At birth, babies neither comprehend nor produce language and yet they are equally capable of learning any language. But within months of birth (about 10 in fact), babies show knowledge of the specific language they are learning. Within three years, they are nearly proficient in their native language. How does this happen? What is changing in the system? I want to understand how language knowledge in the individual gets made through their experiences with that language.
I have used the acquisition of the English plural as a test bed for these questions. Children must begin by learning specific instances -- shoes, dogs -- and from those specific instances they somehow develop rule-like knowledge that can be extended to any noun. If I tell you there is one "wug", you know that two of them are "wugs". I have developed several new methods that have enabled me to study children's acquisition of the plural from its earliest stages to its more advanced stages, from the perspective of morphology and morphological rules as well as meaning, in production as well as comprehension, and in longitudinal studies of individuals, training studies, and experimental studies. So much, you might ask, about just the plural? Language development (indeed all development) is built on the interaction and integration of multiple processes, many individually acquired bits of knowledge that scale up to form a system, incrementally over time. This research provides a case study of attempting to understand in a unified manner how all this comes together to make language in the individual.
If you are a student interested in working with me as a part of my research team, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I accept applications each semester for the following semester. Eligibility includes completion of Introductory Psychology and a GPA of 3.00 or higher.