Research Statement

The main focus of my research is children's first language acquisition.

Currently I am especially interested in spoken language acquisition and development in deaf children with a cochlear implant, deaf children with an auditory brainstem implant as compared to hearing children. A corpus was collected of 10 very early implanted children (the youngest one implanted at the age of 5 months). These children were followed longitudinally up to the age of 6 years.
Ongoing studies:

  • general measures of language development (PhD of K. Schauwers - UA, see Schauwers 2006)
  • babbling and early phonological development (PhD of K. Schauwers - UA, see Schauwers 2006)
  • early morphological development (PhD project of A. Souman - UA)
  • early morphosyntactic development (FWO / NWO postdoc project of M. Coene, PhD projects of A. Hammer and A. Verbist, Leiden University)
  • early morphosyntactic development from a crosslinguistic perspective: comparing the acquisition of Hebrew and Dutch structures differing in perceptual salience (research cooperation with D. Ravid,Tel Aviv University, PhD project of O. Herzberg - Tel Aviv University
  • phonetic analyses (PhD project of O. Hyde - UA)
  • prelexical speech and early phonological development in a large group of hearing children, as a background for early phonological development of CI children (PhD projects of I. Molemans, R. van den Berg, L. Van Severen - UA)

I started working with spoken language corpora in my PhD research (back in the early 80ies), and have a vivid interest in computational tools for exploring corpora. For instance, I have been involved in the CHILDES project for many years, maintaining a CHILDES mirror site in Antwerp, and providing CHILDES workshops (introductory ... - ... advanced) upon request.

In collaboration with Hanne Kloots, Evie Coussé and Jo Verhoeven, we study various aspects of contemporary spoken Dutch, mainly using the Spoken Dutch Corpus, and issues related to the annotation of corpora.

I have a long-standing research cooperation with W. Daelemans in which we combine our expertise in language acquisition and machine learning. Machine learning experiments are instrumental in simulating language processing and language acquisition. Our research group, CLiPS, is a fruitfull basis for exploring the interplay between language acquisition in children and machines.

Other ongoing research collaborations:

  • The European Pre- and Protomorphology Project (headed by Prof. W.U. Dressler, Vienna) on the early stages of morphophonological development
  • The facilitating role of diminutives in language acquisition, with Patty Brooks (New York) and Vera Kempe (Stirling)
  • The development of a measure of inflectional diversity, and its application to various languages and linguistic resources, with Aris Xanthos (Lausanne) and Joris Gillis (Hasselt)
  • Crosslinguistic studies of the acquisition of Dutch and Hebrew, with D. Ravid (Tel Aviv)