DFG Structuring the Input in Language Acquisition, Processing and Change (SILPAC)

This project investigates cross-linguistic influence in bilingual children and adults as a potential driver of historical language change. In particular, we focus on whether bilingual children and adults can be influenced to change grammatical patterns as a result of the input they experience.
We assume that this is a model for the kind of contact-induced cross-linguistic influence that could have occurred in history and thus resulted in permanent language change over time. Thus, this project explores the link between changes observed in the individual and the language system. Our studies use priming methods and focus on two structures: the dative alternation and the verb-particle construction alternation. We examine the potential for cross-linguistic influence in child and adult German-English and French-English bilinguals in order to answer the following research questions: (1) Does priming reveal a psycholinguistic process that could underlie historical language change and, if so, how? (2) Do differences in priming effects between ages of bilingual speakers account for developmental differences that could be relevant for historical language change? The first question addresses key feature 1 of the Research Unit, while the second question addresses key feature 2. These questions will be examined with respect to different factors modulating the use of argument structure information (key feature 3), with the goal of advancing experimental processes and models to understand change (key feature 4).