Ciclo di Seminari del Dipartimento di Psicologia

Pierrine Brusine, University of Liverpool
The acquisition of syntax in infants

The impressive productivity in language is primarily due to syntax, a set of processes that allows listeners to decode the relationship among words in a sentence. Yet we fail to understand how andwhen language learners use syntactic processing. A difficulty when studying syntax is the confound that exists between the relative frequency of word strings (pairs, triplets, .., n-grams) and the grammatical legality of a sentence. However, a frequency of zero does not necessarily imply that a sentence is ungrammatical. It is precisely because syntax is more complex than frequency analysis that humans can interpret sentences they have never heard before. In addition, mastering syntax requires to be able to abstract a word to grammatical categories (dog and cat are both Nouns, while eat and drink are Verbs). All of those are difficult to directly test with toddlers. To solve this issue we can use electroencephalography, a brain imaging technique that allow to investigate brain computation while infants are passively listening. In this talk, I will present the results of three experiments aiming to unfold the acquisition of syntax in infants. We will start to assess when toddlers can do a genuine syntactic process by using EEG. The second experiment will aim to find a method of learning of syntax, and explain the result of the first study. This second study is more of a feasibility experiment using a computational model. Finally, we will review if one of the hypothesis used in the initialization of the model is verified and go back to experimentation with infants using EEG.




Lunedì 24 Giugno 2019, ore 14.30

Sala Lauree del Dipartimento di Psicologia, U6 (3° piano)

Tutti gli interessati sono invitati a partecipare.

Per informazioni:

Prof.ssa Maria Teresa Guasti