Workshop on “The role of pragmatic factors in child language processing”

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Pia Knoeferle (Bielefeld, chair), Barbara Höhle (Potsdam), Julia Kröger (Bielefeld), Stavros Skopeteas (Bielefeld), Isabell Wartenburger (Potsdam)

Time and Venue:
19-20 May 2016, Humboldt-University Berlin, Dorotheenstr. 24, Dekanatsraum, (3.246)


Invited Speakers:
Shanley Allen (University of Kaiserslautern, Michael C. Frank (Stanford), Jesse Snedeker (Harvard University), Kriszta Szendröi (UCL, UK)

Aim of the workshop:
Recent years have seen a growing interest in how children make use of available contextual cues for enriching their utterance interpretation. For some comprehension processes (e.g., the incremental referential interpretation of color adjectives), even very young toddlers around 36 months of age seem to make rapid use of both linguistic and extra-­linguistic information (Fernald, Thorpe & Marchman, 2010), and subtle language-­specific prosodic preferences are present as early as the first half year of infants’ lives (Höhle, Bijeljac-Babic, Herold, Weissenborn & Nazzi, 2009). Children can moreover recruit both language and visual cues for word learning (Smith & Yu, 2008) and pragmatic aspects of the learning process have been successfully modeled probabilistically (Frank, Goodman & Tenenbaum, 2009; Frank & Goodman, 2014). Yet, there is controversy about the kinds of cues that 4-5‐year-­olds can rapidly use during language comprehension (Trueswell, Sekerina, Hill & Logrip, 1999; Zhang & Knoeferle, 2012). Five-­year-­olds need additional time to effectively use some (prosodic) cues during comprehension (Ito, Jincho, Minai, Yamane & Mazuka, 2012), and they are not yet able to rapidly draw complex inferences such as those necessary for computing scalar implicature (Huang & Snedeker, 2009) although there is some modulation by other factors of their ability to draw pragmatic inferences (Yoon, Wu & Frank, 2015). The picture is further complicated by cross-­linguistic variation in the role of pragmatic inferences for language processing. Accommodating this sort of variation in a principle-­based manner is non-­trivial yet an important endeavor in developing accounts of situated language processing across the lifespan. This workshop brings together scientists investigating the role of pragmatic factors in child language processing, with a focus on children’s emerging language and pragmatic abilities and on cross-linguistic variation. Keynote talks by the invited speakers will set the stage for discussion about how to best characterize the principles underlying pragmatic processes at developmental stages.