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Abstract: Language is a complicated computational system. Verbs are the central building pieces. How verb meanings are acquired by young children has been a major pursuit of many language acquisitionists. In this talk, I will present three lines of my work, all on English-learning infants’ and toddlers’ acquisition of novel verbs, revealing mechanisms of verb learning lying within and beyond linguistics. In the first line, I will talk about how infants utilize linguistic cues such as morphosyntactic and prosodic cues to infer new verb meanings (He & Lidz, 2017, Language Learning & Development; de Carvalho, He, Lidz, & Christophe, 2019, Psychological Science). In the second line, I will show that young learners may benefit more from less information in their verb learning, due to limited processing capacity (He, Kon, & Arunachalam, 2020, Language Learning & Development; and work in progress). In the third line, I will extend the discussion from encoding a new meaning to retaining it in memory, and demonstrate how an otherwise fragile memory trace of a newly-learned verb may be strengthened by a period of short nap (He, Waxman, & Arunachalam, 2020, Cognition). I will then bring these lines together and share my recent thoughts and plans.


Bio: Dr. He is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of English Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Maryland, after which she did her postdoctoral training at Boston University and the University of Southern California. Before joining HKBU, she worked as a Research Assistant Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Most of her work investigates how young learners discover the meanings and structures of their native languages, asking how nature and nurture interact and how different cognitive abilities interact in shaping children’s language acquisition. Her goal is to better understand the human mind and its development, and her tool, is language.

3:30PM February 25 2021

via zoom (https://hku.zoom.us/j/92021681010)