Linguistics and English Language

Bilingualism and Developmental Linguistics research group

Speaker: Shiral Tal (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Language as shaped by cognition: The case of linguistic redundancy

Abstract: The world’s languages show great diversity, but at the same time, striking commonalities. A central objective of the language sciences is to explain what gives rise to such commonalities. Over the years, a host of cognitive biases have been proposed to impact how languages emerge, evolve, and change over time. In this talk I follow this line of work, focusing on a specific puzzle found in many of the world languages: the prevalence of redundancy in linguistic systems. Linguistic redundancy – using more linguistic material than needed – is attested across languages, even though it seems to add complexity to language systems and to go against principles of efficient communication. I offer a learnability-based perspective on the presence of such redundancy in language. In particular, I make two predictions: (a) redundancy can be beneficial for learning, and (b) speakers increase the use of redundant cues when conversing with learners. I will present a series of studies which aim to test these predictions by looking at both child and adult learners, across different levels of linguistic analyses (morpho-syntax, discourse, full language). The results support both predictions, providing initial support for the idea that learning constraints help maintain redundancy in languages.

Bio: Shira Tal (PhD, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is a postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh. She uses experiments and corpus studies to investigate how language learning and use shape, and are shaped by, language structure. In particular, she approaches both these questions from a developmental perspective: she asks how children differ from adults in the way they learn and use language, and how these differences can influence the types of linguistic systems we see across languages.


Please contact Aya Awwad or Chase Yang to find out specific dates for this semester and/or to be added to the mailing list. Please specify your preference of bilingualism or developmental linguistics mailing lists. We will send the information to both mailing lists.

Mar 27 2023 -

Bilingualism and Developmental Linguistics research group

2023-03-27: Language as shaped by cognition: The case of linguistic redundancy

Room 7.18, 40 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JX; online via link invitation