Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Akira Omaki (LING) Awarded NSF Grant

Akira Omaki, 5th year Linguistics PhD student, won an NSF grant in the amount of $11,966 with his proposal entitled "Commitment and flexibility in the developing parser". The grant covers his travel expense to Japan to conduct sentence processing research with Japanese children and adults so that he can compare language processing profiles in speakers of Japanese and English which significantly differ in their word orders.

This is how Akira describes his research: "Everybody acknowledges the importance of input in language learning. Most existing studies on input and language development tacitly assume that children can parse the input in an adult-like fashion but have surprisingly overlooked findings from recent child parsing research that shows that children often misanalyze adults' utterances. This begs for investigations of what children actually understand with their immature parser and how it might skew the distributional properties in the input. To address this question, I am investigating 5-year-olds' wh-dependency processing, and more specifically, a) whether they process wh-dependencies 'actively' like adults and temporarily entertain incorrect analyses, b) whether they can recover from the misanalyses caused by active processing, and c) whether the 'effective' input distribution that is skewed by the immature parsers can predict the course of learning of wh-constructions more accurately than the 'true' input distribution from an adult's perspective. The research uses i) a visual-world eye-tracking study and two types of story-based comprehension paradigms (Question-after-Story, Truth Value Judgment) to examine the time course of wh-dependency processing and reanalysis in Japanese and English, as well as ii) a CHILDES corpus analysis to examine what proportion of wh-dependencies is likely to cause misanalyses."

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