Grasping Meaning across Languages and Learners (GraMALL)


Assigning reference constitutes the core essence of sentence meaning. How do language learners acquire referential terms: concepts and properties which are inherently abstract (without physical correlates in the external world), which all languages convey, and for which there is widespread variation in linguistic encoding across languages? Many acquisition studies lack the power to draw generalizations, as they focus on individual child languages or just a handful of languages. Our nine teams propose to collaborate in studying the acquisition of the linguistic meaning of sentences, combining sophisticated linguistic theory with rigorous experimental design. By systematically varying language and learner type, we compare child languages within and across typologically diverse families, as well as different learner populations, who face the task of learning meaning in various modes: monolinguals, different types of bilinguals, and learners with language impairments.

Our objective is the preparation of a European research proposal focused on aspects of sentence meaning whose linguistic expression varies across languages: nominal and temporal reference. This poses a challenge for language learners, especially learners in a multilingual setting. We plan project meetings and research exchanges to design pilot studies, which will shape and fine-tune this proposal.

A transnational collaboration is imperative given our crosslinguistic approach. It is especially important now that the focus of acquisition studies is shifting from sentence structure to sentence meaning. Our collaboration will not only strengthen Europe's leading researchers as gathered in this group, but also bring forth new leadership in experimental methodology of sentence meaning with language learners.


Book or monography


Chapter in book

  • D. Ahn, U. Sauerland(2015): Proceedings of NELS 45 pp. 1 - 11
  • J. Lidz, J. Pater, W. Snyder, A. van Hout(2016): The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Linguistics pp. 587 - 610 , Oxford
  • J. Quer(2016): The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia pp. 618 - 620
  • J. Quer(2016): A matter of complexity: Subordination in sign languages pp. 204 - 230
  • A. Gavarró(2016): Enciclopedia de Lingüística Hispánica pp. 271 - 283
  • J. Quer(2016): The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia pp. 818 - 819
  • J. Quer(2016): Miscel·lània d'homenatge a Joan Martí i Castell pp. 205 - 211
  • E. Juarros-Daussà, R. Casesnoves Ferrer(2016): Lengua española, contacto lingüístico y globalización pp. 463 - 492
  • J. Quer(2016): The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages pp. 954 - 966
  • C. Hamann, et al.(2016): Complexity in acquisition pp. 000 - 000
  • A. Gavarró, M. Cantú-Sánchez(2016): Biolinguistic Investigations on the Language Faculty pp. 169 - 194
  • J. Quer(2016): Intonational grammar in Ibero-Romance: Approaches across linguistic subfields pp. 369 - 386

Scientific article

  • M. Łuniewska, et al.(2016): Ratings of age of acquisition of 299 words across 25 Languages. Is there a cross-linguistic order of words? Behavior Research Methods pp. 1154 - 1177
  • U. Sauerland, et al.(2016): How do 5-year- olds understand questions? Differences in languages across Europe. First Language pp. 169 - 202
  • J. Quer, M. Lekakou(2016): Subjunctive mood in Griko: A micro-comparative approach. Lingua pp. 65 - 85
  • S. Varlokosta, et al.(2016): A cross-linguistic study of the acquisition of clitic and pronoun production. Language Acquisition pp. 1 - 26
  • F. Arosio, et al.(2016): Morphosyntax and logical abilities in Italian poor readers: the problem of SLI misidentification First Language pp. 295 - 315
  • W. M. Mak, et al.(2016): Connective processing by bilingual children and monolinguals with specific language impairment: distinct profiles. Journal of Child Language pp. 1 - 17
  • S. Armon-Lotem, et al.(2016): A large scale crosslinguistic investigation of the acquisition of passive Language Acquisition pp. 27 - 56
  • M. T. Guasti, et al.(2016): The production of direct object clitics in pre-school and primary school-aged children with specific language impairments. Clinical linguistics and Phonetics pp. 663 - 678
  • F. Foppolo, F. Panzeri(2016): Not only task matters, position also. Rivista di Grammativa Generativa –Research in Generative Grammar pp. 221 - 229
  • A. Gavarro, M. Leela(2016): Child Relativized Minimality and the acquisition of word order in Malayalam. Linguistic Analysis pp. 413 - 443
  • S. Hu, A. Gavarró, M. T. Guasti(2016): The acquisition of Chinese relative clauses: contrasting two theoretical approaches Journal of Child Language pp. 1 - 21
  • L Tieu, et al.(2016): On the role of alternatives in the acquisition of simple and complex disjunctions in French and Japanese. Journal of Semantics pp. 1 - 26
  • S. Hu, M. T. Guasti, A. Gavarró(2016): Children’s production of head-final relative clauses: The case of Mandarin. Applied Psycholinguistics pp. 323 - 346
  • P. Schumacher, U. Sauerland(2016): Pragmatics: Theory and Experiment Growing Together. Linguistische Berichte pp. 3 - 24
  • U. Sauerland(2016): On the definition of sentence. Theoretical Linguistics pp. 147 - 153

Publication meant for a broad audience

  • Z. Gyarmathy, K. Varasdi, F. Martin(2016): On non-culminating interpretations of telic predicates

Publications for the general public


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. A.M.H. van Hout

Affiliated with

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit der Letteren, Engelse Taal- en Letterkunde


01/10/2014 to 30/09/2017