Congratulations to Masha (a.k.a Dr. Fedzechkina) for successfully defending her thesis “Communicative Efficiency, Language Learning, and Language Universals“, jointly advised by Lissa Newport (now at Georgetown) and me. Masha’s thesis presents 7 multi-day artificial language learning studies that investigate the extent to which functional pressures guide language learning, thereby leading learners to subtly deviate from the input they receive.
Five of the experiments investigate the trade-off between word order and case-marking as a means of encoding grammatical function assignment. For a preview on these experiments, see the short report in Fedzechkina, Jaeger, and Newport (2011) and this paper under review. Two additional experiments investigate how learners trade-off animacy and case-marking (Fedzechkina, Jaeger, & Newport, 2012). Her most recent studies also show how learners trade-off uncertainty (assessed as the conditional entropy over grammatical function assignments given perfect knowledge of the grammar) and effort.
Masha is already on her way to Philly, where she’ll be conducting post-doctoral research with John Trueswell and Leila Gleitman at UPenn. So, congratulations again and thanks also to Davy Temperley and Dick Aslin for serving on Masha’s committee and to Greg Carlson for chairing it.
Fedzechkina, M., Jaeger, T. F., and Newport, E. 2012. Language learners restructure their input to facilitate efficient communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(44), 17897-17902. [doi:10.1073/pnas.1215776109]