Language acquisition - a child’s game?

The Baby Speech Lab at the University of Konstanz is celebrating its ten-year anniversary with an open house day.

How do children learn language(s)? How do they build a vocabulary and how do they learn grammar? These are questions that the Baby Speech Lab (BSL) at the University of Konstanz is striving to answer. As part of the Department of Linguistics, the lab is opening its doors for an open house day in honour of its ten-year anniversary. On Saturday, 29 April 2017 from 13:30 to 17:30, you are invited to take part in our programme events for the entire family. While the adults tour both of our labs and learn more about the research being carried out in the Baby Speech Lab, the little ones will be looked after during their own children’s programme. 

Professor Janet Grijzenhout, the director of the Baby Speech Lab, and Dr Muna Schönhuber will welcome you to the open house with their presentation “Spracherwerb - ein Kinderspiel?” (language acquisition - a child’s game?). They are responsible for establishing the first baby speech lab in southern Germany ten years ago at the University of Konstanz. Since then, the BSL has become part of an international network of baby speech labs. “A lot has happened and there is still a lot to be done”, say the researchers as they look back on the past ten years. Over 1,000 children have taken part in language acquisition tests. By the way: All are welcome to the open house.

During the first years, it was primarily the speech reception in terms of eye and head movements of German and Swiss babies between the ages of six and sixteen months that were examined. In the meantime, the research spectrum has expanded. The BSL has developed new research questions while working with new subject groups and research methods. Current research projects will be presented during the open house by doctoral students. Katharina Zahner, for example, will discuss how nine month old babies recognize spoken words.

To investigate how children between the ages of two and eight years speak, a second lab was established in November 2016 to carry out these scientific observations. Hand puppets, pictures and toys assist the researchers in encouraging the children to speak. “Wie lernen Kinder Fragen zu stellen?“ (how do children learn how to ask questions?) is the title of Talina Weber’s short presentation that addresses a topic being studied in this lab. 

Meanwhile, research on the language acquisition of children who grow up in a bilingual environment is receiving increased attention. Monika Lindauer will give a talk on the topic of “Wie erwerben ein- und mehrsprachige Kinder Deutsch?” (how do mono- and bilingual children acquire German?) to deliver an overview of this process in children between 3.5 and 8 years of age. One question is always being considered in all research projects at the BSL: Which steps during the language acquisition process are universal, and which vary depending on the language?

Event information:

  • When: 29 April 2017 from 13:30 to 17:30
  • Where: University of Konstanz, level F2
  • For further information please visit