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Nijmegen Lectures 2018, February 26-28 -

Program & Abstracts

Lecturer: Elena Lieven

Understanding how children learn language: What progress has been made since 1965?

 

 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Lecture 1    Language development and Nativism: A historical perspective on whether we have been going round in circles

10:00 - 11:30 Radboud University Nijmegen, Aula, Comeniuslaan 2, Nijmegen

 

Abstract: The cognitive revolution kicked off a major research programme addressing how children learn language.  In opposition to previous approaches centered around learning theory, new proposals based on the idea of an innate syntactic module were advanced.  Among proposed evidence for this was the suggested ‘poverty of the stimulus’, brain localisation for language, a critical period for learning, the separation of cognitive and language development and, more recently, genetic evidence.  I will take each of these proposals in turn and assess how they have fared after nearly 60 years of research.  I will end with suggestions from my theoretical perspective as to how I think research in these fields could inform a psychologically-realistic, developmental theory.

 

Afternoon Discussion: Alternative perspectives on language development and nativism

14:00 -16:30. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Conference room 163, Wundtlaan 1, Nijmegen

Discussants:
James McQueen, Radboud University Nijmegen
Peter Hagoort, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
Simon E. Fisher, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lecture 2   Usage-based approaches: How far have they got us?

10:00 - 11:30 Radboud University Nijmegen, Aula, Comeniuslaan 2, Nijmegen

 

Abstract: Approaches that emphasise the role of the language that the child hears and uses have made notable progress in characterising language acquisition as a developmental process.  On these approaches, children extract a network of form-function mappings from the input,  which becomes increasingly productive and general.  I will argue that many of the systematic errors that children make can be explained in terms of input frequencies and without recourse to abstract, rule-based accounts.  I will outline the evidence for this position using corpus, experimental and modelling data,  and use this to address the comprehension-production asymmetry.  I will end by raising a number of unresolved issues relating to the nature of representation and, relatedly, to issues of generalisation, productivity and abstraction.

 

Afternoon Debate: The input is important but we cannot ignore innate constraints

14:00 -16:30. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Conference room 163, Wundtlaan 1, Nijmegen

Discussants: 
Petra Hendriks, University of Groningen
Anna Theakston, University of Manchester

16:30 - 18:00 Poster presentations, MPI for Psycholinguistics, 1st floor

 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lecture 3   Comparative research on language development: How to find universals and particulars?

10:00 - 11:30 Radboud University Nijmegen, Aula, Comeniuslaan 2, Nijmegen

 

Abstract: How much does focusing on a small set of languages and cultures impede our understanding of how children learn language?  I will address the question of universals and particulars in the precursors to language learning as well as the challenges set by the range of pragmatic, semantic and syntactic variation in the world’s languages and cultures. I will cover the considerable advances that have been made by comparisons between relatively closely related languages. Finally, I will address the methodological and theoretical challenges set by ‘exotic’ languages and ‘non-weird’ cultures and attempt to suggest how they might be met.

 

Afternoon Discussion: What sort of languages should we study and why?

14:00 -16:30. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Conference room 163, Wundtlaan 1, Nijmegen

Discussants:
Bencie Woll, University College London
Ludovica Serratrice, University of Reading
Stephen C. Levinson, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

 

Last checked 2018-10-15 by Martina Bernhard

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