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People can buy some small, baby AIs, that live inside a virtual world. Initially, the AIs cannot do much, have an intelligence similar to a puppy, but as the years pass, they gain more and more capabilities.

People eventually get bored of raising them, so most of the virtual worlds are abandoned, so the protagonist has to hire programmers to do custom upgrades to the virtual world, so that the AIs can continue to live.

I think there were some playgrounds in the virtual world, where the owners could take AIs and play with them. When the AIs start speaking, at first they use some sort of baby language, unable to speak in fully correct sentences and they use simplified words.

I read the story about 10-15 years ago in English.

10

"The Lifecycle of Software Objects" is a novella by Ted Chiang that was published in 2010, so just within the date-window that you give. The story is about "digients" (short for "digital entities"), which are artificial intelligences that run in a digital world, created for entertainment purposes. The digients start off childlike, and develop intelligence and speech as they are reared. The story is told from the point of view of Derek, who designed the digients, and Ana, a former zookeeper, who helps train them. Eventually the fad for digients wears off, and as you say, there is an issue of porting the virtual environment to a different platform to keep the digients' world going.

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