Towards a model for the incremental co-development

Full Title: Towards a model for the incremental co-development of linguistic and conceptual representation of action

Project members: Katharina J. Rohlfing , Silke Fischer , Iris Nomikou

Cooperation Partners: Prof. Dr. Philipp Cimiano, Prof. Dr. Helge Ritter

With this project, our goal is to contribute to a better understanding of how early representation of events emerge, how they are represented and stored, which role language plays in this process and how a developing conceptualization and an increasingly sophisticated capacity to analyze, memorize, contrast and reason on and about situations play together, bootstrapping the acquisition of concepts and language for actions.

In the current existing research on language acquisition, the two crucial ingredients to language learning: i) concept learning and ii) situation analysis are typically studied independently of each other. While concept learning is a topic in cognitive development, language is barely considered in preverbal children (Mandler, 2012). In studies on situational analysis, cued attention is investigated without actually linking it to previous experiences and top-down knowledge (e.g. Smith et al., 2010).

Our goal in this project is to bridge between these two - in our view - complementary lines of research (concept learning and situational analysis). We will develop an incremental model of language acquisition that contributes to elucidating the interplay between learning of the appropriate concepts and the in-situ analysis that a learner carries out in the moment of experiencing a new situation. We will focus in particular on the question of how conceptualization as a process necessary to establish word meaning can be coupled to an online situational analysis that drives the attention of a learner to the relevant aspects of a situation, facilitating in turn the acquisition and retrieval of relevant concepts.

In studies with infants, our goal is to investigate whether early representations of actions may already involve some semantic information related to the target language. We will investigate this question by analyzing the role that language structures in the input can play in attention and learning processes of infants.