Language acquisition

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, the acquisition of linguistic meaning depends on understanding the cognitive systems that interface with language, and so 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.

Links: Acquisition Lab, Infant & Child Studies Consortium, Language Development and Perception Lab

Primary faculty

Jeffrey Lidz, Andrea Zukowski, Naomi Feldman, Colin Phillips

Secondary faculty

Valentine Hacquard, Bill Idsardi, Paul Pietroski, Alexander Williams

Related faculty

Rochelle Newman, Nan Bernstein-Ratner, Yi Ting Huang, Meredith Rowe, Tracy Riggins, Elizabeth Redcay, Jonathan Beier