Acquisition of basic grammatical skills

Intercultural children hear (and speak) two different languages during language acquisition. This results in reduced input in each of the languages. Furthermore, the world’s languages differ in many ways. Simple illustrative examples are the following. Languages differ in how many consonants (sounds) they use to form words: There are languages that get by with 6 consonants (Rokotas) while others use 122 different consonants (!Xóõ). The amount of information in a word also differs: Languages like German or English combine 2-3 different pieces of information in one word (person, tense, number) while languages like Chintang mark 7 more pieces of information in addition to these 3 (e.g., clusivity, mood, aspect, polarity). Thus, not every language combination has to be equally easy to learn.

In this research project, I investigate: How can we determine the grammatical skills of intercultural children? How does language similarity affects the acquisition of basic grammatical skills? Which other factors influence which linguistic skills intercultural children acquire and use?

Monolinguals’ and bilinguals’ relative preference for IDS and ADS was assessed across 17 laboratories on four continents. Greater exposure to IDS language was associated with a stronger IDS preference.

ManyBabies Consortium (2021)

Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science

Infants’ relative preference for IDS and ADS was assessed across 67 laboratories in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The IDS preference was significantly stronger in older children and in those children for whom the stimuli matched their native language and dialect.

ManyBabies Consortium (2020)

Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science

Language-specific phonetic implementation of sounds determines early childhood perception patterns. While the German VOT contrast is discriminated by German infants throughout the first 15 months of life, the Swiss German closure duration contrast is discriminated not before 11 months of age.

Schönhuber, Czeke, Gampe, & Grijzenhout (2019)

Journal of Phonetics

We have developed a touch-screen based instrument for bilingual children that measures the separate lexicon sizes in both languages, the total vocabulary (if I can name “house” in two languages, I get two vocabulary points) and the conceptual vocabulary (if I can name “house” in one or two language(s), I get one vocabulary point).

Gampe, Kurthen, & Daum (2018)

First Language

Our research shows that the greater the linguistic differences between the two languages of intercultural children, the smaller the lexicon, morphology and syntax available.

Gampe, Quick, & Daum (2021)

Journal of Language Contact 

We constructed and validated a language scale for children betweeen 1.5 and 2.5 years of age that measures the lexicon, morphology and syntax of children acquiring Swiss German. 

Gampe, Kurthen, & Daum

data collection of norm sample

Jennifer Meina (2022-02-23) Mehr als Momentaufnahmen. UDE Newsroom

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(2021-08-25) Bilinguale Kinder, deren Eltern ähnliche Sprachen sprechen, haben einen größeren Wortschatz. mdr

Michelle Loher (2021 – Spring) KleineWeltentdecker App. Verband Aargauer Psychologinnen und Psychologen

(2021-03-23) Bilingual infants prefer baby talk, especially when it’s one of their native languages. Concordia University

Alison Hewitt (2021-03-21) Babies prefer baby talk, whether they’re learning one language or two. ScienceDaily

Cara Murez (2021-03-21) Whatever the Language, Babies LOVE Baby Talk. USNews.

Sabine Winkler (2021-04-13) Diesen Vorteil haben Kinder, mit denen in Babysprache gesprochen wird. Welt

(2020-05-03) Why a little baby talk is good for your toddler. The Conversation

Christopher Bergland (2020-04-05) Baby Talk is a Universal Language. Psychology Today

Karin Moertel (2020 – March) Psycholog(inn)en der Universität Zürich entwickeln App zur kindlichen Entwicklung. Kantonalverband der Zürcher Psychologinnen und Psychologen

(2019-11-25) App zu Entwicklungsschritten. Oekotest

(2019-11-06) kleine Weltentdecker App Universität Zürich. Psychoscope

Bröhm, A. (2019-09-13) Sind Krippen gut oder schlecht für Kinder? Tages-Anzeiger

Florina Schwander (2019-04-21) Zweisprachige kommunizieren besser. Das Schweizer Elternmagazin

Aleksandra Hiltmann (2018-08-08) Kinder müssen Sprachen auseinanderhalten können. Tages-Anzeiger

(2017 – Ausg. 2) Kommunikationsfähigkeiten zweisprachiger Kinder. Logos

Stephanie Wermelinger (2017-06-17) Growing up with two languages. Blog on Learning and Development



Gampe, A., Quick, A., & Daum, M. M. (2021). Does linguistic similarity affect early simultaneous bilingual language acquisition? Journal of Language Contact, 13, 482-500.  https://doi.org/10.1163/19552629-13030001

Byers-Heinlein, K., Tsui, A. S. M., Bergmann, C., Black, A. K., Brown, A., Carbajal, M. J., Durrant, S., Fennell, C. T., Fiévet, A.-C., Frank, M. C., Gampe, A., Gervain, J., Gonzalez-Gomez, N., Hamlin, J. K., Havron, N., Hernik, M., Kerr, S., Killam, H., Klassen, K., … Wermelinger, S. (2021). A Multilab Study of Bilingual Infants: Exploring the Preference for Infant-Directed Speech. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 4(1), 2515245920974622. https://doi.org/10.1177/2515245920974622

ManyBabies Consortium with Gampe, A. (2020). Quantifying Sources of Variability in Infancy Research Using the Infant-Directed-Speech Preference. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science3(1), 24–52.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2515245919900809

Schönhuber, M., Czeke, N., Gampe, A., & Grijzenhout, J. (2019). Infant perception of VOT and closure duration contrasts.  Journal of Phonetics77 , 100916.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2019.100916

Gampe, A., Kurthen, I., & Daum, M. M. (2018). BILEX: A new tool measuring bilingual children’s lexicons and translational equivalents. First Language38(3), 263–283.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723717736450


Foundation for Research in Science and the Humanities at the Universität Zürich.

Stiftung Suzanne und Hans Biäsch zur Förderung der Angewandten Psychologie.

Psychopy Version of BILEX  https://osf.io/27snu/