Degeneracy and language learning

Padraic Monaghan - Department of Psychology at Lancaster University and ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development

 

Degeneracy and language learning

Padraic Monaghan
Department of Psychology at Lancaster University
ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development

A key question in the cognitive sciences is how, despite the enormous variation in linguistic experience, the language learner acquires broadly the same language structure, “within a fairly narrow range” (Chomsky 2005). Traditional answers to this question have involved determining the extent to which language structure is learnable from language exposure, and sometimes concluding that it cannot. However, this perspective on learning ignores the broader environmental context in which language is acquired, where learning can benefit from multiple information sources. In this talk, I describe a series of computational and experimental studies demonstrating how multiple cues, including linguistic, para-linguistic, and extra-linguistic information, can cohere to result in learning that is certainly within a fairly narrow range. This “degeneracy” of the communicative environment, where multiple cues point probabilistically to language structure, enables quick and robust acquisition to be accomplished despite considerable environmental variation.

If you would like to meet with the speaker, please contact Matthew Crocker.

 

Padraic Monaghan

Padraic Monaghan is a Professor of Cognition in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University and co-director of the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development. His Lab Group conducts research on language acquisition, reading, and sleep, combining computational, brain imaging, and behavioural research. He also currently teaches on undergraduate courses in Personality and Psychometrics, and Historical and Conceptual Issues, and masters level courses in Psychological Aspects of Marketing.