Departmental Colloquia Series: Professor Morten Christiansen

The Department of Psychology invites to a lecture by:

Professor Morten Christiansen, Cornell University, Aarhus University & Haskins Labs

on Thursday 18 June, 2020, 15:15 – 16:45.

The title of the lecture is "Language Acquisition as Skill Learning".

The lecture takes place at the Library, Faculty of Social Sciences, Audit 1, Gothersgade 140, 1353 Copenhagen K.

After the lecture the Department invites to a reception at Øster Farimagsgade 2A, 2nd floor, room 03-2-M202, 1353 Copenhagen K.

Faculty, students, and others with interest are welcome. 

Abstract:

Language acquisition is often viewed as a problem of inference, in which the child—like a “mini-linguist”— tries to piece together the abstract grammar of her native language from incomplete and noisy input. This “language-as-knowledge” viewpoint contrasts with a more recent alternative, in which the challenge of language acquisition is practical, not theoretical: by practicing across myriads of social interactions, the child gradually learns to understand and produce language. In this talk, I explore some key implications of this “language-as-skill” framework, focusing on how constraints arising from the need to process language in the here-and-now shape acquisition. Because experience with language is fundamental to becoming a skilled language user, this perspective predicts substantial differences across individual language users as well as across languages. I discuss evidence from behavioral studies and computational modeling, highlighting experience-driven variation across individuals and languages (including results from Danish). I conclude that language acquisition may be best construed as skill learning, on a par with learning other complex human skills such as riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument. By reconnecting language to psychological mechanisms of learning and memory, this perspective moreover offers the possibility for a reintegration of the language sciences.

References:

  • Chater, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Language acquisition as skill learning. Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences, 21, 205-208.
  • Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (2016). Creating language: Integrating evolution, acquisition, and processing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (2017). Towards an integrated science of language. Nature Human Behaviour, 1, 0163
  • McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2019). Language learning as language use: A cross-linguistic model of child language development. Psychological Review, 126, 1-51.