What do verbs mean? We'd like to know. For that reason, we just launched VerbCorner, a massive, crowd-sourced investigation into the meanings of verbs.
Why do we need this project? Why not just look up what verbs mean in a dictionary? While dictionaries are enormously useful (I think I own something like 15), they are far from perfect. For one thing, it's usually very easy to find counter-examples even for what seem like straight-forward definitions. Take the following:
If you bring adults and children into the lab and try teaching them a new language, adults will learn much more of the language much more rapidly than the children. This is odd, because probably one of the most famous facts about learning languages -- something known by just about everyone whether you are a scientist who studies language or not -- is that adults have a lot less success at learning language than children. So whatever it is that children do better, it's something that
Hakuta, K., Bialystok, E. & Wiley, E. (2003). Critical Evidence: A Test of the Critical-Period Hypothesis for Second-Language Acquisition, Psychological Science, 14 (1) 31-38. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.01415
You, sir, have tasted two whole worms. You have hissed all my mystery lectures and been caught fighting a liar in the quad. You will leave Oxford by the next town drain. -- Reverend Spooner.
There is an old tension in psycholinguistic (or linguistic) theory, which boils down to two ways of looking at language comprehension. When somebody says something to you, what do you do with that linguistic input? Is your goal to decode the sentence and figure out what the sentence means, or do […]
Gibson, E., Bergen, L. & Piantadosi, S. (2013). Rational integration of noisy evidence and prior semantic expectations in sentence interpretation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1216438110
Learning new languages is hard for many reasons. One of those reasons is that the meaning of an individual word can have a lot of nuances, and the degree to which those nuances match up with the nuances of similar words in your first language can make learning the new language easier; the degree to which the nuances diverge can make learning the
new language harder.
In a new experiment, we are looking at English-speakers learning Korean and Korean-speakers learning English. In particular, […]
Evolutionary psychology has always been somewhat controversial in the media for reasons that generally confuse me (Wikipedia has a nice rundown of the usual complaints). For instance, the good folks at Slate are particularly hostile (here, here and here), which is odd because they are also generally hostile towards Creationism (here, here and here).
Given the overwhelming evidence that nearly every aspect of the human mind and behavior is at least partly heritable (and so at