UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Language & Cognition seminar - Prof Isabelle Barriere

18 May 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Language and Cogniiton Seminar series logo

Wednesday, 18 May 2022. 1-2pm UK time. "The effect of variation on acquisition: cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal perspectives." Talk held online (please contact the organiser for joining details).

This event is free.

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Disa Witkowska – Language & Cognition

The effect of variation on acquisition: cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal perspectives

This presentation will combine a cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal approach to the study of the comprehension of subject-verb dependencies.  The same video-matching task that contrasts 3rd person singular and plural subject marking was administered to children between 3 and 5 acquiring French, different varieties of (General/Mainstream, Caribbean and African-American) English and (Dominican and Mexican) Spanish, French and Haitian (Creole).  Despite cross-linguistic differences in the presence or absence of subject pronouns, the phonological realizations of the pronouns (subject to different contractions in French and Haitian (Creole)), the syntactic status of the pronoun (full pronoun in Haitian (Creole) versus syntactic clitic in French), the morphological richness of the inflectional subject-verb agreement marking paradigm, the experiment was a) controlled for the number of cues the verbal stimuli provided to indicate singular and plural and b) designed to test the comprehension of the same number markers on the same verbs in different syntactic contexts. The results do not provide evidence for lexical effects reported in production studies but they confirmed possible effects of the syntactic status of the pronouns and the stronger effects of semantic transparency than frequency.  They also reveal the effect of another factor- that of Paradigm Cell Complexity (Ackerman et al., 2009, Meakins & Wilmoth, 2020)- that has been overlooked in acquisition.

About the Speaker

Prof Isabelle Barriere

at Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Molloy College, Rockville Centre, Long Island, US

More about Prof Isabelle Barriere