Symposium zu Developmental Sociolinguistics

Developmental Sociolinguistics: A Belgian and Swiss perspective

Organised by Dr. Melanie Röthlisberger (UZH), Prof. Dr. Laura Rosseel (VUB) & Prof. Dr. Eline Zenner (KU Leuven)

Zeit: Freitag 23. April 2021 16–18 Uhr, Online

Sociolinguistics is witnessing a surge in research on the acquisition of language variation. A wide range of studies has documented when children start to exhibit socially stratified variation in their speech in various speech communities (e.g. De Vogelaer & Katerbow 2017). Yet, an aspect of the acquisition process fewer sociolinguists have paid attention to is how children acquire the social meaning of language variation. From what age do children recognise distinct sociolects? When and how do they develop sensitivity to the prestige of these various socially meaningful ways of using language?

In this symposium we present recent and ongoing research on how children acquire the social meaning of language variation in both Belgium and Switzerland. Building on a new visual variant of the matched guise technique, children of three different age groups were presented with a new cartoon superhero. Depending on the guise, the hero displayed different types of language use. In the Belgian study, children saw one guise where the cartoon hero used Dutch interspersed with English loanwords and one where exclusively Dutch words were used. The Swiss study included a guise with Swiss German and one with ethnolectal Swiss German. All children were shown both versions of the superhero cartoon and asked to evaluate the hero’s character in both versions, which is then taken as a proxy for their attitudes towards the language used by the cartoon character.

In the symposium, we will present the results of both the Belgian and Swiss study and elaborate on the novel methodology paying special attention to the challenges of collecting sociolinguistic data from children.


Interested participants are invited to sign up using the form below. A link to the online event will be sent out by email shortly before the symposium.


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