We are delighted to welcome Ben Ambridge from the University of Manchester to deliver our Annual Linguistics Lecture at 6pm on the 12th of July 2022 on our city campus in Newcastle. Register here for your free ticket(s):
Ben is a Professor in the Division of Human Communication, Development and Hearing at the University of Manchester. He has carried out leading and influential research on children’s language development.
He is the author of Psy-Q, a book full of interactive puzzles, quizzes, jokes, visual illusions and more which helps explore a wide range of topics in Psychology. Visit his website here:
and you can explore lots of baffling questions such as ‘Do fish have barcodes?’ ‘What makes you “you”?’ and more
The talk takes place at 6pm on Tuesday 12th of July in Lecture Theatre 031 in the Lipman building on our city campus.
You can find directions to the campus and a campus map here
Email Billy Clark with any queries: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this talk, Ben will be presenting ‘Real Crosslinguistic Research’ which focuses on explores similarities in how children in different cultures acquire their languages.
Here is a fuller descripton:
Real crosslinguistic research: Focussing on the similarities, not the differences
Most accounts of child language acquisition fail because they are designed to explain findings from only a single language (most often, of course, English). Studies that do include more than one language often focus on differences rather than similarities (English children do this because English is like this; Lithuanian children do that because Lithuanian is like that), and thus fail to significantly advance our understanding of the mechanisms and processes that allow children to learn any language. In this talk I will outline three research projects that involve what I am provocatively calling real crosslinguistic research – running more-or-less the same study across different languages, focussing on the similarities, not the differences.
First, I will summarize several studies of inflectional noun and verb morphology, primarily across Polish, Finnish and Estonian, but with some brief excursions into Lithuanian and Japanese. Across all of these languages, children’s errors pattern according to word-form frequency and (where studied) phonological neighbourhood density.
Second, I will summarize almost-identical adult grammaticality judgment studies of passives in English, Indonesian, Mandarin, Balinese and Hebrew. Across all five languages, the relative acceptability of passives (but not other constructions with similar word order) is predicted by verb semantics, specifically the extent to which the passive subject is affected/changed by the action.
Third, I will summarize almost-identical adult and child grammaticality judgment studies of causatives across English, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese and K’iche’ Mayan. The relative acceptability of more- vs less-transparent causative forms (e.g., He broke the stick vs He made the stick break) is again predicted by verb semantics; here, the extent to which the caused and causing event merge into one.
I will end by arguing that these finding are best explained by an exemplar model of language acquisition, and by presenting some findings from simple computational models that instantiate many of the assumptions of such an approach.