COST A33: Crosslinguistically Robust Stages of Children's Linguistic Performance

Cooperative project with over 20 participating countries. We coordinate semantic-pragmatic experiments on language acquisition in the 20 languages.

Action A33 set out with the practical goal of helping European children with language impairments. One important way to help such children is to diagnose cases of language-specific impairment and normal non-verbal intelligence. Children with language-specific problems require a different kind of support from children with more general cognitive impairments. Specifically, the action proposed to provide recommendations for a design of an unbiased, trans-European language assessment tool.  To accomplish the goal, the action coordinated a comparative investigation of child language across the more than 25 participating languages. Initial meetings were used to pin down areas of investigation and specific experimental items what could be translated and could be expected to be equally difficult for children across all the participating languages. Simultaneously researchers had to find additional resources to conduct the experimental investigations required for the action goals.  The main result of the action are a set of unique experiments and results that compare the linguistic performance of children speaking such different languages as Basque and Finnish, Hebrew and Portuguese.  A set of high-profile publications presenting these results and the methods developed in the action are appearing in 2010 and 2011.  Because the study conducted by the action is the first of its kind world-wide, we expect international interest to be high. On the basis of the results, the targeted recommendations can be made for language assessment across the European languages.  The action was successful in at least four other ways: 1) At least 10 associated new projects were launched with funding from either national or European agencies.  2) Of the more than 80 STSM missions funded by the action, already three led to publications in international journals.  3) The two training schools and also many of the STSMs transferred much of the expert knowledge of the action members to the next generation of researchers across Europe.  4) And finally, the action led to the recognition of specific language impairment in at least two European countries where the concept had not been recognized in the past.  In this way, the action already helped a number of European children receive the support they need.


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PD Dr. Uli Sauerland