International Workshop on the L1 and L2 Acquisition of Information Structure

25-26 April 2019, Leuven, Belgium

The aim of this workshop is to gather researchers working on different aspects of the L1 and L2 acquisition of Information Structure in different languages, using experimental protocols or corpus research, to gain a better understanding of the development of Information Structure.

Call for Papers:

In recent years, the study of Information Structure in child language has gained significant interest. Studies show that the accessibility level of referents influences children’s referential choices (Hendriks, Koster, & Hoeks, 2014; Hickmann & Hendriks, 1999) or word order (Narasimhan & Dimroth, 2008, 2018; Stephens, 2010; Schelletter and Leinonen; 2003). Children’s prosodic and syntactic choices to encode the topic and focus have also been studied in some detail (Arnhold, Chen, & Järvikivi, 2016; Chen, 2011; De Cat, 2009).

While some studies suggest that morphology and syntax are acquired before pragmatics and Information Structure (Schaeffer & Matthewson, 2005), others show that some of children’s constructions encode an adult-like Information Structure configuration: French and Italian children use dislocations to encode the topic of the utterance from the start(Belleti and Manetti, 2018; De Cat, 2007, 2009).

Children do not develop all aspects of Information Structure at the same rate. Dutch children acquire the intonation contour to mark topic before the contour for focus (Chen, 2011), and Portuguese children acquire the syntactic marking of focus while they still struggle with the computations required to interpret stress shift as a focus marker (Costa and Szendrői, 2006). Besides, research suggests that the comprehension of focus-marking intonation is acquired after production in child language (Szendrői, 2004; Gualmini et al., 2003; Paterson et al., 2003, but see Szendrői et al., 2018; Chen, 2010 for a different point of view).

The study of L2 acquisition of Information Structure has also developed recently (Colonna et al., 2018; Park, 2018 among others), and reevaluates former findings. According to Fuller and Gundel (1987), the interlanguage of L2 learners is characterized by an early topic-prominent stage and a late subject-prominent stage, but recent research however suggests a transfer from L1 characteristics (Jin, 1994; Jung, 2004). Some authors consider that L2 learners have difficulties acquiring the syntax-pragmatic and Information Structure interface (Sorace & Filiaci, 2006; Alvaro, 2018). Some find that L2 learners, as they become more advanced, manage to acquire syntactic constructions with the appropriate Information Structure function (Reichle and Birdsong, 2013; Hughes, 2010; Dominguez and Arche, 2010; Donaldson, 2011a, 2011b)

The questions which can be addressed include, but are not restricted to:

– Which prosodic, morphologic or syntactic means are used by children to encode Information Structure? What is the developmental pattern of these means?
– Are some means to encode Information Structure (prosody vs syntax) acquired earlier than others?
– How does the division of labor between syntax/prosody and Information Structure in the target language impact on its acquisition?
– Are some aspects of Information Structure (referential vs. relational) easier to acquire by children?
– Are there early stages in L1 or L2 language development exhibiting more topic-prominent or subject-prominent characteristics?
– Which aspects of Information Structure are acquired in production before comprehension?

We invite you to submit proposals for 20-minute individual presentations. Abstracts should not exceed two pages in length, 12-point type, Times New Roman, single line spacing, 2.5cm (1 inch) margins, including examples and tables.

Abstracts should be submitted in PDF format via EasyChair:

Conference Website:

Keynote Speakers:

Aoju Chen (Utrecht Institute of Linguistics)
Carla Soares (Université Paris VIII)
Maria Lobo (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Kriszta Szendrői (University College London)