CLS Speaker Series - Nate George (Penn State University) Language as a Window into Event Representations across the Lifespan
Apr 01, 2016
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
|Where||127 Moore Building|
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Verbs and prepositions are fundamental components of language, conveying dynamic and static relations between objects in events (e.g., “The boy kicked the ball over the fence”). Yet, these “hard words” (Gleitman, Cassidy, Papafragou, Nappa, & Trueswell, 2005) are notoriously difficult to learn for both first and second language learners (George, Göksun, Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff, 2014). While we might describe a child playing in a park as a series of distinct events, such as running and climbing, this flurry of nonstop activity contains no natural pauses that distinguish one event from the next. Thus, a signature challenge of verb learning in particular is fitting the discrete categories of language onto events that are inherently continuous and dynamic (Hespos, Grossman, & Saylor, 2010). My research adopts a developmental approach to explore how infants, children, and adults tune their attention towards components of events, such as manners and paths of motion, that are relevant to parsing ongoing activity for language. In this talk, I begin by focusing on the problem of hierarchies in event structure. This research highlights the role of language in helping infants, children, and adults assemble simple actions (e.g., rinsing a plate) into meaningful events on a broader scale (e.g., washing dishes). I then extend my research to consider issues of adult second language learning by looking at how languages differ in their parsing of events, and how these differences yield unique challenges for acquiring a new language. This research employs training studies to examine the malleability of biases regarding how verbs and prepositions relate to events, and how the process of detecting these patterns in a new language may differ across monolingual and bilingual speakers.