Activities and Seminars

Kathryn Bock, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, US
Date: Jan 26, 2012

What: Syntactically Speakin

Who: Kathryn Bock, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, US

What: Syntactically Speaking When: Thursday, January 26th, 12:30pm

Speakers build syntax when they talk. They do it in almost every utterance, at daunting rates of speed, with little outright error. What they do and the limits on what they do are the province of theory and research on language production. Though production is now an established part of psycholinguistics, it suffered a slow, painful, and comparatively recent start. Early efforts were limited by a myopic view of talking as a behavior that smacked of its namesake –ism, by seemingly insurmountable obstacles to controlled empirical research, and by staunch efforts to reduce syntax to pragmatics. Resurgent interest sparked work on the mechanisms of syntax in language production, treated as a species of the cognitive and linguistic processes that guide intelligent action. Contemporary work ranges over syntactic errors, links between structural representation and structural assembly, the mapping from features of speaker meaning to sentence structure, the roles of attention and memory in word order, and anew, how pragmatics shapes syntactic structure. Even the cortical underpinnings of production are coming to light with the development of innovative brain imaging techniques. The emerging picture converges with core issues in language comprehension and acquisition, offering insights into what it takes to use language for communication. Some of the new insights are the focus for this upcoming episode of language production.