Benutzerspezifische Werkzeuge

Panel 5: The acquisition of variation


Organizers: Gunther de Vogelaer (University of Münster), Matthias Katerbow (University of Marburg)

Despite repeated calls for in-depth research the acquisition of variation remains to be an underinvestigated topic both in sociolinguistics and in language acquisition research. Yet several reasons can be given why children and adolescents are a worthwhile topic of investigation: first, the process of language transmission has been quoted for more than a century as a potential cause of dialect levelling and loss. In addition, processes of koinèisation are believed to take place primarily in children and adolescents. However, the precise socio-pragmatic circumstances underlying faithful dialect transmission, levelling and koinèisation remain poorly understood. Second, it has been claimed that in acquisition there is no 'time gap between the acquisition of grammatical competence and the development of sociolinguistic competence' (Chambers 2003:174). If this is correct, the ability to perceive and employ variation in speech is an integral part of children's linguistic competence, and the field of language development cannot afford to study the acquisition process in a sociolinguistic vacuum. It is, for instance, unclear whether the acquisition of a standardised variety yields reliable diagnostics for language disorders in children acquiring a non-standard variety. In addition, the study of the acquisition of variation is bound to lead to important insights into the role of the input in the language acquisition process, and may be instrumental in refining existing models of language learning.

In this workshop, we will address issues such as:

  • style shifting and accommodation in children and adolescents
  • the socio-pragmatic circumstances in which variation is acquired, including
    the effect of the linguistic repertoire within a speech community (diglossia vs.
    diaglossia), the role of caregivers vis-à-vis the peer group,...
  • the development of sociolinguistic monitoring and/or the awareness of
    language variation, including children and adolescents' attitudes towards
    variation
  • the role of children in processes of change, including dialect levelling,
    regiolectisation and koinèisation
  • detecting language disorders in children acquiring non-standard varieties
  • the importance of variation in child language for models of language learning,
    and grammar in general