Friday, January 29, 2010

Language Science Faculty Recruitment

The Dept of Linguistics is currently holding two faculty searches, both of which are directly related to the goals of the IGERT program and to the language science community more generally.

The first position is in Computational Psycholinguistics, a position that Dean Harris of ARHU committed to support if our IGERT proposal was successful. The position will focus on computational models of human linguistic processes (as distinct from computational models that address engineering problems). This represents an important growth area currently, and the new appointment will serve the strong demand for training in computational modeling among students from multiple departments.

The second position is in Cognitive Neuroscience of Language. The person hired will be an expert in linking psychological and neuroscientific models of language, and will add to our community's existing strengths in cognitive neuroscience of language. Resources in this area are set to become even stronger when the new Maryland Neuroimaging Center opens in 2010-2011 (more details on this to follow in a future news email).

All 6 finalists for these positions will be visiting the university for 2 days, and will be able to meet with people in multiple departments. Visits will last from the end of January until the beginning of March. Contact: Bill Idsardi,

New Language Science Faculty: Meredith Rowe, EDHD

Meredith Rowe joined the faculty of Human Development at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2009. Her training is in developmental psychology and human development with a focus on cognitive development during early childhood. Her work is centered on understanding individual differences in children’s language development, particularly vocabulary development during this period. Specific issues she investigates include: 1) the relation between gesture and language learning, 2) the role of linguistic input in child language development (for typical and atypical populations), and 3) the complex relations between socioeconomic status, parental beliefs, parental communication with children, and children’s language and early literacy skills. Meredith Rowe is also very interested in research methods related to measuring child language development and longitudinal research methods in general.

Jeff Lidz talks to 150 students at Northwood High School

On Dec 18th, 2009, Jeff Lidz visited Northwood High School in Silver Spring as part of IGERT's outreach activities. Jeff gave a lecture to 150 students from the AP-Psychology and AP-French classes about the nature of human language and how children acquire language. The lecture included examples of research conducted at Maryland as part of the CNL Laboratory's Project on Children's Language Learning. The lecture was followed by a discussion period in which students related the lecture to things they were learning in their class work.

Our outreach activities with Northwood HS will continue this spring when the AP-Psychology students will again visit the University of Maryland campus to learn about the cognitive science of language through a series of graduate-student run workshops which will give students the opportunity to engage in scientific reasoning about language and to experience first-hand the research techniques used in studying human language. A cross-departmental team of graduate students organized a similar event last year that was a real hit for the high schoolers.

If you'd like to be involved in these continuing outreach activities, please contact Csilla Kajtar ( and Jeff Lidz (

So-One Hwang’s Project in Collaboration with Gallaudet University

So-One Hwang is currently in her 4th year as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Linguistics at UMD. She is collaborating with Dr. Gaurav Mathur and Ph.D. student Clifton Langdon at Gallaudet University to conduct experiments on the perception of American Sign Language. This project is co-sponsored by Maryland’s NSF-IGERT program and Gallaudett’s NSF Science of Learning Center on visual language.

Some provocative recent findings in spoken language perception suggest that precise temporal order of speech sounds is not so important. Speech remains surprisingly intelligible even when successive chunks of the speech sound are reversed (Saberi & Perrott, 1999, Nature). So-One and her colleagues are exploring a sign-language version of the same approach by taking videos of signers and time-reversing chunks of increasing duration. The linguistic units of ASL tend to be longer than their speech counterparts, and the team is investigating whether order-insensitivity is correspondingly extended for sign language perception.

Winter Storm, in Summary

Around fifty students and faculty participated in the 2010 Winter Storm organized and run by the students of the language science IGERT program at UMd The series of short lectures, group meetings, and social activities - all designed to encourage networking among students - started on January 10 with a statistics class for R and ended on January 22 with the “I-95 Summit on Learning Sound Systems,” which brought together researchers from Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Delaware, and Penn.

The Winter Storm planning committee - composed of students from Psychology, Computer Science, Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, and Hearing and Speech - aimed to design activities that are accessible to a diverse audience. For example, the daily Lunch Talks introduced themes and people working in various language science areas ranging from computational linguistics to the neuropsychology of language. A very well attended session was Jon Sprouse’s discussion of the challenges in finding a job and succeeding in an interdisciplinary field. Jon is a recent graduate of the Linguistics Department at UMd and he is currently an Assistant Professor in the Cognitive Science Department at UC Irvine. Small teams of students met each afternoon of Winter Storm to plan novel interdisciplinary research projects. For example, “Team Ferret” brought together students from biology, computer science, and linguistics to work on using machine learning techniques to identify signatures of speech sound processing in neural recordings from ferret auditory cortex.

For details of this past Winter Storm see the Winter Wiki at or the photo album at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Update: Winter Storm Schedule

The schedule for this year’s Winter Storm can be found at the following web address:

Please visit the page again in the following days as details regarding the locations will be gradually filled in.

Csilla Kajtar
IGERT Program Coordinator