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The project Information structure in language acquisition studies the linguistic realization of information structure and its acquisition by children and adults in a variety of languages. The project examines the development of the relationship between semantic/pragmatic functions (topic, focus, given, new, contrast) and corresponding formal devices. Among the various means which are typically used to encode information structure, priority will be given to the study of word order, intonation, pronominals, and particles. The questions addressed in this domain include the following:

  • Do children express the same kinds of semantic/pragmatic contrasts as adults (e.g. given, accessible, new) using the same devices (e.g. word order, intonation)?
  • Are such form-function linkages a very early - perhaps the first way - that learners have of structuring utterances? Are first and second language acquisition different in this regard?
  • What role do general information structural principles play in influencing the acquisition of devices such as intonation, negation, finiteness or focus particles in a second language?


Project members use a variety of methods to explore these questions in learner data from different languages, including the investigation of corpora of spontaneous production data, elicited production, reaction time and eye-tracking techniques. Languages under study include: Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Serbian, Turkish. more >

Last checked 2013-06-10 by Christine Dimroth

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