Language and Cognition at Birmingham (LACAB) Launch Event

WG5 - Aston Webb Building
Friday 11 October 2019 (16:00-17:00)

For more information, contact: Bene Bassetti

Speaker: Professor Adele E. Goldberg, Princeton University
Title: Explain me this

This presentation will address an apparent paradox in the language learning literature. There is a lot of evidence that children are “conservative” in that they do not generalize the language they hear to the same extent as adults. And yet there’s also work that seems to imply that children generalize (“regularize”) even more than adults. The presentation will illustrate the wide range and oftentimes subtle conditioning factors that speakers must learn in order to use the constructions of their language in native-like ways.

Children’s “construct-i-cons” are more sparse than adults’: they have not witnessed as much language and they are less able to quickly organize what they have heard, when compared with adults. As it takes time for children to discern the relevant conditioning factors, they tend to be more conservative. What look like broad generalizations are actually oversimplifications before the relevant conditioning factors have been well-learned, and there is evidence that children recognize that they are over-simplifying. The tendency for children to generalize more slowly than adults helps explain why child learners ultimately reach native levels of proficiency while adult second-language learners only rarely do.