March 2012 - IBL scientific director Carel ten Cate received an Open Competition NWO Grant
IBL-scientific director Carel ten Cate received an Open Competition NWO Grant in the Humanites to study the evolution of language by comparing birds with humans together with main applicant Claartje Levelt (LUCL – LIBC) and Jelle Zuidema (ILLC, UVA).
The title of the project is: ‘Segments and rules: a comparative study into the computational mechanisms underlying language acquisition’. In this project the properties of statistical- and rule-learning mechanisms are studied in relation to the acquisition and evolution of language. Target of study is to reveal the extent to which these mechanisms are unique to humans - or to human language – by comparing the acquisition of vocal structure in two species: humans (infants) and songbirds (zebra finches).
The comparative and integrative studies will involve a series of carefully constructed, artificial language learning experiments. In addition, computational models of artificial language learning will be developed that, on the one hand, predict optimal learning behaviour and, on the other hand, test how different factors - perceptual biases, computational constraints, memory limitations, etc. - influence learning. The project will not only provide a better insight into the processes underlying language acquisition, but also into the linkage between linguistic and more general cognitive mechanisms and their evolution.
The project will include three PhD-students in a multidisciplinary team. Together, the three PhD-projects will investigate how factors such as perceptual biases, computational constraints, memory limitations, etc. influence vocal learning. The PhD-project at the IBL will examine the perceptual learning biases in zebra finches using various experimental procedures such as Go-NoGo and habituation paradigms. This project runs parallel to a linguistic one addressing the same questions for human infants and a third one in which computational models are developed to model the processes that may give rise to the observed patterns in birds and infants.
Read more about the project:
Deadline for applications closed on the 15th of April:
Personal pages Claartje Leveldt – Babylab, Leiden University
Personal pages Carel ten Cate – IBL, Leiden University