Tag Archives: Acquisition
6/28 Variation in the Acquisition of Sound Systems

June 28, 2013
2306 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: Lisa Davidson (lisa.davidson@nyu.edu)

Click here for Workshop website.

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What is the role of variability in how sound systems are acquired or changed? This workshop examines this topic from a number of different perspectives, including child language acquisition, non-native production and perception, sound change, and phonotactic learning. The workshop will be held on one day, including 5 invited 1 hour talks and a poster session.

Speakers include:
Lisa Davidson (New York University)
Matt Goldrick (Northwestern University)
Bob McMurray (University of Iowa)
Katherine White (University of Waterloo)
Alan Yu (University of Chicago)

This workshop is made possible by the generous support of the Departments of Linguistics at New York University and Northwestern University.

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Language Acquisition and Grammatical Variability

William Snyder – University of Connecticut
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
MLB

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Linguistic theory aims to specify the range of grammars permitted by the human language faculty, and thereby to specify the child’s “hypothesis space” during language acquisition. This course shows, step by step, how to use acquisition data to test theoretical claims about grammatical variation. The text is the instructor’s book, Child Language: The Parametric Approach, published by Oxford University Press. The book covers a number of methodologies, but the course will focus on the analysis of longitudinal corpora of children’s spontaneous speech, and will cover methods of statistical hypothesis-testing that are appropriate for this type of data. The students in the course will each conduct an individual project using data from the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES), which includes corpora for a range of languages. Students will learn how to use correlational analysis and distributional statistics to analyze group data, as well as non-distributional methods that are appropriate for use in single-child case-studies.

Prerequisites:  A decent grounding in syntax and/or phonology. Algebra-level mathematics. Basic computer skills in a Mac or PC environment.

Course Requirements: Enrolled students are required to attend regularly, participate actively in classroom discussion, complete an individual project using data from CHILDES, and present their findings at the final class meeting.

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Phonological Acquisition

Anne-Michelle Tessier – University of Alberta
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 9:00-10:50 am
2333 Mason Hall

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This class is an introduction to several aspects of child phonological acquisition: what early phonologies sound like, how child speech is similar to and also different from adult phonologies, what properties of child speech seem universal vs. language-specific, and how current phonological theories and models capture and predict developmental stages in child speech, and with what success. The empirical focus will be child L1 and some L2 production from about 18 months to five years, in a wide variety of languages, and class meetings will be data-intensive. The grammatical focus will be constraint-based, as in Optimality Theory and Harmonic Grammar, but many different models of learning will be explored. Over the course of the session, we will study the acquisition of segments, syllables, word shapes and simple morpho-phonology, drawing evidence from longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, and also consider the interactions of phonological development and word learning, and some recent insights drawn from computational simulations of phonological learning.

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Second Language Acquisition: Universality and Variability

Diane Larsen-Freeman – University of Michigan
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-5:20 pm
2336 Mason Hall

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The modern day study of second language acquisition (SLA) dates back to the late 1960s.  What launched it was the discovery of common acquisition orders and sequences of development among all learners of a given second language. Of course, there was clear native language influence on such orders and sequences, but the L1 interference was perceived to minimally “disturb” them.  This finding of universality has been remarkably robust and is widely accepted among second language acquisition researchers.  It has inspired many theoretical explanations, from the existence of an innate universal grammar, still accessible in SLA, to processability theory, which explains the common order by appealing to sentence processing constraints, to usage-based theories, which attribute the universality to features in the input, such as the frequency, saliency, and contingency of form-meaning mapping of certain constructions. More recently, there has been a shift to focusing on variability in the SLA process.  While it has always been acknowledged to be part of SLA, awareness of its ubiquity has been heightened through increased attention to social and contextual factors.  In addition, when one examines individual learners, as opposed to group phenomena, variability is obvious. Gaussian statistics, which emphasize averages, should at least be complemented with Pareto-based statistics, which feature (nearly) infinite variance.  In addition, variability has been recognized to play an important role in stimulating language development among second language learners, leading researchers to focus upon variable performance, looking for “motors of change.” The course will conclude with a consideration of a complexity-theory view of language and its learning, which inspires us to look for what unites universality and variability.

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The Bilingual Brain

Loraine Obler – City University of New York Graduate Center
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
2336 Mason Hall

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For a century and a half ,data have been gathered on brain organization for language. From early on, as this research was initially carried out primarily in Europe, questions have been asked about how language is represented and processed in the brains of bilinguals and multilinguals. In this class we will review the questions that have been asked and the currently held answers concerning how brains handle more than one language. After an initial review of brain regions that have been identified as crucial for language generally and methods for studying them, topics will include a selection of the following:

- Parallel and differential impairment and recovery from aphasia in bilinguals

- Consequences of age of L2 acquisition

- Consequences of age of diminishment of L 1 or L2 use (e.g., in heritage-language speakers)

- Bilingual switching

- Cognitive advantages of bilingualism

- Talented L2 learning and hyperpolyglots

- Particular difficulties with L2 learning (links to dyslexia)

- L1 and L2 attrition

- Shared and distinct components of the bilingual’s two languages (e.g., cognates vs. non-cognates; bidialectalism vs. bilingualism)

- Differences between bilingualism and multilingualism

- Bilingualism in Alzheimer’s disease

Our focus will be not only on the phenomena of interest, but also on how neurolinguistic methods lead to findings and what the relative advantages and disadvantages of the commonly used techniques are.

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The Development of Sociolinguistic Competence in Children

Alicia Wassink – University of Washington
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2325 Mason Hall

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This course introduces students to sociolinguistic research exploring a related set of issues at the intersection of child language acquisition research and research into sociolinguistic variation:

What is the timing of the emergence of sociolinguistic variation in children?  In particular:

How does the timing of the production of variation relate to other universal milestones of language development? When do children begin to show perceptual awareness of variation in the linguistic forms produced by others? What do we “know” about the types of social categories children conceptualize and employ in their social lives?

We begin with Dell Hymes’ notion of communicative competence, establishing a basis for understanding the abilities comprising sociolinguistic competence (systemic potential, appropriateness, occurrence, feasibility).  From there, we explore classic linguistic literature regarding milestones of child language acquisition.  We then examine key research focused upon the emergence of variability in children: 1) the history of language variation studies targeting children and preadolescent children, 2) systematic variability in childrens’ output (production), 3) variability in input to children, 4) evidence for language change in second dialect acquisition. We will look at one particular family of models, exemplar models, that seem promising for modeling of the mapping of linguistic form to social meaning in the mind because they can accommodate the types of findings described in the literature we have explored.  We will consider in particular, how and whether metalinguistic commentary from children (their “talk about talk”) might provide insights into the social categories they perceive, and the evolution of linkages between these categories and linguistic forms over time in the exemplar space.

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The Role of Children in Language Contact and Change

Carmel O’Shannessy – University of Michigan
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2325 Mason Hall

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The role of children in contact-induced language change is relatively under-explored, as most work on language contact and language change investigates adult speakers. Little is known about when and how the adult speakers developed their speech repertoires, or how their speech styles as children interact with long-term change. Yet in several contexts children learning (a) first language(s) have clearly played a role in contact-induced language change, and recent studies have detailed the contribution of children using empirical data and/or historical records. It appears that children’s roles differ according to context, where contextual factors include age, type of variation, medium of interaction (sign or oral), dialect contact, new dialect or language formation, and/or different degrees of input in the language being acquired. This course will bring together studies of children’s language development in several types of contact situation and attempt to provide a synthesis which links sociolinguistic situations, socio- and psycholinguistic processes, and linguistic outcomes. We will discuss evidence of children’s roles in the nativization of pidgins and creoles (oral and sign), mixed languages, and dialect formation, linking these to evidence of children’s language processing in other instances of first language acquisition.

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Usage-based Models of First and Second Language Acquisition

Nick Ellis – University of Michigan
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:20 pm
2336 Mason Hall

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This course develops a constructionist approach to First and Second Language Acquisition (L1A, L2A). It presents psycholinguistic and corpus linguistic evidence for L2 constructions and for the inseparability of lexis, grammar, and semantics. It outlines a psycholinguistic theory of language learning following general cognitive principles of category learning, with schematic constructions emerging from usage. It reviews how the following factors jointly determine how a construction is learned: (1) the exemplar frequencies and their Zipfian distribution; (2) the salience of their form; (3) the significance of their functional interpretation; (4) the exemplars’ similarity to the construction prototype; and (5) the reliability of these form-function mappings. It tests these proposals against large corpora of usage and longitudinal corpora of L1 and L2 learner language using statistical and computational modelling. It considers the psychology of transfer and learned attention in L2A in order to understand how L2A differs from L1A in that it involves reconstructing language, with learners’ expectations and attentional biases tuned by experience of their L1. A central theme of the course is that patterns of language usage, structure, acquisition, and change are emergent, and that there is value in viewing Language as a Complex Adaptive System.

Week 1: Constructions, their cognition and acquisition

Week 2: A frequency-informed construction grammar of English usage

Week 3: Construction learning in L1A and L2A longitudinal corpora

Week 4: L2A, learned attention, and transfer and their implications for instruction.

Course Areas: Language Acquisition, Semantics/Pragmatics, Psycholinguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics

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