Cross-linguistic Perspectives on Children's Speech Development

Most 5-year-old children across the world can speak intelligibly and have acquired the consonants, vowel, and tones of their ambient language(s) and dialect(s). Many researchers across the world have contributed to our knowledge of children’s speech development (Multilingual Children’s Speech website). This presentation celebrates the communicative competence of monolingual and multilingual children across the world and provides diagnostic indicators for when children may require referral to speech-language pathology/therapy. During the presentation the following studies will be profiled:

·      Children’s communicative competence and capacity: extensive large-scale Australian evidence from 10,000 children within the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), over 1,000 children from Footprints in Time - The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC), and children’s drawings

·      Intelligibility: a cross-linguistic review of 18 studies profiling 14 languages spoken by 4235 children from 14 countries (McLeod, 2020)

·      Consonant acquisition: a cross-linguistic review of 64 studies profiling 27 languages spoken by 26,007 children from 31 countries (McLeod & Crowe, 2018) and a review of 15 studies of English speech acquisition by 18,907children from the US (Crowe & McLeod, 2020)

·      Speech development: a cross-linguistic review of 80 chapters currently being written for The Oxford Handbook of Speech Development in Languages of the World


Effective communication is a human right for everyone – including children. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child describe our right to freedom of opinion and expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. This presentation will conclude with the call to ensure that all children across the world are able to communicate effectively in their ambient language(s) and dialect(s).

Professor Sharynne McLeod

Sharynne McLeod, Ph.D. is a speech-language pathologist and professor of speech and language acquisition at Charles Sturt University, Australia. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, has received Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Life Membership of Speech Pathology Australia, and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. She has co-authored 13 books and 250+ peer reviewed journal articles and chapters primarily focusing on communication rights, children’s speech acquisition, speech sound disorders, and multilingualism and provides free resources in over 70 languages on the Multilingual Children’s Speech website, Waiting for Speech Pathology website, and VietSpeech. She has provided expertise to the World Health Organization and has presented at the United Nations about communication rights. The Australian Newspaper named her Australia’s Research Field Leader in Audiology, Speech and Language Pathology (2018, 2019, 2020, 2022) and Best in the World based on the “quality, volume and impact” of research in the field (2019, 2023).