Research Projects

Current Research Projects

  • SALT: Syllable Structure: Acquisition, Loss, Typology, 2017-2020. Funding: Research Council of Norway FRIPRO grant; PI: Martin Krämer.
  • MIMS: Micro-variation in Multilingual Acquisition & Attrition Situations, 2016-2020. Funding: Research Council of Norway FRIPRO grant; PI: Marit Westergaard.
  • LAMBA: Latvian Language in Monolingual and Bilingual Acquisition: Tools, theories and applications, 2015-2017. Funding: EEA Norway grants; PIs: Dace Markus, Olga Urek.
  • DASAGO: North Sami Child Language Acquisition, 2011-2017. Funding: Research Council of Norway; PI: Kristine Bentzen.

Previous Research Projects (selection)

Current PhD Projects

    Marta Velnic
    Working title: The Acquisition of Double Object Constructions in Croatian Child Language
    Supervisors: Merete Anderssen, Marit Westergaard
    Brief description: The aim of this project is to understand how Croatian children acquire the possible word orders of dative alternation (Direct Object-Indirect Object/Indirect Object-Direct Object). Since Croatian has relatively free word order, another goal of this project is to understand what role givenness plays in structuring the information and how this influences the choice of the form of the two objects (NP, Pronoun, or Clitic).

    Ömur Caglar-Ryeng
    Working title: Linguistic Development in Norwegian Children at Risk for Dyslexia
    Supervisors: Trude Nergård Nilssen, Merete Anderssen
    Brief description: The aim of this project is twofold: (a) to investigate the patterns of language development, more specifically morphological and lexical development (i.e. vocabulary size and vocabulary growth rate), in Norwegian children at 3;5-4;5 years with and without a familial risk of dyslexia, and (b) to examine the concurrent and predictive relationships among these two language domains.


    Ritva Nystad
    Working title:
    Supervisors: Mikael Svonni, Kristine Bentzen
    Brief description:


    Bror Magnus Strand
    Working title: Structure and development of the Norwegian Roleplaying Register in Norwegian Preschoolers
    Supervisors:Merete Anderssen , Øystein Vangsnes
    Brief description:Norwegian children outside the capital dialect area are known to use something resembling the capital dialect when engaging in roleplay. The aim of this project is to assess Norwegian children’s acquisition and attainment of this register.

Completed PhD Projects

    Anna Wolleb
    Dissertation title: Syntactic representations in the bilingual mind: the role of executive function and pragmatics in cross-language priming
    Supervisors: Marit Westergaard, Antonella Sorace
    Dissertation committee:Ludovica Serratrice, Holly Branigan and Øystein Vangsnes
    Abstract:In this thesis I investigate how syntactic forms are represented and accessed in the mind of bilingual children. In particular, I explore the role of executive control and pragmatics in the selection and use of these representations. To do so, I tested a group of Norwegian-English bilingual children and a group of Norwegian age-matched monolinguals in a priming paradigm and in a cognitive task (the Dimensional Change Card Sort, hereafter DCCS). I investigated word order in possessive constructions and dative alternation. These forms were chosen because they allow for different word orders, which vary depending on semantic and discourse factors. That is, the different structures were elicited by means of a priming task (both within- and between-language) where children were first exposed to the alternating word orders (prime) and then had to describe a picture by selecting one the two possible options (target). My goals are two-fold: first, to show that priming within-language is stronger than priming between-language, arguably due to the involvement of an inhibitory mechanism; second, to demonstrate that the access to the abstract syntactic representation is mediated by semantic and pragmatic factors.

    Olga Urek
    Dissertation title: Palatalization in Latvian
    Supervisors: Martin Krämer, Marit Westergaard
    Dissertation committee:Nicoleta Bateman , Francesc Torres-Tamarit and Tore Nesset
    Abstract: Palatalization is very commonly attested across languages and has sparked considerable interest in fields like linguistic typology, phonetics, and phonology. However, palatalization notoriously exhibits a large degree of diversity, both cross-linguistically and within individual languages, which, on the one hand, precludes a straightforward phonetic explanation, and, on the other hand, poses considerable challenges for formal phonological accounts striving to provide a unified analysis of all processes subsumed under this cover term. In this dissertation, I undertake a systematic investigation of a group of palatalization processes in Modern Standard Latvian, namely assimilatory palatalization, diminutive palatalization, and palatal assimilation in consonant clusters. The intricate Latvian patterns have hitherto received very little attention in the generative phonological literature. The relatively narrow empirical focus of this work made it possible to examine the phenomena in considerable depth and to uncover some regularities and dependencies that have been previously overlooked. I develop a representational and constraint-based analysis of Latvian palatalization. The substance-free approach to a process that has traditionally been regarded as a classic example of a phonetically motivated rule developed in this thesis provides a descriptively adequate, explanatory and formally simple analysis of assimilation patterns that posed considerable challenges for traditional phonetically-driven approaches, while at the same time revealing a complex inter-relation of different phonological and morphological phenomena within a given grammar.


    Tammer Castro
    Dissertation title: Heritage and adult L2 acquisition of empty categories in a bidialectal-bilingual context
    Supervisors: Marit Westergaard, Tarald Taraldsen
    Dissertation committee:
    Abstract: Despite their high degree of mutual intelligibility, Brazilian Portuguese (henceforth BP) and European Portuguese (henceforth EP) have been argued to differ in many micro-parametric domains, which suggests that speakers with enough exposure to both varieties could potentially acquire them as separate mental systems. The present study makes use of this language pairing to investigate issues raised in current literature on heritage language (HL) and second language (L2) acquisition (e.g., Montrul & Polinsky, 2011, Sorace, 2011), L2 processing (Hopp, 2016; Hartsuiker & Pickering, 2008) and first language (L1) attrition (Altenberg, 1991; Schmid, 2011). We apply a comprehension task in order to test anaphora resolution in two groups of speakers exposed to BP and EP, taking into account the different null subject distribution in these languages. We investigate whether late BP-EP bilinguals and heritage BP speakers growing up in Portugal, tested in both dialects, will pattern like native controls or display some effects of EP on their native BP or vice-versa. Through an open-ended production task, we also attempt to measure these speakers’ distribution of both null subjects and objects and compare that to the pattern shown by monolingual controls. In a second comprehension task, we test the extent to which BP immigrants arriving in adulthood display cross-linguistic effects such that either or both EP and BP differ(s) from monolinguals. Our findings indicate that, for this language pairing, the directionality of cross-linguistic influence is more dependent on which properties are being acquired, and the high degree of typological proximity between the L1 and the L2 appears to facilitate L1 attrition and delimit the acquisition of L2 properties. We relate the findings of the present study to key theoretical questions and debates within the context of the larger field of bilingual studies.


    Natalia Mitrofanova
    Dissertation title: Paths and Places: Aspects of Grammar and Acquisition​
    Supervisors: Marit Westergaard, Peter Svenonius
    Dissertation committee: Sonja Eisenbeiss, Natalia Gagarina, Tarald Taraldsen
    Abstract: This dissertation explores the underlying structural properties of spatial expressions, and the
    acquisition of these structures by children. In the first part of the dissertation I focus on directional axial expressions in Russian, and argue that their distributional and semantic properties are tightly related to their underlying syntactic structure. I present an original analysis of these items, and further suggest that the application of this analysis to a wider class of unbounded directional expressions in English and Russian makes it possible to compositionally derive their semantic properties from the underlying syntactic structure. In the second part of the dissertation we turn to the acquisition of spatial expressions by children. I report on a series of production and comprehension studies with monolingual
    Russian and Norwegian children, and propose a model for the acquisition of locative PPs, which states that child grammars at early stages involve an underspecified Place category associated with a generalized locative semantics. Finer-grained locative contrasts are taken to develop gradually, based on the acquisition of individual locative items from the input.​


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