Events this week (4/26 – 4/30)

This week is jam-packed with linguistic goodness! A quick synopsis:

Wednesday, 4/28

Thursday, 4/29

  • 4pm, 1512 SIPA: NYU’s David Poeppel on “The relation(s) between linguistics and neurobiology”. More information here.

Friday, 4/30

  • 1pm, 403 Kent: Oscar Lee Symposium of Undergraduate East Asian studies, featuring speakers from Columbia Linguistics Society! More information here.
  • 3:15pm, Lerner Hall C555: William Labov is coming! “Formation of Consensus in the Speech Community”. More information here.

4/29: Language and Cognition Seminar

Language and Cognition
University Seminar #681
Meeting of April 29, 2010

“The relation(s) between linguistics and neurobiology”

David Poeppel
Department of Psychology and Neural Science
New York University

The enthusiasm for neurobiological research into the basis of language suggests that progress is being made regarding our understanding of how the brain computes with linguistic representations. Is this enthusiasm warranted? In which domains of brain-language relations is there credible progress? While there are grounds for optimism that we are beginning to understand where to look in the brain, we do not understand very much at all about how linguistic representations and computations are implemented — the putative goal of the overall research program. Recent experimental work using different brain imaging methodologies will exemplify how complex the (many) relations between brain organization and language architecture are (the ‘granularity problem’), and in which areas of inquiry there is hope for genuine interdisciplinary insight into the mechanisms that form the basis for language processing.

Place: Room 1512, Kellogg Center
School of International and Public Affairs
420 West 118th Street
Time: 4:00 PM

For directions to the School of International and Public Affairs, please refer to
this map.

RSVP: If you will attend the meeting on April 29, please send a note to:
Sara Maria Hasbun, rapporteur

If you will join Dr. Poeppel for dinner at the Faculty House after the meeting,
please indicate this in your note to Ms. Hasbun.

2/17: Psychology colloquium

Columbia University and Barnard College present a PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT COLLOQUIUM.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
4:10 PM
614 Schermerhorn Hall

Prof. Jamie Pennebaker of the University of Texas will give a talk on psychology and language:

“What Our Words Say About Us”

There will be an informal reception immediately following the colloquium in the third floor Rotunda.

Spring 2010 course list

The deadline to add a class for the Spring 2010 semester is looming (it’s this Friday, January 29)! If you’re still looking for that last awesome class to take, here is a list of the linguistics courses (and courses of interest to linguists) being offered this semester. This list is also posted on the Program and Courses page.

Course # Title Call Points Instructor Day/Time
LINGUISTICS W4190 Discourse Analysis 96196 3 Timberlake MW 2:40pm-3:55pm
LINGUISTICS G4206 Advanced Grammar and Grammars 99697 3 Timberlake T 6pm – 9pm
Anthropology V3947 (note: this class is now full) TEXT, MAGIC, PERFORMANCE 22846 4 Pemberton W 2:10pm-4:00pm
Anthropology V3947 Linguistic Anthropology of Artificial Languages 05169 3 Kockelman M 11:00am-12:50pm
Psychology BC 3164 Perception and Language 06596 4 Remez T 6:10pm-8:00pm

BBC: Babies ‘cry in mother’s tongue’

The BBC News Health section reports today on new work by a group of German researchers who studied the cries of 60 babies born to families speaking French and German. The researchers claim that babies begin to pick up the nuances of their parents’ accents while still in the womb. This acquisition is reflected in the intonation of their cries (which can be heard on the article page):

The French newborns cried with a rising “accent” while the German babies’ cries had a falling inflection.

The “melody” of the cry seems to be particularly significant in that it is one of the only aspects of a mother’s speech that a neonate is able to imitate. Imitation is crucial to communication between mother and infant, as Kathleen Wermke, who led the research, points out: “Newborns are highly motivated to imitate their mother’s behaviour in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding.”

Furthermore, she says, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying in language development. The finding that the melodic contours of the infants’ cries varied based on the language they heard while developing in the womb implies that the “content” of the cry is learned and therefore not completely innate. Crying is generally thought to serve one important but limited purpose: eliciting care and attention from a parent. However, these results suggest that it may also be important as “practice” for the language acquisition process.