CHILDES English-Italian-Gaelic ProjectS Corpus

Megan Devlin
Languages and Linguistics
University of Ulster


Participants: 1
Type of Study: naturalistic
Location: UK
Media type: waiting for answer from Devlin
DOI: doi:10.21415/T5M03S

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Project Description

This project recorded the development of a child’s English between the age of 2;3 and 4;9 as she was growing up in the UK with English, Italian and Scottish Gaelic from birth, within a one-parent-one-language environment. The recording of this data began in November 2009 as Megan Devlin was completing her undergraduate dissertation for the BSc Hons Language and Linguistics and Danika Lee her masters dissertation for the MSc Language and Linguistics at the University of Ulster. The overall goal was to investigate whether the acquisition of three languages simultaneously had any effects on the development of the child’s English syntax.

From 2010 Devlin became the principal investigator on this project and the recording sessions included a number of other undergraduate and postgraduate students who contributed to the collection and transcription of data (Shelley Dallas, Victoria Mullock and Deborah Henderson). The lead investigator edited and checked all transcriptions. All recording sessions were recorded on a Dictaphone and at times, a video camera. The recording sessions lasted between 30 minutes to 1 hour and we aimed for these recording sessions to occur at least bi-monthly. Breaks in recordings occurred over the Christmas and summer breaks.

This corpus captures the simultaneous trilingual language development of a child from the age of 2;3 to 4;9. The languages acquired by the child are English, Italian and Scottish Gaelic. S was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland to an Italian mother and a Canadian father who is a fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker. The parents followed the one-parent-one-language rule whereby the child receives Italian input from her mother, Scottish Gaelic from her father and English, as it is the shared language of the parents and that of the wider community.

Both of S’s parents are university lecturers and thus as a result S’s social background could be described as upper middle class. For the most part of this study, S was an only child. It was only at the age of 4;1 that S was joined by a younger sibling.

S lives with both of her parents aside from short intervals when one of the parents would be away on a trip. Exposure to three languages was the norm for S’s everyday life. Exposure to the languages varied when S accompanied her parents on holidays to Italy and Skye, Scotland. S and her parents go to Italy for around a month in summer and up to a month at Christmas. During these periods in Italy, S is immersed in a predominantly Italian environment. S also visits Skye with her parents where again, she is mainly exposed to Scottish Gaelic however these trips tend to last three or four days which contrasts to the periods in Italian speaking environments. Such variation in language exposure is also noted when S’s grandparents visit Belfast. When S’s Canadian grandparents visit, there is an increase in exposure to English in her home, as they are English monolinguals whilst when S’s Italian grandparents visit, Italian is the predominant language of the home.

From the beginning of data collection, S attended a crèche from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. The variety of English spoken within this environment was predominantly that of the Belfast English variety.

The majority of recording sessions occurred in a phonetics lab in the University of Ulster. Mostly the sessions were structured as free play with puppets and props. This lab is a medium sized room, with computers around the periphery, a fixed storage unit/table in the middle of the lab and a whiteboard at the front of the lab. There is open space in front of the whiteboard and behind the fixed unit and this is where the majority of recordings were based. Whilst recording in the phonetics lab the experimenters has access to the Speech and Language therapy toys and puppets. The toys consisted of a number of food items; plates, cups, spoons etc. and the puppets consisted of a number of animals, including birds, frogs, dogs and dinosaur. After a number of months, the investigators introduced a doll, which was a baby girl, a toy telephone and a number of books. Throughout the recording sessions, colouring in, drawing and craft activities were also introduced.

Recording sessions at the child’s home occurred in a playroom, which is attached to the kitchen. This room is where the majority of S’s books and puzzles are kept. The room also opens out into the back garden where a number of recordings also occurred. The room has a sofa on one side of it with boxes of toys at either side of the sofa. There is also a bookcase with books and puzzles on it and a small desk and chair in one corner. Beside the desk and chair is a box of stuffed animals. Whilst recording in S’s home, the activities tend to be based around puzzles and activities, such as sticker books and books that consist of pull out outfits for cardboard dolls. The child also played with a number of stuffed animals at home, such as dogs, seals, bears, wolves, giraffes etc.

The following table is an inventory of the transcriptions:
File NameDateAgeFile NameDateAge

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