Utrecht Corpus

Utrecht Corpus

Loekie Elbers
Department of Psychology
University of Utrecht

Frank Wijnen
Department of Linguistics
University of Utrecht


Participants: 2
Type of Study: naturalistic
Location: Netherlands
Media type: audio
DOI: doi:10.21415/T5M97D

Browsable transcripts

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Link to media folder

Citation information

Elbers, L. (1985). A tip-of-the-tongue experience at age two? Journal of Child Language, 12, 353–365.

Elbers, L., & Wijnen, F. (1992). Effort, production skill, and language learning. In C. Ferguson, L. Menn, & C. Stoel-Gammon (Eds.), Phonological development: Models, research, implications, Parkton, MD: York.

Wijnen, F. (1988). Spontaneous word fragmentations in children: Evidence for the syllable as a unit in speech production. Journal of Phonetics, 16, 187–202.

Wijnen, F. (1990). The development of sentence planning. Journal of Child Language, 17, 550–562.

Wijnen, F. (1992). Incidental word and sound errors in young speakers. Journal of Memory and Language, 31, 734–755.

In accordance with TalkBank rules, any use of data from this corpus must be accompanied by at least one of the above references.

Project Description

The Utrecht corpus is based on weekly home tapings of two Dutch boys, Thomas and Hein, between the ages of roughly 2;3 and 3;1. The corpus was compiled by Loekie Elbers and Frank Wijnen (University of Utrecht) with assistance from Joke van Marle, Trudy van der Horst, Herma Veenhof-Haan, and Inge Boers. The recordings were made by the children’s mothers. The data were used in two projects focusing on the relation between language acquisition and developmental disfluency. Both Hein and Thomas showed an increase of disfluency around age 2;7-2;8. In Thomas, the disfluency was mild, in Hein it was severe. In both children, the frequency of disfluencies dropped subsequently, until it reached a level comparable to that in the initial samples.

The recordings were generally made in unstructured settings. Usually, the target child and an adult interlocutor (mostly the mother) were engaged in some everyday routine, such as having breakfast, playing, getting dressed, or looking through picture books. Both children were regularly presented with a particular picture book, entitled “The little giantess”, in order to attain some standardization of the recording conditions in some sessions. The use of this book is indicated in the @Situation or @Activities header. In most instances where the book is used, the transcriptions contain explicit references to the picture book pictures by means of @Stim headers. In some of the recordings of Thomas, his mother uses a puppet (Kermit the Frog) to stimulate (or motivate) the conversation.

An overview of the available material and some indications of progress in processing the data follows. Some 71 hours of recordings were collected. All usable samples of Thomas and Hein are transcribed. Generally, samples involving other children in addition to the target child were not transcribed.

The number and character of reliability checks on the transcriptions are indicated by the number after “lit” [= “literal transcription”] in the “Progress” column. A zero (0) indicates that the file contains an initial transcription that has not been checked. One (1) means that the initial transcription is checked, either by the person who made the initial transcription, or by somebody else. A two (2) indicates that the session was transcribed by two independent coders, and that the final version was constructed by means of a consensus procedure. In the “lit2” files, data on which the first and second transcriber could not reach an agreement are represented with “xxx.” The presence of “hes” or “mor” in the “Progress” column indicates that a full %hes line was coded for hesitations or that a %mor line was coded for morphology. The presence of other participants, as well as other salient or exceptional characteristics of the tapings are mentioned in the “Remarks” column.

The files are labeled in accordance with the age of the child at the time of the recording. For instance, 020322.cha represents the recording of Thomas made when he was 2;3.22. A complete listing of the files is in this spreadsheet.

Hesitation Coding

The main lines of both the children and adult speakers contain various codes for nonfluencies and hesitations. Usually, the standard CHAT diacritics are used. You may however also find some nonstandard codes, such as [$I] (interrupted word) or [$B] (block). Additionally, these square-bracketed entries indicating aspects of prosody are provided:
[=! rising] rising contour
[=! falling] falling contour
[=! contin] continuation contour
[=! f] loud
[=! ff] very loud
[=! p] soft
[=! pp] very soft (whispered)

The codes included on the %hes line and their meanings are as follows:
$REP repetitions
$rep|wrd word repetition
$rep|wst word string repetition
$rep|isg initial segment(s) repetition
$rep|isy initial syllable repetition
$rep|cpx a composite of several of the above
$COR self-corrections
$cor|dx_ry a self-correction with delay of x words and retracing of y words
$WBR word break
$BLK block
$UPS unfilled (silent) pause
$FPS filled pause (uh)
$SSI senseless sound insertion

For $UPS, $FPS, and $SSI, scoping numbers indicate the position of the word following the disfluency. For $WBR and $BLK, the scoping number indicates the position of the affected word. For $COR and $REP, the scoping number indicates the beginning of the repetition or retracing.

If needed for the disambiguation and interpretation of the text or the nonfluencies and errors, phonetic IPA transcriptions are supplied on the %pho tier. Please note that not all speech errors have yet been explicitly coded on %err tiers, particularly in the corpus of Thomas

The code COMM stands for Dutch “common” gender. The article “een” (a) is usually transcribed as “’n,” in order to distinguish it from “een” (one). The transcription of “het” may be “’t,” depending on the pronunciation.

The Book

The book is De kleine reuzin by Philippe Dumas [“The little giantess,” translated from the French “La petite geánte” by Thea Schierbeek-Tulleken. Published by Uitgeverij Lotus, Leopoldstraat 43 Antwerpen (Belgium); ISBN 90 6290 572 2].

The story is about two dolls, a girl and a boy, who — together with the little girl that takes care of them — embark on an adventurous trip during the night. The story takes the perspective of the dolls, who are described as children. The little girl is seen as a giantess, hence the title of the book. During the nocturnal adventure, however, the little girl shrinks to the size of the dolls. The three figures ride out on the back of the family dog and play games, swim, make a bonfire and have a cup of tea with a rabbit family, who happens to be bored to sleep by the sandman telling stories. They return at the crack of dawn. The little girl grows to her usual size again and the three of them are safely in bed when the little girl’s mother enters the bedroom with the morning tea.

The book contains 27 pictures, most of which are printed on single pages, so that usually two pictures can be seen simultaneously. In the ensuing descriptions, the boy doll will be referred to as B, the girl doll as G, and the little girl as M. The pictures were assigned numbers according to their order in the book. Each picture in the book is accompanied by a few lines of text of which virtually literal English translations are included in the present file under the TEXT headings.

Frontispiece: A large, wide-open window facing hill slopes with bushes and trees. A large, cratery full moon is in the sky. A little girl, seen from the back, looks out of the window, holding a burning candle in her right hand, the arm stretched. There is a picture on the wall next to the window. Below the picture walks a cat. In the foreground is a pile of books topped by a fish bowl, in which a goldfish swims. A large yellow book leaning against the fish bowl is entitled De kleine reuzin. Two dolls are sitting on the floor, halfway between the book pile and the window.

Text of De kleine reuzin
1B and G stand in front of some indoor plants. G has long black hair, B short blond.Once upon a time, there were two little children who, unbelievably, were so sweet that they never ever broke something or said an ugly word.
2B and G are sitting on a wooden doll’s bed, facing each other.The girl had black hair and the boy was blond. They had eyes of glass and plastic bellies.
3 M holds B and G in her arms, B on the left side, G on the right. M stands in a nursery room with some toys on the floor and various items on the wall.In the same house also lived a giantess, who loved them very much...
4M is seen from the back, she is barefoot and is holding the dolls in an awkward manner: G by the left arm and B by the leg....but who sometimes treated them very roughly.
5B, G, and M are seated at a doll-scaled table on which there are some little saucers and cups. The dolls wear napkins around their necks. M holds a plate on her lap and a spoon in her hand. In the background is a doll’s house.But the worst thing was that she never gave them anything to eat, she only pretended.
6M is being undressed by her mother. Her mother pulls a dress over her head; she is naked up to the waist. B and G sit on the floor and watch.Every night other giants came and washed the little giantess and took her to bed.
7M, B, and G are in M’s bed, asleep. The dolls lie next to M, one on each side.The children slept next to her, each at another side. One left, the other right, just as they felt like.
8A large French style country house with an annex in the middle of a meadow at night. The sky is star-spangled, the moon is up.But precisely at midnight something miraculous happened: it was very still and very dark and... suddenly the giantess became smaller and smaller, until she was as small as her little friends.
9[two pages]: An attic. At the left side some paintings or picture frames lean against a wall. The family dog is asleep on the floor in front of the paintings. In the middle stands a large wicker chair. To the right of this, a wooden stair case. M, now doll-sized, B and G pass in front of the banisters, walking toward the downward stairs.She woke them up and the three of them tip-toe-ed down the stairs.
10A large refrigerator with an open door, lit on the inside, and filled with various food. G is sitting on B’s neck, reaching for a large piece of cake, while M is keeping the door open.They went to the kitchen to have a bite, they woke up the dog, and then...!
11M, B, and are G are sitting on the dog’s back. They are at a cobble-stoned beach. In the background are some green-topped cliffs.Then they went outside to begin an exciting adventure.
12The dog, M, B and are running through a flower-littered meadow.What fun it is to run through the night with the wind in your hair.
13M, B, and G are standing among some huge flowers, watching the moon and the stars.And to watch the stars and catch your breath again.
14M, B, and G are playing at leap frog with a rabbit in front of the rabbit’s hole. The rabbit is in the foreground. M bends while B jumps over her.Their games were not very silent.
15An owl flying spreaded-wingedly in front of some shady trees.To the horror of an old, lonesome owl.
16 M, B, and G are swimming in a lake, their heads and hands protruding from the water.Luckily, it was a warm night and they could go for a swim in the lake...
17M, B, and G are swimming among a flock of ducks, near the waterside. One duck is seen in the behind, while diving....where there were a lot of animals, ducks, and musical frogs.
18The children are rowing in old shoes, M and B in a large brown one, G in a smaller blue one, past a spoonbill, which is standing on one leg, grooming his feathers.After that, they rowed to an island in a little boat made from an old shoe.
19The three are standing around a bonfire on a little island in the middle of the lake. The fire is bright and smoking. Insects are swarming around it. In the background are the silhouettes of four willows against the night sky. In the foreground, a fox, seen on the back, is squatting on the near shore, watching the children.Where they also made a bonfire, to point the way to lost butterflies.
20The interior of a rabbit’s hole. The three are seen on the face, kneeling on the floor. A tea trolley is in front left. Mother rabbit, wearing a long green dress and an flowery apron, is seen on the back. She carries a tray with a tea pot. There is a brightly colored rug on the floor in front of the children. Behind them, at the far end, is the hole’s entrance. The night sky is visible.At the end of the night they visited the rabbits. They were very nice and asked them whether they would like a cup of tea or perhaps a bowl of onion soup.
21 A brightly lit room in the rabbit’s hole. The fire is burning. Five rabbits as well as B, G, and M are gathered around it. The sandman (Klaas Vaak) is leaning against the mantelpiece. Most rabbits have their eyes closed.What a pity that the sandman was there as well, who was even more boring than the rain. His stories made you fall asleep.
22The three sit on the branches of a leafless tree. Around them, on other branches, are several crows. Also, there are some nests. The sky is turning lighter..But at that time the sun almost rose and they had to go back home.
23The three walk through a green meadow past a huge cow, which is seen from the behind. Her large udder almost touches the ground.On their way back they saw all kinds of monsters from a long time ago that were waking up.
24(two pages): M, B, and G and the dog walk down a hollow country road. They are seen from the back, having their arms around one another’s shoulders. At the left side, a horse and a foal look over a fence. There are three milk containers near the fence. Some rooftops protrude from behind the road banks. In the distance are meadows. The stars are still discernible in a brightening sky.Hurry, hurry! Make haste! The chickens are already up and about. And the rooster will soon start to crow and wake everybody up.
25The three are seen en silhouette against a now light blue sky with some purplish clouds half covering the moon sickle. M is now evidently taller than B and G.And even worse, the little giantess would soon start to grow again and become as big as she was before.
26M, B and G are back in M’s room. M has regained her normal size. She is lying on the canopied bed, uncovered. B is seen climbing into the bed.As fast as possible they climb back into their bed.
27M’s mother, dressed in a green morning robe, is standing near M’s bed, holding a tray with a teapot and several other steaming containers. M is looking up to her mother, the two dolls on her lap.Just in time! In came the big giantess and said: “Good morning!”