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.

View SP28: The Acquisition Sketch Project

The Acquisition Sketch Project is a long-term project, and we are committed to working with you on your sketches and developing the project further.

If you are interested in collecting sketch data, writing acquisition sketches or contributing to the project in any other way, we encourage you to get in touch with us and discuss your plans.

To facilitate this process, we will be holding bi-monthly online seminars that serve to guide researchers through the process of compiling a corpus and writing a sketch. In order to keep you informed of upcoming seminars and events, and to assist us to better target our support, we encourage you to complete this form.

Recordings of the seminars can be accessed through our YouTube Channel.

We compile and maintain a list of FAQs, which can be accessed here.

Project details

Project team members

Professor Dr. Shanley E.M. Allen
Dr Lucy Davidson
Dr Rebecca Defina
Professor Dr. Birgit Hellwig
Associate Professor Barb Kelly 
Professor Evan Kidd

To Barbara Frances Kelly, 1968-2022
It is with the greatest of sadness that we dedicate the Acquisition Sketch Project to our recently passed co-editor and co-author, Barbara Kelly. Barb died suddenly as we were finalizing the project, and no words can truly express our heartbreak in losing our much-loved friend and colleague. Throughout her career Barb was committed to working with and for minority language communities, while also working on a wide range of other topics. She had a seemingly limitless energy for everything in her life, and it was impossible not to be swept up in her enthusiasm. We will all miss her dearly, but are comforted in the knowledge that her substantial contribution to the project means her legacy will be evident in every sketch.