Project

Back to overview

The role of causality in early verb learning: language-specific factors vs. universal strategies

English title The role of causality in early verb learning: language-specific factors vs. universal strategies
Applicant Stoll Sabine
Number 169712
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Phonetisches Laboratorium Inst. für Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Other languages and literature
Start/End 01.09.2017 - 31.08.2021
Approved amount 819'480.00
Show all

All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Other languages and literature
Psychology

Keywords (4)

Developmental Psychology; Linguistic Relativity; Language Acquisition; Perception of Causality

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Sprache und Kognition beeinflussen sich gegenseitig. Die Entwicklung dieses Zusammenhangs soll am Beispiel des Verständnisses von „Kausalität“ in Wahrnehmung und Sprache untersucht werden.
Lay summary

Das Forschungsprojekt beschäftigt sich mit der Frage, wie Sprache und Kognition in der Entwicklung eines Kindes miteinander interagieren. Dies soll am Beispiel der Kausalität untersucht werden. Kausalität ist ein allgegenwärtiges Merkmal der menschlichen Erkenntnis und Kommunikation. Sie wird allen Sprachen der Welt ausgedrückt, oft aber in unterschiedlicher Form.

In einem ersten Teilprojekt wird untersucht, wie die unterschiedliche Verwendung von Kausalität in der Sprache das Verstehen wahrgenommener kausaler Ereignisse beeinflusst. Dazu wird die Entwicklung des nicht-sprachlichen Kausalitätsverständnisses bei Kindern aus der Schweiz und der Türkei untersucht. Schweizerdeutsch und Türkisch unterscheiden sich insbesondere durch den Ausdruck von kausalen Ereignissen. In einem zweiten Teilprojekt wird das Lernen von sprachlichen Kausalstrukturen längsschnittlich im Altersbereich zwischen 2 und 3 Jahren für 9 Sprachen untersucht die sich in Bezug auf grammatikalische Strukturen stark unterscheiden.

Die erwarteten Ergebnisse dieses interdisziplinären und kulturvergleichenden Projekts leisten einen wesentlichen Beitrag zur Frage nach den treibenden Faktoren des Spracherwerbs und der Entwicklung des Zusammenhangs zwischen Sprache und Kognition. Es wird aufgezeigt, wie Kinder lernen, kausale Strukturen zu verstehen und wie dieses Verständnis durch den sprachlichen Ausdruck von Kausalität in der jeweiligen Sprache, die sie lernen, beeinflusst wird.

 

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 12.07.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Child-directed speech is optimized for syntax-free semantic inference
You Guanghao, Bickel Balthasar, Daum Moritz M., Stoll Sabine (2021), Child-directed speech is optimized for syntax-free semantic inference, in Scientific Reports, 11(1), 16527-16527.
Influence of causal language on causal understanding: A comparison between Swiss German and Turkish
Ger Ebru, Stuber Larissa, Küntay Aylin C., Göksun Tilbe, Stoll Sabine, Daum Moritz M. (2021), Influence of causal language on causal understanding: A comparison between Swiss German and Turkish, in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 210, 105182-105182.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Department of Computational Linguistics, University of Geneva Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Department of Psychology Koç University Istanbul Turkey (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Pädagogische Hochschule Institut Forschung und Entwicklung Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Department of Psychology Koç University, Istanbul Turkey (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Corpus Linguistics Laboratory, URPP Language and Spache, University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Abstract

Causality is an ubiquitous feature of human cognition and communication. Causality is universally expressed in human languages but it is particularly intriguing for learning because causes of events cannot be directly perceived but rather need to be inferred. From early on in ontogeny infants focus on the causality of events. One of the unsolved questions is how children learn about the interpretation and expression of such causal events in becoming a native speaker of their language. Causality is expressed very differently in the languages of the world and a controversially discussed research question is whether language acquisition is driven by language-specific features of the input or by universal principles. The goal of this project is to contribute to this question. To achieve this goal we combine a large-scale cross-linguistic corpus study with an experimental study. This allows us to learn both about the natural use of causatives and test in detail which variables might be relevant for the learning of causatives. In the corpus-study we analyse the learning of causatives in children age 2-3 in longitudinal corpora of 9 languages of very different grammatical structures (ACQDIV corpus). This allows us to systematically track the development of causatives in languages with different causative marking (morphological, lexical and periphrastic) and correlate the development to the input.To systematically test variables relevant for the understanding of causation and assess whether children apply similar hypotheses about causality dependent or independent of their language we will use a cross-linguistic experimental approach. We compare two typologically unrelated languages, with different marking of causatives, namely Swiss German and Turkish. In Swiss German causality is mainly expressed lexically, (sitzen ‘sit’ vs. setzen ‘to seat’ vs. ‘to put’) while in Turkish, causality is mainly expressed morphologically with an affix added to non-causative verbs (unutmak ‘to forget’ vs. unutturmak ‘to make forget’). To assess the extent to which children’s understanding changes in the early phase of grammar learning (age 2-3), and to establish whether there are differences in the two languages, we conduct three experiments. We systematically control for the following three features: (i) intentionality, (ii) animacy, and (iii) physical contact, which have been established by a number of developmental studies to contribute to the early perception of causality. The experimental set-up uses a combined eye-tracking and pointing paradigm that allows measuring both implicit looking data and explicit pointing data. Since there is considerable variation in early linguistic development the individual competence of each child will be assessed using a CDI (MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories, Fenson et al., 1993), parental reports to assess language comprehension and production in the respective Swiss-German and Turkish versions. If language is the major driving force right from the beginning Turkish children should behave differently from their Swiss German counterparts. We expect that Swiss-German children rely longer on the three features relevant in infant perception of causality than Turkish children, who will have a clear-cut marker of causality, which potentially facilitates the adaption to the adult system.This project will contribute substantially to the question about the driving factors of language acquisition and to the overall question of linguistic relativity. It is interdisciplinary (involving developmental psychology, linguistics and computational linguistics) and intercultural in analysing typological different languages learned by children from different cultural background with a focus on three areas of language development: 1) early concepts of causality, 2) early comprehension of causative (transitive) sentence structures and grammatical cues, and 3) interaction between the development of causality concepts and first language acquisition.
-