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Psychology Program Presents

Thursday, October 25, 2018
You Can “Enter a Garage” but Can You Also “Crab-walk a Garage”?
Evidence for Flexible Linguistic Encoding in Chinese, English, Portuguese, and Spanish
Preston Theater
4:45 pm – 6:00 pm
Jayden Ziegler, Harvard University
Languages differ in how they package the components of an event into words to form sentences. For example, while some languages (like English) typically encode the manner of motion in the verb (e.g., crab-walking), others (like Spanish) more often use verbs that encode the path (e.g., entering). These tendencies lead to biases in learning: children and adults assume that novel motion verbs will reflect the dominant pattern of their own language (manner for English, path for Spanish). Moreover, these biases are flexible: when taught a series of novel motion verbs that all encode path, English speakers will shift to expecting that subsequent verbs will encode path instead of manner. In this talk, I’ll address some limitations of this work (in English) and extend it to new languages: Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish. I'll conclude by discussing the implications of these results for the architecture of language in the mind.

For more information, call 845-758-7380, or e-mail

Time: 4:45 pm – 6:00 pm

Location: Preston Theater