TABU dag 2017

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Keynote Speakers

We are proud to announce the following keynote speakers for the 38th TABU Dag:

Risto Näätänen

Academy Professor em. of the Academy of Finland, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience of the University of Tartu, and Visiting professor of the University of Aarhus

Prof. Näätänen is a pioneer in the field of cognitive neuroscience, and known worldwide as the discoverer of the electrophysiological mismatch negativity. He is an author of over 400 articles in peer-reviewed international journals, and currently there are more than 3000 articles in international refereed journals using, or referring to, the MMN or its magnetic equivalent. He is one of the few individuals appointed permanent Academy Professor of the Academy of Finland. He retired in 2007, retaining a title of Academy Professor emeritus of the Academy of Finland. Since 2007, he has been a professor at the University of Tartu.

The mismatch negativity (MMN) as a unique index of decreased brain plasticity in different cognitive brain disorders.

Brain plasticity in the auditory modality, the ability to form and maintain sensory memory traces for sounds, is a central prerequisite of auditory cognition. This plasticity can be measured by presenting a sequence of homogeneous sound stimuli interspersed by occasional deviant stimuli and recording the mismatch negativity (MMN) amplitude for these deviant stimuli. This amplitude is gradually decreased when the inter-stimulus interval is prolonged, indexing sensory-memory trace duration. Brain plasticity determined in this manner is decreased as a function of aging and in particular in different cognitive brain disorders. In Alzheimer´s Disease, the duration of these memory traces is very short but they are accurately formed. In contrast, in patients with schizophrenia, these traces are not accurate even though their duration is normal.

Anna Papafragou

Professor of Psychology and Language Acquisition, University of Delaware

Anna Papafragou received her B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Athens and her Ph.D. in Linguistics from University College London. She spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, followed by postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania. Her field of research is the experimental study of language acquisition and processing. One aspect of her work concerns the relationship between linguistic and conceptual representations: how children acquire language, how language is used and understood online, and how language interfaces with human perceptual/conceptual systems. How is language related to thought? Does learning a language change the way you think? Do people who speak different languages think differently.

Evidence and information in language and thought

How do semantics and cognition make contact during language learning? This talk addresses this question by investigating the acquisition of evidentiality (the linguistic encoding of information source) and its relation to children’s evidential reasoning. I present data from a series of experimental studies with children learning Turkish and Korean (two languages with evidential morphology) and English (a language without grammaticalized evidentiality) in order to test two hypotheses: (a) the acquisition of evidentiality is complicated by the subtleness and abstractness of the underlying concepts; (b) learning a language which systematically (e.g., grammatically) marks evidential categories might affect early reasoning about sources of information. The experiments show that the production and comprehension of grammaticalized evidentials can pose considerable difficulty to young learners; these problems are in part conceptual in nature since the same learners make errors when reasoning about sources of information in non-linguistic tasks. Furthermore, children’s ability to reason about sources of information proceeds along similar lines in diverse language-learning populations and is not tied to the acquisition of the linguistic markers of evidentiality in the exposure language. I discuss implications of these findings for the relationship between linguistic-semantic and conceptual representations during development.

Bart Geurts

Professor of Philosophy of Language and Logic, Radboud University Nijmegen

Bart Geurts studied philosophy in Nijmegen, obtained his PhD in linguistics from the University of Stuttgart, and was affiliated with IBM Germany, several universities in Germany and the Netherlands, and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, before returning to his alma mater in 1999, where he is now Professor in Philosophy of Language and Logic. His research interests centre on language and communication, and he has published on a wide range of topics in this field; but he has also been known to move into neighbouring areas, including language acquisition, human reasoning, and social psychology. He was managing editor and head of the advisory board of the Journal of Semantics, and a member of the advisory board of Semantics and Pragmatics. He is currently a member of the advisory board of Language Acquisition and Editor of Theoretical Linguistics.

Making sense of self talk

People talk not only to others but also to themselves. The self talk we engage in may be overt or covert, and is associated with a variety of higher cognitive functions, including reasoning, problem solving, planning, attention, and motivation. When talking to myself, I borrow linguistic devices from my mother tongue, originally designed for interpersonal communication, and employ them to communicate with myself. Wondering if it will rain tomorrow, I “ask myself” whether it will rain; I “tell myself” to do the dishes; I “remind myself” to lock the door when leaving my office; and so on. Asking, telling, and reminding are originally social acts, but when addressed not to others but oneself, they come to function as modes of thinking: wondering, making up one's mind, motivating oneself, and so on. How is this possible? To answer that question, we need a theory of communication that allows us to explain how the same linguistic devices can be used to communicate with others and oneself. According to the received view, language primarily serves to transfer information between people: communication is information exchange. There can hardly be any doubt that this is what language does, and that it is important. However, the received view fails to explain the continuity between social talk and self talk; for what could be the point of exchanging information with oneself? Hence, I propose that instead of focusing on information exchange, communication be viewed as a form of social interaction in which speakers negotiate commitments between them. On this account, the primary purpose of social talk is to make commitments to others, while self talk serves to make commitments to oneself.

Willem (Jelle) Zuidema

Assistant professor in Cognitive Science and Computational Linguistics, University of Amsterdam

Willem Zuidema studied Artificial Intelligence in Utrecht, and obtained a PhD in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as a researcher at the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, the Free University Brussels, Leiden University and as a VENI postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam. He is now assistant professor in cognitive science and computational linguistics at the same institute, and research fellow of the Language in Interaction project. He has published on techniques for wide-coverage syntactic and semantic parsing, the evolution of language and music, and deep learning models in cognitive science and natural language processing.

Neural Grammars: building models that take both the brain and language seriously

Recent years have seen much progress in the development of 'deep learning' models for Natural Language Processing. In my talk I will argue that variants of these models have much to offer for those of us trying to understand how the human brain processes language. I will review work on both recursive and recurrent neural networks (with trainable 'gates'), trained to perform tasks that require paying attention to the hierarchical semantic and syntactic structure of sentences. I will show that these models shed new light on the classic 'binding problem' in cognitive science, and how they may be evaluated against data from neuroimaging experiments.

Ane van der Leij

University Library, University of Groningen

Open access publishing - Policies and oppportunities in the Netherlands and at the University of Groningen

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has negotiated several deals with major scientific publishers over the past two years, opening up subscription journals for publishing articles in Open Access. Researchers with a Dutch university affiliation can have their papers published Open Access for no extra charge in both subscription journals and open access journals. In 2014 such a deal was announced for a bundle of 1,500 paywalled journals from the publisher Springer followed by similar deals with other publishers in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The VSNU deals are reflecting the Dutch government’s policy on open access as it was launched in late 2013.

Also, during the same period, universities in the Netherlands announced their policies urging their researchers to deposit their articles in the institutional repositories, thus furthering open access via the so called ‘green road’. In my presentation, I will give a rough sketch of open access policies in the Netherlands, both on the national and the institutional level, and of the opportunities it brings to researchers to present their research to a wider audience. Also, I will give some short comments on the implementation of these policies.