IASCL inaugural Early Career Award for Rowena Garcia

27 March 2024
The MPI congratulates Rowena Garcia for winning the IASCL inaugural Early Career Award (ECA) 2024. She will be recognized at the IASCL 2024 Congress in Prague, and will give the ECA Plenary talk: ‘Casting a wider linguistic net: Language acquisition insights from an Austronesian language’. The ECA is only awarded every three years.

Garcia was a postdoctoral researcher at the Language Development department led by Caroline Rowland from 2019 to 2021, and then continued to work for the department remotely, from her base in Potsdam, until the end of 2023. 

The IASCL’s Early Career Award is given to a researcher who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the field of child language acquisition. The Committee was ‘highly impressed with Dr. Garcia’s exciting and important independent research programme.’

The award recognises both the contribution of Garcia’s own research and her wider commitments to initiatives that make science more inclusive for emerging and established researchers from the Global South. Her own line of research has focused on the acquisition and processing of Tagalog, an under-studied language that differs substantially from commonly studied languages, unveiling important new information about how children learn to understand and produce sentences. Her corpus of Tagalog caregiver-child interactions – the first of its kind – is archived in The Language Archive

She has also worked more broadly to raise awareness of the problems associated with a lack of diversity by publishing highly cited review papers on the state of the field. Most notable is Kidd & Garcia (2022), which demonstrated empirically how few languages we study in child language acquisition - most published papers study English and a handful of other big languages, and highlighted the fact that most authors come from North America and Europe.

Increasing the number of researchers studying child language across the world is also necessary. Garcia has addressed this issue directly by working to provide more training and research opportunities to students in under-represented countries, including her home country, the Philippines. Of particular note is her leading role in the organisation of the Truly Global L+ Summer/Winter School on Language Acquisition, a highly successful free, online introductory school for students who want to make a career in language acquisition research. The school has now trained over 600 participants, mainly from its target regions in Sub-Sahara Africa, South-East Asia and South America.


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