Online Seminar: The role of prediction in language development

Our next LuCiD seminar is on Tuesday 5th April 2022 (11am UK time). Dr Judit Fazekas (University of Manchester) will talk about The role of prediction in language development.

Abstract: Prediction – the ability to anticipate upcoming events – has sparked a great deal of enthusiasm in the cognitive sciences. Humans have even been described as “prediction machines”, reflecting a wave of recent research into predictive processes, including in language sciences. For instance, predictions play an important role in language processing, as people can predict words or sounds in the upcoming speech. This phenomenon underpins our ability to have fluent conversations.  

Yet of all of the ways prediction might shift our understanding of language, its implications for language development are perhaps the most exciting. Error-based theories of language acquisition suggest that children anticipate upcoming linguistic stimuli from a very early age, compare their predictions to the actual input, then use their prediction-mistakes to update their linguistic knowledge. These theories offer a powerful explanation of how complex linguistic abilities develop, but are challenging to assess, as predictions are notably difficult to target experimentally.  

In this talk, I will first examine some of the experimental evidence supporting prediction-based learning. I will focus on a priming-based study where we assessed a key assumption of these theories: that children (and even adults) learn more from surprising as opposed to predictable sentences. I will then discuss the restrictions of assessing prediction-based learning using behavioural methods alone and introduce some of our work in progress that seeks to address these limitations. I will close by arguing that developmental prediction research needs to move towards a multi-method framework to successfully target prediction’s contribution to language acquisition. 


How to join the seminar: Our seminars are currently online, free to attend & booking isn't required, just get in touch to request the zoom link or to join the seminar mailing list.

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