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The Acquisition Sketch Project

The Acquisition Sketch Project is an initiative that aims at increasing knowledge about the acquisition of understudied languages.

It grew out of current debates about improving the empirical foundation of language acquisition research, which – despite its long history of cross-linguistic research – continues to be severely biased towards English and other big European languages (Kidd & Garcia 2022). Major efforts are needed to adequately take into account the enormous diversity in the types of languages that children learn and the cultures they grow up in.

Combining insights from language acquisition, language socialization and language documentation, our approach is based on two cornerstones: a sketch corpus and an acquisition sketch. The sketch corpus consists of minimally five hours of annotated and archived data, and it documents communicative practices of children between the ages of 2 and 4. The acquisition sketch is a description of child language, child-directed language, and socialization practice as it is attested in the sketch corpus. The sketch format also incorporates community outputs. We strive to make the sketch achievable by limiting the amount of data necessary, and by offering hands-on advice on collecting, analyzing and presenting the data. Our goal is to encourage and enable a wide audience to contribute to studying language use by and with children, including, for example, field linguists and language documenters, community language workers, child language researchers or MA students.