Inconsistent input and amount of exposure: child language acquisition of Fering, a dialect of North Frisian

CGS Brown Bag Lecture Series
Oct 16, 2013
01:30 PM to 02:30 PM
430 Burrowes

Alison Eisel Hendricks, German & Slavic Languages and Literature, Penn State

Sociolinguistics has focused on how children master variability in language, predictable alternations like the differences between “I will eat my vegetables” and “I’m gonna eat my vegetables”.  However, little research has explored how children learn inconsistency, or unpredictable aspects of language. Recent findings using mini-artificial languages suggest that when presented with inconsistent input, adults match the statistical patterns in their input, whereas children regularize inconsistency. That is, children produce a more systematic language rather than continuing inconsistency (Hudson Kam & Newport, 2005, 2009). However, these studies are limited by their scope and cannot determine whether regularization represents a general pattern of acquisition or only its early stages. Therefore, I present research from a study on child acquisition of morphology in Fering, a dialect of the minority language North Frisian spoken in northern Germany, thus testing the previous findings in a naturalistic environment. By investigating the acquisition of the inconsistently produced feature grammatical gender by children with varying levels of input, this research distinguishes between the roles of inconsistency and quantity of input.

Originally from Southern California, Alison Eisel Hendricks earned her B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in German from Occidental College. She is currently a fifth year PhD. student in Language Science and German Applied Linguistics at Penn State. With support from the Fulbright Commission, the Center for Global Studies, and the National Science Foundation, Alison spent last year living in northern Germany, conducting research on North Frisian, a Germanic language spoken in northern Germany. Her research focuses on how children acquire morphology, including grammatical gender and plural marking.

This lecture is a part of the Center for Global Studies Brown Bag Graduate Lecture Series which focuses on interdisciplinary graduate research.

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