Cyprus is in a unique position for many purposes and for many reasons. This lecture will present the research agenda of the Cyprus Acquisition Team (CAT). It aims to bring closer the potential impact the confined geographical space of this small island has on issues pertaining to language acquisition and subsequent development from a variety of perspectives, of imminent relevance for any study of multilingualism—that is, even beyond Cyprus: bilectal Greek Cypriot children, multilingual children from multicultural backgrounds, and children with atypical, even impaired, language development. Two main concepts will be introduced and pursued: the Socio-Syntax of Development Hypothesis (Grohmann 2011) and the notion of a gradient scale of multilingualism, dubbed Comparative Multilingualism (Grohmann 2014). The former takes the local linguistic variety, Cypriot Greek, seriously as the native language of Greek Cypriot children. Due to the sociolinguistic state of diglossia, children not only grow up with this unofficial, non-codified Low variety but also with the High variety: Standard Modern Greek, one of the island’s two official languages (and that of Greece). At CAT, we developed the notion of ‘(discrete) bilectalism’ to characterize speakers in diglossic environments (Rowe & Grohmann 2013, 2014). Our research, in particular on object clitic placement, further suggests that bilectal children undergo refinements in their grammatical system after the critical period for first language acquisition, that is, even beyond the age of, say, 5 years. One of the most prominent factors is schooling, which falls within ‘socio-syntactic’ developments of language. The larger picture is one that places bilectalism on a gradient scale, which ranges from monolectal, monolingual speakers to multilectal, multilingual speakers across further differentiations such as bidialectalism, bivarietalism, bilectalism, and different degrees of bilingualism (Grohmann & Kambanaros 2016). Our research suggests that this scale can be compared to performance in both receptive and expressive language tasks as well as cognitive tasks tapping into executive control.
Kleanthes K. Grohmann is Professor of Biolinguistics in the Department of English Studies at the University of Cyprus and the Director the Cyprus Acquisition Team (CAT Lab). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2000 and has published widely in the areas of syntactic theory, comparative syntax, language acquisition, impaired language, and multilingualism. Among the books he has written and (co-)edited are Understanding Minimalism (with N. Hornstein and J. Nunes, 2005, CUP), InterPhases (2009, OUP), The Cambridge Handbook of Biolinguistics (with Cedric Boeckx, 2013, CUP), and the most recent ebook ‘Developmental, Modal, and Pathological Variation: Linguistic and Cognitive Profiles for Speakers of Linguistically Proximal Languages and Varieties’ (with M. Kambanaros and E. Leivada, 2018, Frontiers in Psychology). He is co-editor of the John Benjamins book series Language Faculty and Beyond and editor of the open-access journal Biolinguistics.