Main Contributing Faculty:

Katherine Demuth
James Morgan
David Sobel

Our strengths in language acquisition range from research on early infant discrimination and perception to the study of acquisition of grammatical systems, as well as the computational modeling of language learning.

Demuth's work focuses on the transition from babbling to first words, the development of early phonological representations, and the later acquisition of grammatical morphology and syntax. Much of this work draws on insights from theoretical linguistics in examining crosslinguistic corpora of children's spontaneous speech. Central to this work is the investigation of what adult models of language processing might contribute to understanding stages of language development.

Morgan's work on later infant perceptual abilities focuses on developing abilities to use phonological and distributional cues in the ambient speech signal as a means of identifying words and higher-order elements of language structure in the speech stream. This work is complemented with studies of the nature of child-directed speech, and computational modeling of language learning.

Sobel investigates the relation between developing language and cognition in preschool-aged children. In particular, this work examines whether cognitive milestones are reflected in children's language production.

Relevant coursework includes CG143: Child Language Acquisition, CG174: Topics in Language Acquisition (recent topics range from computational approaches to language learning to the acquisition of phonology), CG147: Language Learning Disorders and CG145: Research in Psycholinguistics, as well as seminars in Language Acquisition, and background courses in theoretical linguistics, statistics, computational modeling, language and the brain, cognitive development, and psycholinguistic processing.

The major focus of acquisition courses is on understanding first language learning in normal populations. However, there are also opportunities for investigating second language learning in children and adults and for exploring possible neurological bases for language processing and language learning disorders. In this regard, our research connections with the Departments of Pediatrics at Rhode Island Hospital and Woman and Infant's Hospital and the Rhode Island School for the Deaf may be of particular interest.


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