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The Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) is a corpus established in 1984 by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow to serve as a central repository for first language acquisition data.[1] Its earliest transcripts date from the 1960s, and it now has contents (transcripts, audio, and video) in 26 languages from 130 different corpora, all of which are publicly available worldwide. Recently, CHILDES has been made into a component of the larger corpus TalkBank, which also includes language data from aphasics, second language acquisition, conversation analysis, and classroom language learning. CHILDES is mainly used for analyzing the language of young children and the child directed speech of adults.[2]

During the early 1990s, as computational resources capable of easily manipulating the data volumes found in CHILDES became commonly available, there was a significant increase in the number of studies of child language acquisition that made use of it. CHILDES is currently directed and maintained by Brian MacWhinney at Carnegie Mellon University.

Database Format[edit]

There are a variety of languages and ages represented in the CHILDES transcripts. The majority of the transcripts are from spontaneous interactions and conversations.[3] The transcriptions are coded in the CHAT (Codes for the Human Analysis of Transcripts) transcription format, which provides a standardized format for producing conversational transcripts. This system can be used to transcribe conversations with any type of language learner: children, second-language learners, and recovering aphasics. In addition to discourse level transcription, the CHAT system also has options for phonological and morphological analysis. The CLAN program was developed by Leonid Spektor and aids in transcription and analysis of the child language data.[4]

Use in Research[edit]

To date, over 4500 published studies cite CHILDES.[5] CHILDES reports this number in their manuals [6] and Google Scholar contains 5451 citations as of July 2017.[7]


  1. ^ "Introduction to the Database" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-08. 
  2. ^ Biber, Douglas (1998). Corpus linguistics: Investigating language structure and use. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521499576. 
  3. ^ "Introduction to the Database" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-08. 
  4. ^ "The CHILDES Project: Tools for Analyzing Talk" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-20. 
  5. ^ "Articles based on usage of CHILDES" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  6. ^ "The CHILDES Project: Tools for Analyzing Talk" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2015-07-08. 
  7. ^ "Google Scholar CHILDES Search". Retrieved 2015-07-08. 

External links[edit]