[Seminar] "Why are babies better at learning a language than grown-ups?" by Dr. Reiko Mazuka
Why are babies better at learning a language than grown-ups?
1 RIKEN Center for Brain Science
2-1 Hirosawa, Wako-shi Saitama, 351-0198 Japan
Email:reiko.mazuka AT riken.jp, webpage: http://lang-dev-lab.brain.riken.jp/index-english.html
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University
Durham, North Carolina, 2778-0086 U.S.A.
Key Words: Speech perception, Infants, Language acquisition, Japanese
The goal of our research is to identify processes by which infants with no prior linguistic knowledge and limited cognitive skills acquire the ability to understand and manipulate highly complex language systems in a short time and without explicit instruction. To date, the majority of studies have been done with English and a few additional European languages, with little attention paid to whether relevant features are language-specific or apply broadly across typologically different languages.
The talk will present results from studies with Japanese infants (and those comparing Japanese with other languages), on the acquisition of lexical pitch-accent (as opposed to lexical tones in Chinese, or lexical stress in English), discrimination of long- versus short-vowels, as well as the role of infant-directed speech in language acquisition, which challenges or complements previous findings. The talk will discuss results from these and related studies, highlighting the unique opportunities that Japanese language properties provide to disentangle fundamental questions pertaining to acquisition.