Artificial Language Learning and Language Acquisition – Rebecca Gomez (Department of Psychology, JHU)

October 31, 2000 all-day

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The rapidity with which children acquire language is one of the mysteries of human cognition. A widely held view is that children master language by means of a language-specific learning device. An earlier proposal, generating renewed interest, is that children make use of domain-general, associative learning mechanisms in acquiring language. However, we know little about the actual learning mechanisms involved, making it difficult to determine the relative contributions of innate and acquired knowledge. A recent approach to studying this problem exposes infants to artificial languages and assesses the resulting learning. Studies using this paradigm have led to a number of exciting discoveries regarding the learning mechanisms available during infancy. This approach is useful for achieving finer-grained characterizations of infant learning mechanisms than previously imagined. Such characterizations should result in a better understanding of the relative contributions of innate and learned factors to language acquisition, as well as the dynamic between the two. I will present several studies using this methodology and will discuss the implications for the study of language acquisition.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University, Whiting School of Engineering

Center for Language and Speech Processing
Hackerman 226
3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-2680

Center for Language and Speech Processing