LuCiD Seminar: Experimental studies of language learning in children

Dr Liz Wonnacott (University College London) will present the next LuCiD seminar on Experimental studies of language learning in children. The seminar will take place from 11.00-12.30 on Tuesday 2nd May at the University of Liverpool and is open to anyone wishing to attend. 


Acquiring a language involves forming some kind of mental grammar, that is, some abstract representations which allow the user to produce and understand novel utterances. One hypothesis is that, at least in part, this acquisition relies on distributional statistical learning – i.e. forming generalizations on the basis of recurring patterns in the input. A body of research has found support for this process using artificial language learning i.e. experiments where learners are exposed to novel languages with particular properties, and are then tested for learning and generalization. Largely for practical reasons, these experiments are primarily conducted with adult learners, although the authors make inferences from these data as to the processes involved in child language acquisition. In contrast, there has been relatively little experimental work directly exploring children’s ability to use distributional statistics when learning novel languages. I will present data from three different experiments exploring children’s (5-7 years) learning of novel linguistic structures under experimental conditions. The results demonstrate that, like adults, children can learn novel constructions under experimental conditions, and that input structure influences extent of generalization. However children’s learning may be more constrained than that of adults. Further, I show that similar methodology can be used to explore wider questions about children’s language learning, including questions from the sociolinguistic literature and questions about children’s abilities to learn second languages in the primary classroom.

Seminar Logistics

Where: Seminar Room 6, Rendall Building (building 432 on the Campus Map) , University of Liverpool

When: 11.00 - 12.30, Tuesday 2nd May 2017

More Information: Full details can be found on this event poster.

LuCiD Seminars

LuCiD holds monthly seminars on a variety of topics linked to our research. Seminars are open to anyone and alternate venues between the three collaborating North West universities. Find out more about upcoming seminars and past seminars.

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