Workshop on Language, Cognition, and Computation (2010-2011)


The Workshop on Language, Cognition, and Computation is an interdisciplinary forum for students and faculty whose work concerns the intersection of these topics, with a particular emphasis on language learning and language change.


The question of how language is learned enjoys a privileged position within the cognitive sciences, by virtue of its centrality to the "cognitive revolution", which required that any scientific account of language be able to account not just for linguistic structure, but for the learnability of language as well. The challenge was this: while almost all children learn their native language perfectly, the linguistic input to which they are exposed has been argued to be inadequate for that purpose. By this reasoning, children must bring to the language-learning task some strong prior knowledge or bias, such that learning can succeed given impoverished input. The exact shape of this bias has been an object of much research and debate.

A similarly fundamental question is how and why languages change from one generation to another, despite the fact that each generation seems to accurately and rapidly acquire the language of its surroundings. The question of how long-term change can result from iterations of an accurate short-term learning process is at some level an investigation of the consequences of hypothesized biases in how humans learn language. As such it has attracted the attention of linguists, psychologists, and computer scientists, each of whom bring complementary perspectives and methodologies. Our workshop this year aims to bring these groups together to advance research on language learning and language change both questions through interdisciplinary discussion.

Interested graduate students from any department are especially invited to participate. If you have research you would like to present, please contact Max Bane or Morgan Sonderegger to set things up.


Confirmed Non-local Invited Speakers

See below for the scheduled dates of their talks.


The workshop meets on Fridays, twice per month, at 3:30, usually (but not always) in the Karen Landahl Center (basement of Social Science). Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Max Bane or Morgan Sonderegger in advance.

Fall Quarter, 2010

10/8 Speaker: Sharon Goldwater (Informatics, Edinburgh)
From sounds to words: Bayesian modeling of early language acquisition
10/22 Speaker: Matthew Carlson (Psychology, U. Chicago)
Global properties of the phonological network in child and child-directed speech
11/5 Speaker: Sravana Reddy (Computer Science, U. Chicago)
Decoding the Voynich Manuscript
11/19 Speaker: Greg Kobele (Linguistics, U. Chicago)
Accounting for the acceptability cline in VP ellipsis
12/3 Speaker: Bill Idsardi (Linguistics, Maryland)
Model-based learning of vowel systems

Winter Quarter, 2011

1/14 Speaker: Stefan Kaufmann (Linguistics, Northwestern)
1/28 Speaker: Aaron Shield (Psychology, U. Chicago)
2/11 Speaker: Jon Keane (Linguistics, U. Chicago)
2/25 Speaker: Martina Martinovic (Linguistics, U. Chicago)
3/4 Speaker: Lisa Pearl (Cognitive Science, UC Irvine)

Spring Quarter, 2011

4/15 Speaker: Mark Stoehr (Computer Science, U. Chicago)
5/6 Speaker: Brady Clark (Linguistics, Northwestern)
5/20 Speaker: Bob Frank (Linguistics, Yale)
6/3 Speaker: Paula Chesley (Linguistics, Minnesota)


Max Bane, Student Coordinator bane at uchicago dot edu
Morgan Sonderegger, Student Coordinator morgan at uchicago dot edu
Greg Kobele, Faculty Sponsor kobele at uchicago dot edu
Jason Riggle, Faculty Sponsor jriggle at uchicago dot edu

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