Changing Lexical Representations in the mental Lexicon

Innovation impulse (personal VIMP award to Paula Fikkert by NWO) (2002-2007).


Language is an extremely complex system, which is continuously subject to change. Despite the complexity and the vast amount of variation, children learn their mother tongue quickly and efficiently. Psychologists have offered an impressive number of functional explanations for this fact. Neurologists are discovering more about the structure of the human brain every day. Nevertheless, the structure of language remains largely invisible and can only be studied indirectly. It is ultimately the job of linguists to discover how language is structured and how it is stored in the brain.

One way of doing this is to investigate children's ability to discover the structure of language from the input that they receive and to build lexical representations in their minds in such a way that they are efficient for both the perception and the production of spoken language.

Another way of studying the structure of language is to investigate the ways in which it can change. The language learner plays an important role in language change.

In recent years excellent databases have become available for first language acquisition and the history of Dutch, which now provide a great opportunity to study the organisation of language in the brain through these interdisciplinary yet closely related lines of research. It is our conviction that substantial progress in our understanding of how lexical representations change can be made by combining insights from acquisition studies and historical linguistics.

For the complete project proposal click here

Researchers on the project are:

niekeNieke Roos, junior researcher
Project: Laryngeal features in the historical phonology and morphology of Dutch (2002-2007)
Nieke Roos defended his thesis 'The weak past tense in Dutch and Low German' on June 23, 2009.
He is now Editor in chief of Bits&Chips

As part of the VIMP a Child Language Laboratory was established together with Tania Zamuner . Ellen Westrek has been the manager of this lab (from 2004-2006).


ellenEllen Westrek, manager child language lab

Research assistents:

anneliesAnnelies van WijngaardengeriekeGerieke Wijers
Fieke NoordzijCarolien van WijngaardenCarolien van Wijngaarden Fieke Noordzij 


Fikkert, P. (2010). 'Developing representations and the emergence of phonology: evidence from perception and production'. In: Fougeron, Kühnert, d'Imperio, Vallée (Eds.), Laboratory Phonology 10: Variation, Phonetic Detail and Phonological Representation (Phonology & Phonetics 4-4). 227–258.

Paula Fikkert & Helen de Hoop (2009). Language acquisition in optimality theory. Journal of Linguistics 47 (2): 311–358.

Roos, N. (2009). The weak past tense in Dutch and Low German'. PhD thesis Radboud University Nijmegen.

Fikkert, Paula. Kijk op klank. Inaugurele rede. Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. ISBN 978-90-9022966-9.

Fikkert, Paula & Clara Levelt (2008). 'How does Place fall into place? The lexicon and emergent constraints in children's developing phonological grammar'. In: Peter Avery, B. Elan Dresher & Keren Rice (eds.), Contrast in phonology. Theory, perception, acquisition. Berlin: Mouton. 231-268.

Chen. A. & P. Fikkert (2007). 'Intonation of early two-word utterances in Dutch'. Proceedings of ICPhS 2007.

Fikkert, P. (2007). 'Acquiring phonology'. In: P. de Lacy (Ed.), Handbook of phonological theory. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 537–554.

Fikkert, P. & M.J. Freitas (2006). 'Allophony and allomorphy cue phonological development: Evidence from the European Portuguese vowel system'. Journal of Catalan Linguistics 5 (2006): 83–108.

Zamuner, T.S., A. Kerkhoff & P. Fikkert (2006). 'Acquisition of voicing neutralization and alternations in Dutch'. Proceedings of the 30th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Vol. 2. Cascadilla Press. 701–712.

Fikkert, P. (2005). ‘From phonetic categories to phonological features specification: Acquiring the European Portuguese vowel system’. Lingue e Linguaggio 4(2): 263–280.

Fikkert, P., M. Van Heugten, P. Offermans & T.S. Zamuner (2005). ‘Rhymes as a window into grammar’. In: A. Brugos, M.R. Clark-Cotton & S. Ha (Eds.), Proceedings of the 29 th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Vol. 1. Sommerville, MA, Cascadilla Press. 204–215.

Fikkert, P. (2005). ‘Getting sounds structures in mind. Acquisition bridging linguistics and psychology?’ In: A.E. Cutler (Eds.), Twenty-First Century Psycholinguistics: Four Cornerstones. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 43–56.

Feest, S. van der & P. Fikkert (2005). ‘Segmental detail in children's early lexical representations’. In: Proceedings of the ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP) on CD.

Schiller, N.O., P. Fikkert & C.C. Levelt (2004). 'Stress priming in picture naming'. Brain and Language 90: 231–240.

Fikkert, P. & M.J. Freitas (2004). 'The role of language-specific phonotactics in the acquisition of onset clusters'. In L. Cornips & J. Doetjes (Eds.), Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 58–68.

Levelt, C.C., Schiller, N.O. & P. Fikkert (2003). ‘Metrical priming in speech production’. In: Proceedings 15th ICPhS Barcelona. 2481–1484.

Fikkert, P. (2003). 'Het voetenwerk in taalverandering en taalverwerving. Over het optimaliseren van de prosodische structuur van woorden'. In: Schutter, Georges De & Steven Gillis (Eds.). Klankstructuren van (een) taal. Nederlandse fonologie aan het begin van de eeuw. Gent: KANTL. 165–197.

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