This is a collaborative project between myself and Laura Rosseel (KU Leuven).


This project aims to document ongoing change and variation in the speech of Swiss-German speaking children. Earlier work on the language of German-speaking Switzerland has documented the use of Swiss-German on various linguistic levels (e.g. lexical or syntactic variation) focusing on different age groups mostly above the age of ~ 15 yrs. However, the speech of children – the innovators at the forefront of linguistic change – has so far been neglected. Little is therefore known about the usage and social meaning attached to linguistic features among the pre-adolescent children below the age of 12. These linguistic features include expressions such as:

  1. Altä? (as a pragmatic marker)
  2. the omission of prepositions, articles, pronouns or auxiliaries, as in Chani bleistift? <Can I pen?> for Chani en bleistift ha? <Can I have a pen?>


Data collection

So far, we collect our data using the Diapix task (Baker & Hazan 2011). Diapix is a technique designed to elicit speech from two speakers who are asked to identify the differences between two nearly identical pictures without seeing the other person’s picture (as in the two pictures below).


Fig. 1a: Beach version A Fig. 1b: Beach version B


Where are we now?

We are now in the first steps of the data collection process and have recordings from the first set of speakers (aged around 10).


Baker, R. & V. Hazan. 2011. DiapixUK. Task materials for the elicitation of multiple spontaneous speech dialogs. Behavior research methods 43(3): 761–770.

Presentations and publications

upcoming 2019

Röthlisberger, Melanie & Laura Rosseel. How pre-adolescents use ethnolectal features in urban areas: A case study of German-speaking Switzerland. Paper to be presented at the International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE) 10, 26-28 June 2019, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.[download abstract]



Röthlisberger, Melanie & Laura Rosseel. Ethnolectal features in children’s vernacular in urban and rural German-speaking Switzerland: An exploratory case study. Paper presented at the international conference Urban Language Research, 31 October – 3 November 2018, Graz, Austria.[download slides][download abstract]