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Prof. dr. Padraic Monaghan

Prof. dr. Padraic Monaghan

University of Amsterdam / Lancaster University


How are vocabulary and grammar acquired? Insights from artificial language learning studies

Studies of artificial language learning in laboratory conditions provide enormously powerful methods for isolating and testing particular aspects of language that drive and promote language acquisition. However, these tools only apply if they have validity, that is, that they actually reflect aspects of natural language learning. I will present a range of artificial language learning studies that we have conducted that vary in how “artificial” they actually are – from presenting abstract artificial speech to situated, grammatically complex language. In particular, I show how our recent studies can address key questions in language acquisition that require simultaneous acquisition of both vocabulary and grammar. We show that the interconnectedness of requiring vocabulary to learn grammar, and requiring grammar to learn vocabulary, can be resolved by the learner. In short, a range of artificial language learning techniques are now available, and provide more powerful tools than ever before for investigating (natural) language acquisition.


Padraic has a joint appointment as Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam, and Professor of Cognition in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University. His research focuses on language acquisition and language change, at the interface between linguistics, psychology and computer science. For example, he has investigated the different profiles of language acquisition for monolingual and bilingual speakers, the importance of early language skills on reading development, and the cognitive effect of different reading interventions on reading processes. Additionally, he is a member of the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development, and a Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

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