Grünloh, Thomas (2011) Intonation in Language Acquisition - Evidence from German. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.
This dissertation studies the role of intonation in language acquisition. After a general introduction about the phonetic and phonological aspects of intonation and its different forms and functions within language, two different models of language acquisition and the role of intonation within these two models will be presented. Following this, I will present and discuss empirical data on the question, whether young German learning children use intonation in order to acquire language. Two comprehension studies will be presented. Here, I concentrate on the question whether children understand the referential function of intonation and whether they can use this knowledge in order to learn new words. Additionally, I will present empirical evidence that focuses on the question whether children use intonation in resolving participant roles in complex syntactic constructions as well as in resolving syntactic ambiguities development. Finally, I will present two production studies that investigate the prosodic realization of target referents that have different informational statuses within a discourse from both young children and parents, talking to their children. Overall, the data from these studies suggest that language learning children do use the intonational form of an utterance from early on in order to understand another´s intention. Young language learning children do understand that a certain intonational form conveys a function. Additionally, the studies presented in this thesis suggest that children also use intonation in order to convey their own communicative intentions. Thus, intonation is an important instrument for young children‘s language acquisition as they use the information that is provided by intonation, not only to learn words and to combine them to syntactic constructions, but also for the understanding of paralinguistic properties of language. The findings of the studies presented in this thesis are discussed with regard to different theories of language acquisition. Additionally, I will give insight into the understanding of the development of young children´s use of intonation.
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