AMY FINN, Psychology Department, University of Toronto
Title: The sensitive period for language learning: the role of knowledge and memory
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2015-2016
VIDEO RECORDING OF TALK
Abstract: Maturational changes in cognitive and neural function pose one of the most powerfulconstraints on human learning, yet we are only beginning to understand how and why.The work I will present seeks to understand the relationship between braindevelopment, cognitive development, and learning abilities—with a particularemphasis on the sensitive period for language learning. In this talk, I will exploretwo reasons why adult language-learners do not achieve the same learning outcomes aschild language-learners. First, I’ll show that native language knowledge influencesthe operation of a powerful basic learning mechanism—statistical learning—and leadsto the misrepresentation of what learners treat as relevant units (“words”) inlanguage. I will further show that this early misrepresentation can lead to poorlearning of other linguistic information (the very linguistic forms that adultsstruggle to learn) and briefly show how this could be instantiated in the humanbrain. Second, I will explore the role of domain general aspects of cognition inlanguage learning. I will suggest that adult difficulties in language learning arethe consequence of asynchronies in the maturation of different aspects of humanmemory and present work showing differential trajectories of maturation. I willconclude by presenting a framework for thinking about how brain development canfacilitate and constrain learning across domains, including language acquisition.For further information please contact Christopher Honey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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