UTCS AI Colloquia - Colin Bannard, "Imitation vs Innovation in Children's Language Learning"

Contact Name: 
Karl Pichotta
GDC 6.302
May 2, 2014 11:00am - 12:00pm

Talk Audience: UTCS Faculty, Grads, Undergrads, Other Interested Parties

Host:  Ray Mooney

Talk Abstract: This talk is concerned with children's use of imitation as a strategy in language learning. I will describe a range of different studies, all of which are concerned in some way with understanding when children will choose to imitate language they have heard others use, and when they will choose to be selective or creative in their productions. I will explore the utility of imitation in view of the statistics of the language children hear and the nature of their social environments. I will present simple corpus-derived statistical models that allow us to predict when children will imitate and when they will innovate, and will describe how such models might explain aspects of pragmatic and grammatical development.

Speaker Bio: Colin Bannard is Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Department at UT Austin, where he runs the Child Language Lab. He received his PhD from the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh for work in Computational and Psycho Linguistics. He CL work was in the areas of Statistical Machine Translation and Lexical Acquisition. He then did a postdoc in the department of Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, where his work switched to focus exclusively on child language acquisition. His interests include children's statistical learning, the relative contributions of habitual and intentional process in language use, and individual differences in how children turn the finite sample of language they hear into a productive system for communication. Much of his work focuses on using corpora of child-directed speech to make predictions about early language production, which are then tested in the lab.