The field of language acquisition examines the interaction between children and their environment in the acquisition of a first language.
Language acquisitionists at Maryland are working toward explicit models of the innate contribution of the learner and how this contribution makes it possible for learners to construct a specific grammar of the language to which they are exposed. Because learning mechanisms rely in part on real-time sentence understanding mechanisms, acquisitionists at Maryland are working to specify how psycholinguistic processing contributes to language learning.
In addition, because the acquisition of linguistic meaning depends on understanding the cognitive systems that interface with language, a growing research area in the department examines the interplay between cognitive and linguistic development. Formally explicit computational models are becoming a widely applied research tool in language acquisition at Maryland. Such models make explicit the relative contribution of the learner and the environment and make it possible to compare alternative hypotheses in novel ways.
Finally, our research is conducted in a broadly cross-linguistic context, helping us identify how the language learning capacity is robust to the wide range of variation found in the world's languages. Languages currently under investigation include: English, Ewe, Kannada, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Tagalog, Tsez and Japanese. Recent areas of interest include binding constraints, quantification, argument structure, A-bar movement, noun-class learning, phrase structure, attitude verbs and implicature.
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Verb learning in 14- and 18-month-old English-learning infants
Ordinarily, verbs in English label events while nouns do not. Angela He and Jeff Lidz show that even 18-month-olds can use this correlation to infer the meanings of novel words, given the understanding that "is _ ing" is a context for verbs.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15475441.2017.1285238" target="_blank" class="button">Read More about Verb learning in 14- and 18-month-old English-learning infants
Children's attitude problems: Bootstrapping verb meaning from syntax and pragmatics
How do children learn the meanings of verbs like "think" and "know"? In part by understanding how their meaning relates both to their syntactic distribution, and to the kinds of speech acts they are routinely used to perform.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mila.12192" target="_blank" class="button">Read More about Children's attitude problems: Bootstrapping verb meaning from syntax and pragmatics
Commitment and Flexibility in the Developing Parser
Akira Omaki's dissertation on active prediction of wh-gaps, and revision of syntactic commitments, in the online language processing of both adults and children.