Fenna Poletiek visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute

During the first semester of academic year 2011-2012 Fenna Poletiek (Cognitive Psychology) will be visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen: “This is the dream of all of us: time and money to do research and only research."

Embedded

We investigate how complex language-like sequential structures can be learned. Consider the sentence: “Can eagles that can swim fly?” This sentence has a sentence embedded in a sentence; a structure called recursive. Recursive embedding is also displayed on the well known Dutch Droste Chocolate boxes. How do we learn to produce and understand such multi-level sentences? Fifty years ago, Noam Chomsky pointed  at the theoretical difficulty to explain this capacity. Chomsky visited Leiden a few days ago and gave an inspiring lecture at the Centre of Linguistics.


We investigate the learning of these and other structures empirically in the lab, using artificial languages. Our results suggest that the general human learning system and the way it develops during childhood, is very well tuned to learn specifically recursive structures, and surprisingly, less well to learn ‘simple’ non-recursive structures.

Location: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen
Period: during the first semester of academic year 2011-2012


“This fellowship is the dream of all of us: time and money to do research and only research, experimenting, writing, reading and discussing with peers from over the world, who share your hang ups … and all this in the lovely forests at the outskirts of Nijmegen”.


Last Modified: 01-06-2011