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Cambridge Language Sciences launch event

last modified May 08, 2012 03:34 PM
This Cambridge-internal event is an opportunity to come and meet colleagues working in language research across the University.

This Cambridge-internal event on Saturday 12 May is an opportunity to come and meet colleagues working in language research across the University. Please come along, even (and perhaps especially) if your own particular area of research isn't covered. This event does not define the scope of the Initiative, but aims to open up discussion and promote links between different departments.


Introduction and welcome (10.00-10.15)

Session 1: Language Communication and Comprehension (10.15-11.15)

Neurobiological and evolutionary perspectives on language

William Marslen-Wilson, Dept. of Experimental Psychology

Robert Foley, Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies

Language and communication in the modern human is supported by a coalition of neurobiological systems whose properties we need to understand in their evolutionary context. We sketch out some recent hypotheses about the properties of these systems and how these relate both to our primate relatives and to some possible scenarios for the emergence of language in humans.

Prediction and adaptation in speech comprehension: evidence from brain imaging

Matt Davis, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

This talk reviews evidence from behavioural and brain imaging studies for two key computational processes which support human speech comprehension: prediction and adaptation. These computational mechanisms play a key role in explaining how word recognition achieves optimal speed and accuracy despite the degraded speech sounds that we hear in everyday communication.

Philosophy of language on language communication

Kasia Jaszczolt, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Language communication relies on many different vehicles in conveying speaker's meaning. One of the main and still unresolved questions is how to represent the interaction of information that comes from natural language sentences with information coming from widely understood context. The pertinent question that occupies philosophers of language is whether semantics should be minimalistic and confined to the meaning of natural language sentences or should it account for the meaning of the 'inner sentence' of the speaker's thought as it is claimed in some versions of the so-called contextualism. In this talk I discuss a radical contextualist approach to semantics and show how it solves some problems with representing meaning of particularly problematic constructions called "de se" belief reports.

[coffee break]

Session 2: Language Learning across the Lifespan (11.30-12.30)


Henriëtte Hendriks, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

[title to be confirmed]

Usha Goswami, Dept. of Experimental Psychology

The acquisition of quantification across languages

Napoleon Katsos, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

L2 acquisition [title to be confirmed]

Teresa Parodi, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Session 3: Human Language Technologies (12.30-1.30)


Ann Copestake, Computer Laboratory

Analysing scientific literature

Simone Teufel, Computer Laboratory

Spoken dialogue systems

Steve Young, Dept. of Engineering

Speech transcription

Phil Woodland, Dept. of Engineering

Statistical machine translation

Bill Byrne, Dept. of Engineering

[Lunch in Sidgwick Hall, 1.30-2.30]

Session 4: Cambridge English (2.30-3.30)

Nick Saville, Cambridge ESOL

In recent years a number of interdisciplinary research projects have also been set up involving other departments, including the Department for Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (DTAL), the Computer Laboratory and the Speech Group within the Engineering Department.  This presentation will focus on two areas of collaboration which are already well underway:

    the English Profile Programme, and in particular the ways in which researchers in Cambridge having been analysing learner data, including corpora, to understand progression across levels of proficiency (;

    the development of automated systems for the assessment of English speech and writing based on computational techniques derived from natural language processing.

[coffee break]

Session 5: Topics in Language Diversity and Change (3.45-4.45)

Ian Roberts, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied linguistics

Geoffrey Khan, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

So many languages are studied from so many different perspectives in Cambridge that it is impossible to give a representative overview in one hour. The three presentations offered here represent three different strands of research on language change and diversity: the study of structural variation, modelling variation, and the pressing issue of language endangerment. These represent different aspects of these large areas of research, and at least give a sense, really just by scratching the surface, of the actual and potential research in these areas.

Introduction (Ian Roberts)

Ergativity (Michelle Sheehan Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics)

Modelling change and diversity (Theresa Biberauer and Paula Buttery, Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics)

Endangered languages This talk will present endangered languages as a sub-discipline of Linguistics and will outline the ways in which the field is represented within the University (Mari Jones, Dept. of French)

Registration closes at 12.00 on Wed 9 May:

We are a network of researchers at the University of Cambridge who are interested in how the use of digital tools is transforming scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. This transformation spans both the content and practice of humanities research, as the diffusion of digital technologies opens up new fields of study and generates research questions which breach traditional disciplinary boundaries.

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