Language Development and Disorders (LDD): research projects

Research studies

LuCiD - Learning basic morphosyntax in languages with case marking: Polish and Finnish


We already know quite a lot about how English-speaking children learn to use word order to mark “who did what to whom” in basic transitive sentences e.g. The cat chased the mouse and The mouse chased the cat mean very different things (see Naigles, 1990; Gertner, Fisher & Eisengart, 2006; Noble, Rowland & Pine, 2011). This project explores how children learning languages with relatively flexible, pragmatic word order – specifically Polish and Finnish – use case marking, in both comprehension and production, to do likewise.

The first strand of the project will use corpus analysis to assess whether children learning these languages rely less on lexical templates, e.g. I’m [ACTION]ing it, than do learners of languages with relatively fixed word order, such as English (Stoll et al, 2009).

The second strand will use forced-choice pointing and elicited production to investigate developmental changes in the abstractness of children’s knowledge of case-marking. For example, we expect that learners’ earliest knowledge will be tied to case-marked pronoun forms (e.g., He vs Him), and only later broaden out to encompass all nominative and accusative case markers.

The third strand will use computational modelling to simulate the developing abstractness of children’s use of case marking and word order cues in the two languages.

Funding body

ESRC ES/L008955/1

Members of the project

Professor Elena LievenPrincipal investigator
Professor Anna TheakstonCo-investigator
Dr Marta SzrederResearch associate