Document Type

Theoretical Article


We provide an empirically updated Skinnerian-based account of verbal behavior development, describing how the speaker-as-own-listener capability in children (the capability of children to behave as speaker and listener within their own skin) accrues and how it is pivotal to becoming verbal. The theory grew from (a) findings in experiments with children with and without language delays and (b) findings from research devoted to the identification of derived and emergent behavior (i.e., novel, creative, and spontaneous behavior). Experiments identified preverbal instructional histories leading to separate listener and speaker capabilities and experiences that joined the listener and the speaker. Once this learned intercept is present, children engage in conversational self-talk, engage in say–do correspondence, and acquire new vocabulary without direct instruction. These developmental capabilities make it possible for most complex behavior to be learned, including reading, writing, emission of novel tenses and suffixes, and the following of and construction of complex algorithms.