Guest Talk: Jesse Snedeker

15 July 2015
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Clean Mapping: A story about how conceptual structure could shape language acquisition and some experiments suggesting that it just might be true

To acquire syntax, children must map sentences to their meanings (structured conceptual representations). If these conceptual representations are available prior to language, have a similar structure to the syntax, and have the right degree of abstraction, then this learning process could be pretty painless. I'll discuss an apparent counter-example (psych verbs, where meaning and form seem to diverge) and show how it actually supports the hypothesis. Then I’ll present some studies that explore the conceptual pieces that make up verb meanings and their connection to the cognitive capacities of young infants. The methods that are used include eye-tracking, novel word learning, training studies, large-scale internet based research, and an infant imitation paradigm.