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Modelling Meets Infant Studies in Language Acquisition: A Dialogue on Current Challenges and Future Directions
The study of first language acquisition is crucial in furthering our understanding of the cognitive prerequisites and processes involved in language, a defining capacity of human cognition. Currently, early language acquisition is successfully studied from two main perspectives: one approach tests theoretical assumptions by studying infants’ responses with behavioral and neurocognitive methods; the other implements theories by means of computational models. This workshop aimed to bring these two approaches closer together, a much needed advance in the field and one that promises to deepen our understanding of the issues that play a role during language acquisition.
The intended outcome of the workshop was to foster communication and collaborations between researchers from the different fields. With that goal in mind the workshop provided ample time for informal discussions in small groups. Partly these were directed towards the goal of forming future collaborations, partly they tackled current questions in the field of language acquisition and exchanged viewpoints. The groups formulated research and grant proposals that incorporate both a modeling and an experimental component. In fields where conferences and workshops are packed with plenary presentations, the workshop’s focus on discussion in groups was a welcome change and proved very fruitful in incubating new ideas and collaborations.
Momentarily, several of these groups are working together and actively pursue the questions formed during the course of the workshop. A special issue in an international journal is planned to provide a platform for the outcomes of the currently conducted studies. In addition, we will invite contributions from other interested researchers who are currently collaborating in interdisciplinary teams. We, the organizers, believe that one of the main outcomes of the workshop was the realization that the lack of communication and understanding between the two fields on the one hand hampers the progress of science and on the other can be mitigated by continued collaboration and an open exchange of ideas and results.
The assistance in planning and execution of the workshop provided by the Lorentz Center was crucial to its success. Without the support of experienced organizers and without the wonderful venue we feel the workshop would not have been as successful and stimulating as it was. We can heartily recommend the Lorentz Center to other researchers - the experience they provided was truly unique.