Genetic Evidence for Bidirectional Effects of Early Lexical and Grammatical Development



This article addresses the autonomy hypothesis of vocabulary and grammar and bootstrapping mechanisms in early language development. Two birth cohorts of 1,505 and 1,049 same-sex twin pairs from the UK were assessed at 2 and 3 years on grammar and vocabulary, using adapted versions of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory. Vocabulary and grammar correlate strongly at both 2 and 3 years in both cohorts. Multivariate genetic modeling reveals a consistently high genetic correlation between vocabulary and grammar at 2 and 3 years. This finding suggests the same genetic influences operate for both vocabulary and grammar, a finding incompatible with traditional autonomy hypothesis, at least in early acquisition. Cross-lagged longitudinal genetic models indicate both lexical and syntactical bootstrapping operate from 2 to 3 years.