Sabine Stoll

15.–16. 4.


Sabine Stoll



Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, LipskoDepartment of General Linguistics
University of Zürich

Odborné zaměření:
– Osvojování jazyka
(Komparace osvojování typologicky různých jazyků)

15. 4. / 17:30 /
č. 18
1. Comparative language acquisition research: some new methods

One of the most under-researched areas in language acquisition research is how children cope with the variation exhibited in the approximately 7000 languages spoken today. Children learn any language they grow up with adapting to the structures of their language/s no matter how complex or idiosyncratic they are. To find out about potentially universal learning mechanisms we need a sample of languages which is representative of the variation exhibited in the languages of the world. In this talk I will first introduce a new sampling method of languages, which allows us to study how children cope with the conditions of variation in maximally diverse languages. Second, I will present some new methods to measure development in longitudinal data across languages. These measurements  are illustrated with three case studies on: (i) how to measure  the development of related variables in development? (ii)  how to determine stages in development? (iii) how to determine productivity?

16. 4. / 14:10 /
č. 18
2. Learning argument structure with strong variation: item-specificity and conversational interaction

One of the earliest tasks in language acquisition is to find out how participants of an event are expressed in a clause, i.e. which argument corresponds to which semantic role. Most research on the acquisition of languages with accusative alignment has shown that the mapping of semantic roles to argument is a very early achievement. The tasks of children learning languages with ergative case marking are presumably more challenging because they are not confronted with a uniform semantic notion of agent, but rather have the same marking for the intransitive subject and the object of a transitive verb, at least under some conditions. In this talk I will discuss the differences  in the distributions of the ergative case between children acquiring Chintang (Sino-Tibetan, Nepal) and their surrounding adults.  The study is based on a longitudinal corpus of four children learning Chintang. Ergative marking in Chintang is conditioned by person and there are only few conditions when the ergative is obligatory. I will show that from early on there are no differences in the frequency distributions between adults and children. Further, similar to the adults, children from early on use a variety of different functions associated with the ergative case marker. However,  closer inspection of the immediate context in which the ergatives are used in conversations shows that in the earliest phases children are much more lexically specific in their uses of ergatives than adults. Further they mainly repeat ergatives which adults have used before. Either children repeat the ergative exactly or they use an ergative with a different host used by  the interlocutor before. Only later in development we find more truly spontaneous uses, i.e. instances in which the child uses an ergative but the interlocutors have not yet used an ergative shortly before.