The research group ‘Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics’ (QLVL) of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Leuven, Belgium, invites applications for a four year junior researcher-position on a new research project funded by KU Leuven. The title of the project is: ‘Playing with English: The evolution of Belgian Dutch preadolescent children’s use of and reflection on English as a socio-pragmatically meaningful lexical resource.’
How do preadolescents acquire the social meaning of English lexical resources in Dutch? Through this central question, this project contributes in three ways to the upcoming field of developmental sociolinguistics, which studies children’s acquisition of community norms regarding language variation. Studies in the field to date mostly pattern the production of standard and vernacular phonetic variants in preschoolers. Instead, this new project foregrounds (1) contact-induced lexical variation (2) in the transition between childhood and adolescence (3) imbuing the language production perspective with attention for language awareness.
Particularly, the project studies Belgian Dutch preadolescents’ production and awareness of English words and phrases in Dutch (e.g. ‘superhero’, ‘oh my God’). Research has revealed these children’s high receptive knowledge of English, yet less is known on when and why they use English spontaneously in Dutch. To address this, four types of data will be collected for the selected preadolescents: peer group interactions, performance in stylization tasks, sociolinguistic interviews and metalinguistic interviews. Three objectives will be pursued through analyses of the four types of data:
1. Identify transition points in usage statistics: when do we find shifts in frequency, distribution and dispersion of English lexical resources in preadolescents’ spontaneous and topically controlled interactions2. Localize the emergence of agency and creativity: When do we find signs of increasing creativity with English lexical resources as children grow older, indicative of their growing capacity to agentively engage with socially meaningful lexical material3. Chart evolution in metalinguistic reflection on contact-induced variation: To what extent do children evolve in their ability to consciously reflect on the position and value of English lexical resources in their community?
The insights gained in the project will advance our overall understanding of the relationship between language acquisition, language contact and language change.
For more information on the position, including the offer and the job application procedure, please click here.