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February 4, 2023

Recruiting syntax (and more) to learn the meaning of adjectives


Dr. Kristen Syrett
Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Time: February 4, 2023. 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Zoom Link: https://bmcc-cuny.zoom.us/j/88612226031

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Meeting ID: 886 1222 6031
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Adjectives present a unique challenge to word learners. On the one hand, the properties they pick out in the world are not always stable, are open to different perspectives, do not have a physical correlate, or are dependent on the context. Consider adjectives like full, pretty, curious, happy, or tall. On the other, the locations in which they occur in the speech stream are shared by other words. For example, determiners like the, quantifiers like every, quantity-denoting terms several, and number words all appear prenominally. And both adjectives and verbs can follow a copula (she is happy/smiling). In English, adjectives do not host grammatical gender or number marking, which may complicate the learning process in that the connection with a noun is not explicitly signaled, but at the same time, one could argue that languages in which there is obligatory morphosyntactic agreement place additional burden on the language learner. For these reasons and others, adjectives are not among the first words produced. However, when they do enter into the lexicon months afterwards, they appear en masse, and many of the earliest adjectival productions are those that have intrigued semanticists over the years. Given these complexities, how then, do children acquire adjectives? In this talk, I’ll see how far the syntactic structure can take us, and then pair these surface-level distributional patterns with semantics of co-occurring words and other linguistic and extralinguistic factors, to begin to pin down what it takes for a child to learn adjectives.

Monthly Lectures 2022 - 2023

2022

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
March 05 'Talk to (and with) the hand': African American Language, gestures and the Black body Dr. Renee Blake (New York University)
April 09 Toward an Integrated Framework for Studying the Relationship between Bilingual Language Experience and Cognitive Reserve Dr. Laura Spinu (Kingsborough Community College, CUNY)
May 07 A (class)room of our own: Towards a multimodal grammar of pedagogical conversation on the WhatsApp messaging platform Dr. Cecilia Magadán (National University of San Martin, Argentina)
October 01 Singaporean English in Action Dr. K. K. Luke (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
November 05 15 Years of Chirila Dr. Claire Bowern (Yale University)
December 03 Nepali Migrant Workers' Use of Tamizh in Chennai: Insights into Adult Naturalisitic Acquisition in a Multilingual Context Dr. Usha Lakshmanan (Southern Illinois University at Carbondalea)

2023

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
February 04 Recruiting syntax (and more) to learn the meaning of adjectives Dr. Kristen Syrett (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
March 04 Multilingualism and heritage language practices amongst third generation Australian Italians Dr. Antonia Rubino (The University of Sydney)
May 06 Proto-Basque and the Single Sibilant Hypothesis: Evidence, reassessment, and implications Dr. Juliette Blevins (CUNY, Graduate Center)