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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre

Presenting work by early-careers researchers

Join us for talks and posters, and for drinks and networking afterwards. It's a great chance to talk to colleagues about their research and to make new contacts across the University.

The Symposium is free, and open to all researchers at the University of Cambridge. 

Registration for this event is now closed. Please email if you have any queries about the Symposium or would like to attend.


Programme organiser

Dr Andrew Caines


Variationist evidence in explanations for the loss of the nominative in Norwegian Dr Tam Blaxter (Theoretical & Applied Linguistics)

Traditional accounts of the loss of case in Western European languages tell a story of phonological erosion leading to increased syncretism: sound change leaves so few morphological contexts in which contrasts are maintained that categories become unlearnable. In this talk, I explore detailed variational evidence for the loss of the nominative in Middle Norwegian.

Do barriers direct the evolution of linguistic signals? Jonathan R Goodman (Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies)

The Red Queen model suggests that evolution is a persistent competitive race. Barrier theory suggests that the race may be ended, paused, or redirected; barriers may be understood as naturally evolved or artificially implemented mechanisms for blocking the risk of exploitation. In this talk I will suggest that barrier theory is applicable to non-biological systems, including those centred on human language. If language is conceived as a competitive interaction between signaller and listener, then barrier theory may provide insights into how that competitive interaction may be stopped, slowed, or redirected.

Improving grammatical error detection for learner English text using first-language specific priors  Christopher Davis (Computer Science & Technology)

This talk will present a neural sequence labelling approach to grammatical error detection (GED) which makes use of first-language (L1) specific priors from errors found in learner English essays. This approach to GED is motivated by the general understanding that a learner's L1 influences their use of a second language. 

Assessing speech and language needs in children aged 4-6 through an app Dr Avin Mirawdeli (Education)

Early identification and intervention for speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and disorders is important for optimal outcomes. I will present preliminary findings from the development of a new app for Speech and Language Assessment in Schools and Homes, Splash, which aims to provide a first screening of SLCNs in children aged 4-6 years. 

Testing computational theories of spoken language processing using brain imaging  Ediz Sohoglu (MRC Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit)

Spoken language is rich in structure, and individual elements like phonemes can be predicted even before they are heard. What are the neural computations by which predictions are combined with speech input? In this talk I will describe magnetoencephalography (MEG) evidence of prediction error representations in a naturalistic listening situation in which speech is clearly presented and predictions obtained directly from the speech signal itself (i.e. from lexical content). These findings suggest that prediction errors are a general and fundamental component of neural processing for speech.

Applying implicit learning paradigms to generate productive rule knowledge in L2 acquisitioGiulia Bovolenta (Theoretical & Applied Linguistics)

The application of Implicit Learning (IL) paradigms to second language acquisition research has shown that IL can occur with a variety of linguistic features. However, these studies do not usually check whether participants demonstrate sensitivity to the rule in production, even though this is a fundamental aspect of language acquisition. We ran a series of experiments in which participants were exposed to a novel rule based on Czech spatial prepositions and na, which both mean “in, at” according to the type of place described by the noun (open vs bounded space). Subjects were exposed aurally to English sentences in which spatial prepositions were replaced by pseudowords based on the novel rule, together with a visual stimulus. Our results suggest that rule knowledge acquired through implicit learning can be used productively. However learning outcomes were affected by changes to the learning procedure.

Processing global and local information in text vs. images: the contribution of visual and verbal working memory Dr Elaine Schmidt (Cambridge Assessment English)

Studies on language comprehension frequently use multimodal situations, i.e., text information is written, whereas comprehension is assessed through images. Despite this, no study as yet has looked at whether central (global) or peripheral (local) information in a text affects processing across modalities, and whether individual differences on working memory have an impact on this distinction. This talk will present a recent interdisciplinary research project to shed light on the relationship between the nature of information (global vs local) and the modality of presentation (linguistic vs pictorial). The findings have important implications for the design and assessment of language comprehension tests.



Detecting personal attributes through analyzing online forums
Zhilin Wang, Xiaodong Wu, Weizhe Lin and Elena Rastorgueva, Faculty of Education

Talking to think, thinking to talk: a mixed methods study of the development of creativity in L2 talk
Hui Ki Chan, Faculty of Education

A computational mechanistic account of hemisphere differences in language processing
Ya-Ning Chang, Matthew Lambon Ralph, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

Autoencoding Pixies: amortised variational inference for functional distributional semantics using graph convolutions
Guy Emerson, Dept. of Computer Science & Technology

The acquisition of Voice alternations in bilingual children: a comparative study
Christina Grey, Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages

Non-native grammars of verb-less constructions in Mandarin Chinese and English: a bidirectional perspective
Chenyang Zhang, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies




Wednesday, 26 June, 2019 - 13:00 to 19:30
Contact name: 
Jane Walsh
Contact email: 
Event location: 
The Cavonius Centre, Gonville & Caius College

What we do

Cambridge Language Sciences is an Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Our virtual network connects researchers from five schools across the university as well as other world-leading research institutions. Our aim is to strengthen research collaborations and knowledge transfer across disciplines in order to address large-scale multi-disciplinary research challenges relating to language research.