Sie sind hier: FRIAS School of Language & … Fellows Prof. Dr. Heike Behrens

Prof. Dr. Heike Behrens

Kognitive Linguistik
Universität Basel
Feb. - Juli 2010

Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies
Albertstr. 19
79104 Freiburg im Breisgau

Vergangene FRIAS-Aufenthalte

  • Feb. - Juli 2010



Heike Behrens is professor of "Cognitive Linguistics and Language Acquisition Research" with a joint affiliation in the German and English department at the University of Basel (Switzerland). She specializes in first language acquisition where she takes a constructivist perspective.  Her corpus-based work addresses the acquisition of syntactic and morphological categories with special attention to fine-grained developmental processes.
Heike Behrens did her Staatsexamen and MA in English and German at the University of Kiel, and her PhD at the University of Amsterdam. She held research positions at the University of Braunschweig, the Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen and the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology at Leipzig, and spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Univerisity of California at Berkeley. Before coming to Basel, she was professor of German Linguistics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.


Selected Publications


  • Behrens, Heike (im Druck). Konstruktionen im Spracherwerb. Zeitschrift für Germanistische Linguistik (ZGL), .
  • Behrens, Heike (2009). Usage-based and emergentist approaches to language acquisition. Linguistics, 47(2), 383-411.
  • Behrens, Heike (2008). Corpora in Language Acquisition Research: History, Methods, Perspectives. In: Behrens, Heike (Hrsg.). Corpora in Language Acquisition Research: Finding Structure in Data (Trends in Language Acquisition Research # 6 (TiLAR)) (S. xi-xxx).  Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Behrens, Heike (Hrsg.) (2008). Corpora in Language Acquisition Research: Finding Structure in Data (= Trends in Language Acquisition Research # 6 (TiLAR)).  Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Abbot-Smith, Kirsten F. & Behrens, Heike (2006). How known constructions influence the acquisition of other constructions: the German passive and future constructions. Cognitive Science, 30 (6), 995-1026.
  • Behrens, Heike (2006). The input-output relationship in first language acquisition. Language and Cognitive Processes, 21, 2-24.
  • Behrens, Heike & Gut, Ulrike (2005). The relationship between syntactic and prosodic organisation in early multiword speech. Journal of Child Language, 32, 1-34.
  • Lieven, Elena, Behrens, Heike, Speares, Jenny und Tomasello, Michael (2003). Early syntactic creativity: A usage-based approach. Journal of Child Language, 30, 333-370.
  • Behrens, Heike (2002). Learning Multiple Regularities: Evidence from Overgeneralization Errors in the German Plural. In: Anna H. J. Do, Laura Domínguez & Aimee Johansen (Hrsg.), Proceedings of the 26th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (S. 72-83). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press 2002.
  • Behrens, Heike (2001). Cognitive-conceptual development and the acquisition of grammatical morphemes. In: Melissa Bowerman & Steve Levinson (Hrsg.), Language acquisition and conceptual  development (S. 450-474). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


FRIAS Research Project

Re-representation processes in syntax and morphology

Constructivist studies in language acquisition start out from the assumption that children process the information in the input available to them and "reconstruct" the underlying linguistic system. Most studies so far focussed on the form side of language, identifying input frequency, perceptual salience, and transparency as the most important determinants of the actual course of language development. The aim of my FRIAS-project is two-fold: first, I will examine the existing cross-linguistic research more closely to see how the affordances of a particular language system interact with general learning processes. Second, I will examine the acquisition data for German noun and verb inflection to study processes of re-representation, as children have to go through multiple stages to identify the full range of functions encoded by the morphological paradigms.