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Project B2 - Acquisition of Middle Franconian tone accents

PI: Prof. Dr. Alexander Werth (University of Potsdam)
Ph.D.-student: Simone Nopens

Research context

The project is dedicated to the acquisition of pitch accents in West Middle German (Middle Franconian) dialects. A uniqueness of Middle Franconian dialects is the usage of pitch accents for lexical and grammatical word distinction - similar to non-European tonal languages -, e.g. in: /dau1f/ "pigeon" vs. /dau2f/ "baptism".

Current dissertation project


The project aims to investigate how children from the Middle Franconian dialect area acquire pitch accents in first language acquisition. Furthermore, it wants to answer the question of how the corresponding mental representations are built up in order to lexically and grammatically discriminate words.


Project B2 consists of a pre-study and a main study. The prerequisites for attending the main study are tested in the pre-study. For this purpose, an experiment will be conducted with the children's main contacts to determine both the parents' perceptual and phonological competence with regard to pitch accents. The main study will be conducted with children between the ages of 1 and 6 whose main contacts show pitch accents in their speech. Like the preliminary study, the main study includes a perceptual and a productive part. With recordings of spontaneous speech, an impression of everyday language use and the status of pitch accents within it will be gained. In addition a longitudinal study in which the children will be followed during the period 0;6 - 1;6 years might be conducted.

Preliminary work

Previous work in the field of pitch accents in the German-speaking world only deals with pitch accents and their representation in adult speakers (cf. Schmidt, 1986; Köhnlein, 2005; Köhnlein, 2011; Werth, 2011). Thus, even today there are many open questions about the acquisition of pitch accents and the (possible) parallels between their representation in children and adults. It is therefore not surprising that Katerbow (2013), who conducted a study on dialectal language acquisition, states that this opens up a desideratum of research.

Relation to other projects

Project B2 shows parallels to the other doctoral projects of project part B, which also focus on child language acquisition. Since a decline of dialect use can be observed among children compared to older generations (cf. Klausmann, unpublished), a language change away from dialects towards regiolects will presumably be observed in the context of the project.