LOT Winter School 2018

The role of input and interaction in language development across the lifespan

Heike Behrens


Universität Basel


Level: advanced

Course description:

Input and interaction shape language development in three ways: First, recurrent and varying patterns provide quantitative information on linguistic structures and their relations, which can be picked up through statistical learning. Second, the quality of the interaction mediates between input and intake: ideally, the interaction should be contingent with the situational context as well as challenging in order for the learner to move on. Third, the individual predispositions of the learners vary, and the learners’ linguistic representations change over time, which leads to the question of how the linguistic environment can be targeted to the learners’ current needs. In this course we will discuss state of the art research from several domains and (theoretical and methodological) approaches that are usually not discussed together in order to come to a more comprehensive picture of the language learning processes across the lifespan, and identify topics for future research.

Day-to-day program:


Quantitative factors, statistical learning

In this session we will start with a survey on the different quantitative and qualitative factors that shape language learning over developmental time. In particular, we will look at the interplay of interactional style and linguistic richness of the input.

Literature for Monday:

Ambridge, Ben, Kidd, Evan, Rowland, Caroline F., & Theakston, Anna L. (2015). The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 42(2), 239-273. doi:10.1017/S030500091400049X

Huttenlocher, Janellen, Waterfall, Henry, Vasilyeva, M., Vevea, J., & Hedges, L. V. (2010). Sources of variability in children's language growth. Cognitive Psychology, 61(4), 343-365. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2010.08.002


Affordances and limits of statistical learning; methods: Artificial Language Learning paradigms, corpus-linguistic approaches

Literature for Tuesday:

Hoff, Erika. (2010). Context effects on young children’s language use: The influence of conversational setting and partner. First Language, 30(3-4), 461-472. doi:10.1177/0142723710370525

Rowe, Meredith L, Leech, Kathryn A., & Cabrera, Natasha J. (2017). Going beyond input quantity: Wh-questions matter for toddlers’ language and cognitive development. Cognitive Science, 41(Suppl. 1), 162-179. doi:10.1111/cogs.12349


Effect of pragmatic factors, conversational style, different input situations

Literature for Wednesday:

Matthews, Danielle, Lieven, Elena V. M., & Tomasello, Michael. (2010). What's in a Manner of Speaking? Children's Sensitivity to Partner-Specific Referential Precedents. Developmental Psychology, 46(4), 749-760. doi:Doi 10.1037/A0019657

Leech, Kathryn A., Rowe, Meredith L., & Huang, Yi Ting. (2016). Variations in the recruitment of syntactic knowledge contribute to SES differences in syntactic development*. Journal of Child Language, 1-15. doi:10.1017/S0305000916000210


Targeted input in L2 learning – how do learners at different stages profit from different types of input (varying type-token distribution)

Literature for Thursday:

Madlener, Karin. (2015). Frequency effects in instructed second language acquisition: Why input flooding is not the whole story . Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Brooks, Patricia J., Kwoka, Nicole, & Kempe, Vera. (2017). Distributional Effects and Individual Differences in L2 Morphology Learning. Language Learning, 67 (1), 171-207. doi:10.1111/lang.12204


Ultimate attainment for everybody? Individual difference as the outcome of learning. Implications for linguistic theory and acquisition theory

Literature for Friday:

Dąbrowska, Ewa. (2012). Different speakers, different grammars: Individual differences in native language attainment. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 2(3), 219-253. doi:10.1075/lab.2.3.01dab

Kempe, Vera, & Brooks, Patricia. (2011). Individual differences in adult second language learning. Scottish Languages Review, 23, 15-22.

Dąbrowska, Ewa. (2015). Language in the mind and in the community. In Jocelyne Daems, Eline Zenner, Kris Heylen, Dirk Speelman, & Hubert Cuyckens (Eds.), Change of Paradigms – New Paradoxes: Recontextualizing Language and Linguistics (pp. 221-236). Berlin: de Gruyter.