First and second language acquisition of phonology and its interfaces

During the last decade there have been enormous steps forward in our understanding of the L1 and L2 acquisition of phonology and its interfaces (such as the phonology-syntax and phonology-pragmatics interfaces).

In L1 acquisition research, studies have concentrated both on the acquisition of focus and, more recently, on the acquisition of propositional attitudes including belief and incredulity. Chen (2018), for example, proposed that the acquisition of focus marking is influenced by four typological differences – based on evidence from languages such as Dutch, English, Finnish, German, Korean, Mandarin and Swedish. The differences concern
– the reliance on phonetic cues of prosody,
– the transparency or form-function match between phonological cues and focus,
– whether in the language tone is used for lexical purposes, and
– the importance of prosody relative to word order for focus marking.
The first two differences affect the rate of acquisition and the last two differences imply a related effect on the route of acquisition (see Chen 2018 for details).

Regarding the early acquisition of propositional attitudes, it has been reported that the ability to detect meanings related to speaker beliefs quickly develops from 3 to 6 years of age (see Moore et al. 1993, Armstrong 2014, Armstrong et al. 2014, Hübscher et al. 2017, Armstrong & Hübscher 2018), with some differences depending on the specific meaning. However, Armstrong et al. (2018) also found that the ability to detect disbelief through intonation was very much dependent on the acquisition of Theory of Mind abilities measured through a false belief task.

In the field of L2 acquisition of phonology and its interfaces, focus has also attracted much interest. Researchers tend to attribute attested learner problems (non-target productions, failure to acquire certain structures, etc.) to the difficulty of integrating information coming from different linguistic submodules, which has led to the postulation of the Interface Hypothesis (e.g. Sorace 2011). The Interface Hypothesis bases itself on the assumption that not all interfaces are equally relevant for L2 acquisition. External interfaces are particularly vulnerable because they imply coordination between the syntactic module and external, non-linguistic modules. Among the many factors causing this vulnerability are underspecification of interpretable features having to do with interface mappings between syntactic structure and interpretation, cross-linguistic influence in representations, quantity and quality of the input received by speakers, etc. (Sorace & Serratrice 2009: 198-199).

When it comes to L2 acquisition of the interface between phonology and pragmatics, different pragmatic meanings (certainty, disagreement, differences in illocutionary force, sentence types) have been explored from a variety of theoretical frameworks (see Savić 2014 for a thorough review). However, they all conclude that even in later stages of language acquisition particular difficulties are encountered, such as those involving pitch accent choice and pitch range amplitude.

This workshop is primarily intended to serve as a forum for both empirically and theoretically oriented papers on either first or second language acquisition of phonology and its interfaces, especially the phonology-syntax and phonology-pragmatic interfaces. Submissions on understudied languages are particularly welcome. We therefore invite contributions related to (but not limited to) any of the following questions:

1. Are there cross-linguistic differences in the rate and route of early acquisition of interface phenomena depending on how they are encoded in the language, be it phonologically, morphologically or by means of word order?
2. In the event that a time lag between comprehension and production abilities occurs in early acquisition of phonology and its interfaces, to what can it be attributed?
3. Can the acquisition of Theory of Mind abilities be matched with the acquisition of specific aspects of the phonology-pragmatics interface?
4. How do the different modules involved in L2 acquisition of focus or speech acts interact? Is there any evidence in favour of the Interface Hypothesis?
5. To what extent are there differences in the outcome between the L1 and L2 acquisition of interface phenomena? Is L2 acquisition necessarily non-nativelike?
6. To what extent are there differences in the outcome between different types of L2 acquisition (such as early child acquisition [eL2], late child L2 acquisition [cL2] or adult L2 acquisition) of interface phenomena?
7. To what extent does the contextual setting (such as explicit instruction in a language pedagogical setting, type of exposure, previous linguistic abilities or degree of socialization) have an influence on L2 acquisition?

We invite abstracts for 20-minute talks (to be followed by 10 minutes of discussion). Each individual may submit a maximum of one abstract as first author (or sole author). Abstracts must not exceed two pages of A4 paper including references, examples, tables and figures, and they must be sent anonymously and in pdf format. Please use 12 pt Times New Roman font and 2.54 cm (one inch) margins on all sides. Abstract submission, reviewing and notification of acceptance will be handled using EasyChair. The deadline for abstract submission is 15 September 2020. Notification of acceptance will be in late October.



Armstrong, M. E. 2014. Child comprehension of intonationally-encoded disbelief. In Orman, W. & Valleau, M. J. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Boston University Confer­ence on Language Development, 25–38. Somerville: Cascadilla Press.

Armstrong, M. E., Esteve-Gibert, N., & Prieto, P. 2014. The acquisition of multimodal cues to disbelief. Proceedings of Speech Prosody – Dublin, 1134–1138.

Armstrong, M.E., & Hübscher, I. 2018. Children’s development of internal state prosody. In Prieto, P. & Esteve-Gibert, N. (Eds.), Prosodic development in first language acquisition, 271-293. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Chen, A. 2018. Get the focus right across languages: Acquisition of prosodic focus-marking in production. In Prieto, P. & Esteve-Gibert, N. (Eds.), Prosodic development in first language acquisition, 295-314. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hübscher, I., Esteve-Gibert, N., Igualada, A., & Prieto, P. 2017. Intonation and gesture as boot­strapping devices in speaker uncertainty. First Language, 37(1), 24–41.

Moore, C., Harris, L., & Patriquin, M. 1993. Lexical and prosodic cues in the comprehension of relative certainty. Journal of Child Language, 20(1), 153–167.

Savić, M. 2014. Politeness through the prism of requests, apologies and refusals: A case of advanced Serbian EFL Learners. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Sorace, A. 2011. Pinning down the concept of ‘interface’ in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 1, 1–34.

Sorace, A., & Serratrice, L. 2009. Internal and external interfaces in bilingual Language development. Beyond structural overlap.International Journal of Bilingualism 13, 1–16.