Major Projects


English sentence intonation (PHD project)


Identification of stress, pause and pitch patterns for English sentences. It is assumed that sentences can be spoken with a neutral, i.e. a non-emphatic intonation pattern. Emphasis, focus and/or specific meanings can then be described as deviations from the neutral pattern.

Speech and language disorders in Parkinson's disease (habilitation project)


Studies of the language of German pre- and post-surgery patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. Paper-and-pencil as well as spectographic analyses revealed that the patients suffered from loss of motor control of the articulatory mechanisms. The glottal and superglottal mechanisms can be affected independent of each other. This yields three types of patients: one type suffering only from glottal defects, another type suffering from superglottal defects, and a third type suffering only from both.

L1-acquisition of German


This was the first in a series of projects to provide data for the study of language acquisition from a universal point of view, i.e. by comparing the various types of language acquisition such as L1, naturalistic L2, tutored L2, re-acquisition, etc. The key data derive from four German children. They were studied for their L1-acquisition of German, their L2-acquisition of English, and their re-acquisition of L2-English/L1-German. The L1 analysis was focused on negation, interrogation, early sentence patterns, segmental phonology, and intonation.

Linguistic basis of verse structure in English


It was suggested that the neutral stress pattern predictable from the morpho-syntactic structure of poetic texts serves as the basis for the metrical schemes of ictic versus non-ictic syllables.

Non-tutored L2-acquisition of English by German children


In 1975 the four German children of the 1969-1974 project, then aged 4;0 - 9;0, were taken to northern California, USA, for 6 months to be studied for how they would learn English as their L2 in a naturalistic setting. The data were collected longitudinally via (a) notes taken spontaneously on the scene of action, (b) tape recordings of spontaneous interactions, and (c) experimental elicitation. Almost every day was covered. The structural areas focused on include phonology, inflectional morphology, early sentence patterns, negation, interrogation, the lexicon, and the use of pronouns.

Principal collaborators: H. Burmeister, J. Bahns, O. Bohn, T. Vogel, D. Ufert, A. Hohenscheidt, A. Rohde, P. Burmeister.

Non-tutored L2-acquisition of German by English-speaking children


This project parallels the 1975 one on L2 English/L1 German to provide data on the reverse combination of languages, i.e. L2 German/L1 English. The subjects were English children from British families who spent several years in the Kiel area as part of the British commitments within NATO. These children attended the regular German pre schools and/or primary schools. Data collection was as in the 1975 project on L2 English/L1 German. The structural areas studied in detail are early sentence pattern, negation, some lexical issues.

Principal collaborators: S. Felix, D. Lange

Tutored-L2 acquisition of English by German students


The purpose of this project was to provide data in order to determine whether and to what extent the developmental structures in tutored L2 acquisition parallel these of non-tutored L2 acquisition. Data were collected by following and recording every English period taught to a beginners' class of 10-11 year-old German students for the first 8 months of English instruction. The focus was on phonology, inflectional morphology, early syntax, and some aspects of the lexicon. No evidence was found to suggest that the two acquisitional types were subject to different developmental structures.

Principal collaborators: S. Felix, D. Lange, A. Schröder, U. Puls

Re-acquisition of L2-English/L1-German


Two years after their return to Germany the three younger children of the 1975 project on L2 English/L1 German had forgotten their English almost completely. In 1977 the family returned to the same town in California for six weeks to collect data on how the children would re-acquire or revive their English. By the end of the 6-week stay the children were back where they had left off in 1975, and they may even have gone further. The analyses were focussed on the same structural areas as with the 1975 corpus when English was acquired as the L2 for the first time. Therefore, it was claimed that re-acquisition is not re-learning the language, but reviving it.

Principal collaborators: S. Allendorf, B. Pries, A. Rohde, A. Peters, T. Schnell, J.-L. Schrader



The aim of this project was to provide data on L2 English based on a language other than German. Four L1-French speaking children are followed for approximately one year as they acquired English as their L2 in the Boston, USA, area. Their parents were engaged in non-linguistic research at local universities. The structural analyses were foussed on early declarative sentences, interrogation, and negation. The study revealed that the process of L2 acquisition is parallel to the one for L2 English/L1 German except for the differences derived from transfer from French.

Principal collaborator: U. Tiphine

L1-Trilingual acquisition of German, French, and Hungarian


G. Kadar-Hoffmann studied her son's L1 acquisition of German, French, and Hungarian. The focus was on the early development of negation. It was found that the child acquired each language in the same developmental sequence as L1 monolingual children do.

Principal collaborator: G. Kadar-Hoffmann

Development of phonological coding abilities L1-German speaking children


The project was focused on phonological variation in early L1 German child speech. The point of departure was speech-perception in infants and neonates. Eight children were followed from their first word until their vocabulary contained xxx-375 words. We tried to record as many tokens per word as possible during weekly sessions of at least one hour. It was found that segment-based coding tended to be preceeded by articulatory patterns and that right from the beginning the syllable structures were not limited to CV(CV). The kind of variation found across the children reflected articulatory, as well as processing problems.

Principal collaborator: S. Wichmann, B. Krüger, T. Piske, U. Lindner, F. Schindel

Language evolution


This project was primarily theoretical in orientation. Its point of departure was the research on speech perception with neonates, infants, and non-human species. It is assumed that the discontinuities in the perception of the various acoustic dimensions constitutes to the basis for the typology of the distinctive features of natural human languages. Since much the same discontinuities occur with non-human species, this auditory basis probably gave rise to the capacity for language in homo sapiens with respect to the configuration of the vocal tract and the phylogeny of the structure of phonological systems in natural human languages.

Bilingual education (Bilingualer Unterricht) at Secondary I-II


This project originated as a response to the challenge current not only in present-day Europe that children are to learn at least three languages in school at a functionally appropiate level. It is commonly agreed, that the time span of sec. I-II is sufficient to promote one additional language via Bilingualer Unterricht/Immersion. But there is not enough time to promote the second additional language to the same extent. Consequently, there is a common agreement among educators that foreign language teaching needs to start much earlier, preferably during the first grade of primary or before.

In the sec. I-II project we studied the acquisition and development of English as the first foreign language. The endeavor was part of the evaluation of an experimental German-type bilingual education program initiated in 1991 to introduce immersion teachin in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Principal collaborators: M. Knust, K. Kickler, P. Burmeister, A. Daniel, V. Mukherjee, I. Cohrs, B. Nerlich, M. Reinhard

Foreign language teaching and learning in pre-schools


L1 German-speaking children are followed as to how they learn English as a foreign language in a bilingual preschool starting at age 3. The school is organized on the basis of the person-language bond, one of the two teachers per group being a native speaker of English. The preschool follows the regular curriculum. After preschool, English is continued via immersion throughout the primary grades.

Principal collaborators: K. Westphal, C. Tiefenthal, T. Maibaum, K. Lauer, N. Hansen, C. Immhof, C. Berger, A. Rohde

English immersion in German primary schools


There are two major goals to this project. One is to study the development of the children from the preschool project as they continue to be taught English throughout the primary grades via immersion. The second goal is to develop a teacher training program to encourage early foreign language teaching and leaving by linking preschool and primary school.

Principal collaborators: K. Lauer, C. Imhoff, K. Beier, C. Berger, G. Tonn, T. Maibaum