The February SMART Lecture will be presented by Janet Pierrehumbert (University of Oxford), with an introduction by Rens Bod.
The Cognitive and Social Lives of Words
People learn words from instances of words as they are produced by different speakers and in different contexts. The words they know in turn provide the foundation for generalisations about words, supporting lexical productivity. A large and productive lexical system is a hallmark of the remarkable linguistic capabilities of human beings.
In this talk, I will review several projects that shed light on learning of words and word formation patterns. These projects use a diverse methodology, bringing together data from lab experiments, on-line experiments that resemble computer games, and analysis of large corpora. Results indicate that lexical representations are both phonologically abstract and phonetically detailed. They include socio-indexical information. Statistical patterns matter, but sometimes in surprising ways: more is not always better or more productive. Competition within the lexicon, social factors, and individual differences all play important roles. I conclude by drawing some connections to historical change.
Janet B. Pierrehumbert is Professor of Language Modelling in the University of Oxford e-Research Centre. She also holds a position as an Adjunct Professor at the New Zealand Institute of Language Brain and Behaviour, University of Canterbury. She received her B.A from Harvard Her Ph.D in Linguistics from MIT developed a widely influential model of the phonology and phonetics of English intonation. She was a Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Labs in Linguistics and AI Research until 1989. From then to 2015, she was a member of the Linguistics faculty at Northwestern University, serving terms as department chair and director of graduate studies. She is one of the founding members of the Association for Laboratory Phonology, an interdisciplinary research organization that promotes the scientific study of all aspects of the phonetics and phonology of human languages.
Pierrehumbert's current research program focuses on the ways in which the dynamics of language -- in acquisition, processing, or historical change -- relate to the structure of the lexicon. It combines experiments, statistical analyses of large corpora, and computational simulations of learners and of linguistic communities. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Cognitive Science Society.