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Multilingualism of Frisian children: Evelyn Bosma wins Keetje Hodshon Prize

Postdoc and linguist Evelyn Bosma receives the Keetje Hodshon Prize for her dissertation. For her research on the multilingualism of Frisian children, Bosma previously won the Klokhuis Science Prize and the Campus Fryslân Science Prize.

For her dissertation Bosma studied the multilingualism of Frisian children: they grow up while speaking Frisian at home and Dutch in school. Does this have advantages or disadvantages? And where do these differences come from? 

Bosma continued this research in her postdoc and took several language and cognitive tests from pupils between five and eight years old to map out the different aspects of this multilingualism. For this purpose she used, among other things, eye-tracking techniques. With this new technique she could follow the eye movement of children while they were reading sentences in Frisian and Dutch, and was able to measure how quickly they registered words in a certain language. Because in her research, Bosma looked at two languages that are closely related to each other, she contributed to a better general understanding of how children, and therefore people, store words in their memory.

‘An energetic and versatile researcher’

Bosma's dissertation, Bilingualism and cognition: the acquisition of Frisian and Dutch, is described as ‘very well organised’ and ‘analysed in great detail’. The choice to investigate Dutch and Frisian is unique, because usually studies on multilingualism deal with situations of two standard languages, instead of a national language and a regional language. Bosma’s research results, however, extend far beyond the Frisian context, as more and more children have a multilingual upbringing. 

The Royal Holland Society of Sciences (KHMW), that awards the prize, expresses appreciation for Bosma’s research but also for her energy and versatility. Her publications on the subject also stood out: all the core chapters of her dissertation appeared in leading international scientific journals, many of those even before her PhD defence.

Award-winning work

For one of the follow-up studies, which was mentioned earlier in this article, Bosma collaborated with Lingustics alumna Naomi Nota. This led not only to an international publication, but also to much attention in the Dutch media and them winning the Klokhuis Science Prize: 4000 young Klokhuis viewers chose this research as their favourite.

Bosma previously won Campus Fryslân Science Prize for her research, which is awarded to young scientists in the Friesland region. Last week she was also nominated for . the Gratama Science Prize of the Leiden University Fund, which will be awarded this summer to one of the nominees.

The Keetje Hodshonprijs is awarded by the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (KHMW). The incentive prize is intended for researchers who have completed their PhD no more than five years ago and who make a contribution in the field of the humanities. The prize also includes a cash prize of €12,500.

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