This workshop centered on the issues of brain development in late childhood and adolescence, and its role for language development. The idea behind this workshop was to bring together researchers from the fields of first and second language acquisition and developmental psychologists as well as cognitive neuroscientists. The aim was to initiate collaborative research endeavors involving researchers from the fields of language acquisition and brain development. It was the intention to identify a research agenda for the future in the area of neuro-developmentally based language acquisition in childhood and adolescence.
The format of the workshop was keynote overview lectures in the morning given by excellent international speakers including a lot of time for discussions. Speakers were quite interactive and willing to discuss intellectually challenging questions from the audience. Discussion continued during the coffee and lunch break. In the afternoon, there were – over the course of the whole week – three master classes, a number of shorter presentations reporting the latest results in the area of the workshop’s topic as well as group discussions. Furthermore, the workshop included a mini-symposium on Artificial Grammar Learning. In addition, posters were presented during the wine & cheese party on the first day of the workshop. Moreover, discussion between participants took place during the social event. Overall, we stuck to the program but took the freedom to allow flexibility in the afternoon sessions as well when we felt this was necessary for the sake of discussion. Taken together, organizers as well as participants were quite satisfied with the diversity of the program and the variety of presentations and presentation formats.
During the workshop it has become clear that the gap between the behavioral research (linguistics, cognitive psychology) on the one hand and the neuroscientific research (neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience) on the other hand still is enormous. It was important to recognize this once again and to make participants aware of this. It became clear to the more behaviorally oriented participants that neuro-cognitive developments are undoubtedly the future way to go, while it became clear to the neuro-cognitively oriented researchers that focusing on one part of language development (i.e. reading) does not cover language development in general. Reading is an artificially acquired form of linguistic behavior whereas speech perception (i.e. speech comprehension) and production (i.e. speaking) are naturally acquired skills of healthy, normally developing children. It is now the task of the participants to work on bridging the gap between the disciplines in order to join forces in the future.
Niels O. Schiller
Paul van den Broek