Summer School 2015

Summer School 2015

22-26 June, 2015

Time Teacher Title
9:30-11:00 Kristen Syrett Semantics in Language Acquisition
11:15-12:45 Jennifer Culbertson Syntactic universals in the lab: New methods and approaches
2:15-3:45 James White Universal biases in phonological learning
4:00-5:30 Alexander Clark Distributional learning and Language Acquistion

Semantics in Language Acquisition

by Kristen Syrett (Rutgers University)

In this course, we will explore universal challenges in the acquisition of meaning. In doing so, we will review a range of empirical findings that not only reveal many similarities and some differences between child and adult knowledge, but which also speak to the nature of children’s abstract linguistic representations. The content and discussions will highlight the value of theoretically informed acquisition research as well as the theoretical relevance of language acquisition data. Topics will include expressions of gradability, comparison and comparatives, Quantifier Raising, ellipsis, definiteness, and entailment patterns with logical operators.

Link to course materials

Syntactic universals in the lab: New methods and approaches

by Jennifer Culbertson (University of Edinburgh)

The study and interpretation of language typology has provided rich grounds for debate both within linguistics and across the cognitive science community. The extent to which variation in linguistics systems is constrained, where such constraints would come from, and how they could be formalized, represent some of the most contested but important questions for the field today. Recent advances targeting these issues, particularly in the domain of phonetics and phonology, have involved the use of behavioral experiments showing that asymmetries in typology are mirrored in the preferences of language learners in the lab. This course highlights how such methods are beginning to be used in the study of syntactic universals. I will present a number of detailed case studies designed to introduce students to the methods currently in use and the types of questions targeted. We will discuss the implications of these studies for syntactic theory and its relation to cognitive science broadly construed.
Link to course materials

Universal biases in phonological learning

by James White (UCL)

In this course, we will be looking at the issue of bias in phonological learning. Our discussion will cover theoretical, experimental, typological, and computational approaches to this issue. Specific topics will include:

  • Experimental approaches: artificial language experiments, `poverty of the stimulus’ experiments, `surfeit of the stimulus’ experiments, infant experiments.
  • Types of learning biases: substantive biases, complexity/simplicity biases, P-map/minimal modification biases.
  • How to account for biases in models of phonological learning: a priori rankings, statistical learning with linguistic filters, maximum entropy grammars and priors.
  • Role of learning biases and diachronic factors in shaping typology.

Link to course materials

Distributional learning and Language Acquisition

by Alexander Clark (Kind’s College London)

While it is (or should be) uncontroversial that distributional evidence has some role to play in language acquistion, especially in lexical acquistion, it isn’t clear to what extent these learning techniques can account for the acquisition of syntax. This course will examine this question from both a theoretical and mathematical perspective.

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