input informativeness for tense (Cohen's d = 1.20, 2.08, and 0.89, respectively). Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that young adults can learn these simple strategies with relatively brief instruction, and the use of toy talk also changes the richness of tense/agreement marking in adult language input. Considerations for incorporating toy talk into existing language modeling practices and future plans for evaluating the efficacy of toy talk are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-172
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Agreement
  • Grammar
  • Language input
  • Tense

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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