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Jacqueline Woolley, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

Risk-taking in young children and its implications for language development

Fri, February 28, 2014 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM • SEA Library, 4.244

Speaker: Colin Bannard, PhD, Department of Linguistics

Learning to use a language involves acting under uncertainty. And the willingness of a learner to take risks has clear implications for how they will choose to act. For example, making a linguistic generalization (e.g. using the +ed English past tense ending with a verb that one has not seen it used with before, or applying a category label to a new exemplar) has the obvious potential benefit of enabling new messages, but also entails a risk of speaking errorfully. Differences between individuals in risk attitude, and between environments in the consequences of success or failure, might thus be a valuable factor in explaining variability in the course of language development. However, exploring this connection is challenging because of a) the problem of designing language learning tasks with young children that manipulate such risks, and b) the lack of established behavioral techniques for looking at risk-taking in young children more generally. I will talk about some first steps that we have been taking in these directions.

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