Possession and Possessor in the Language Development of German and Italian Children
Theme: How do children acquire a language? Which cognitive mechanisms are used and which role does the linguistic input play? In their Theory of Convergence Stern and Stern (1921) claim that children build up their own grammar before equalizing it with the adults´ rules.
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Goal: I want to explore the individual strategies children use to decipher a grammatical system. Therefore, I will compare the acquistion of possessives in two different target languages (German & Italian). Possessives are interesting because they show the switch from nominal to pronominal forms. And: For every child it is quite important to master possessives in daily life.
Method: The child, together with his or her mother, looks at photographies of everyday´s objects such as toys, dresses or glasses, which belong to the child or to the parents. The mother asks two standard questions: What is this? and: To whom does it belong?
Problems: The experimental situation is kept as natural as possible. However, the mothers have to be trained not to name the objects themselves. This can lead to a non natural behavior in the beginning.
Results (so far): Seven German and six Italian children have been videotaped for a period of about four months in intervals of about two weeks. Individual development and systematically deviations from the target grammar can be found in the data. At this point strong parallels can be found between the two languages. I am still working on the analyses of the individual developments of the children.