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From Hand to Mouth: A dialogue between spoken and signed language research


Sabine Stoll, Dr.

  • Leiterin der Arbeitsstelle Psycholinguistik der UZH
+41 44 63 402 31

Curriculum vitae

I received my graduate training at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen and at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2001 I received my PhD from the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UC Berkeley (with Johanna Nichols, Alan Timberlake and Dan Slobin on my committee). I then spent ten years at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig where I first had a Postdoc Fellowship at the Department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology and then worked as a Senior Researcher at the Department of Linguistics. In 2006 I was awarded a 5-year Dilthey Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation. In August 2011 I started a new research unit for psycholinguistics at the University of Zurich.

My research agenda centers on the question of how children can cope with the incredible variation exhibited in the approximately 6000-7000 languages spoken around the world. My main focus is the interplay of innate biological factors (such as the capacity for pattern recognition and imitation) with idiosyncratic and culturally determined factors (such as for instance type and quantity of input). The approach I take is radically empirical and is based first and foremost on the quantitative analysis of large corpora that record how children learn diverse languages.

The variation exhibited now in the languages spoken around the globe is acutely endangered since about half of the world’s languages are severely threatened. Thus, in addition to working with already existing corpora, I consider it as an urgent duty to document the acquisition of endangered languages. Together with Balthasar Bickel (University of Zurich) and Elena Lieven (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig) I have built up the largest annotated acquisition corpus of an endangered language (Chintang, see the Chintang Language Research Program).

Comparative language acquisition research is still a young field and hence it has to deal with a number of methodological challenges, which need to be resolved first. Thus, some of my recent research has revolved around the development of methods for small longitudinal corpora.