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The ESF Database


The ESF (European Science Foundation Second Language) Database is a computerized archive of data collected by research groups of the ESF-project in five European countries: France, Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Sweden. The project concentrates on the spontaneous second language acquisition of forty adult immigrant workers living in Western Europe, and their communication with native speakers in the respective host countries. The target languages are Dutch, English, French, German and Swedish. For each target language, two source languages were selected:


Organization of the database

The Database contains three main categories of files:
Data files
The files contain raw transcripts of the encounters with the informants, accompanying files such as protocols of the encounters, and informants' socio-biographies.
Programs and procedures to facilitate analysis on the data.
Documentation of data, programs and procedures.

The data files are organized in a large number of plain text files, rather than being kept in a database management system. Filenames are constructed in a way that allows retrieval of information about the group an informant belongs to, source and target language, subject data collection cycle, encounter, activity type, sequence of activities in the encounter, the language spoken during the activity and the file type. Each of these items is encoded with one letter -except for the two-letter abbreviations used for subjects' pseudonyms. A filename like lsfbe24a.1tr can easily be decoded with some basic knowledge of the project's design (cf. Feldweg (1991), Perdue (1993), chapter 7) : subject from Longitudinal group, source language is Spanish, target language is French, the informant's name is BErta, the session took place in the 2nd data collection cycle and it was the 4th encounter in that cycle , the activity transcribed is a free conversation (activity code A), it is the 1st conversation in the encounter, carried out in the Target language and the file contains a Raw transcript.


Perdue, C. (ed.) (1993). Adult Language Acquisition. Vol 1: Field Methods. Cambridge University Press

Feldweg, H. (1991). The European Science Foundation Second Language Database. Nijmegen: Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics.

Programs for computer-assisted analysis

The programs among others facilitate data (re-)formatting, creation of concordances, and type/token frequency tables. Searching data files for certain patterns, words, character combinations, numbers or whatever can be done by grep. grep searches through files for all lines containing a match for a given search pattern. Other programs available on the ESF database are sfind (searching for distant patterns), freq (making frequency counts and lists) and kwal (creating concordances).

Conversion to the CHILDES CHAT format

ESF files have been converted to CHAT format since 1996. This implies that all CHILDES tools, including the possibility of spoken CHILDES, in principle will become available, for analysis.

Last updated: February 14, 2000 15:08

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