Recent Posts

Genetic factors in vocabulary development – Interview with Dr. Ellen Verhoef

Dr. Ellen Verhoef was a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. She defended her thesis entitled ‘Why do we change how we speak? Multivariate genetic analyses of language and related traits across development and disorder’ on March 5 2021.

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What I learned about language development during the COVID-19 lockdown – Part III: Bilingualism is what you make of it

Oh, the lockdowns… Thankfully the last one was more than a year ago (at the time of writing), and although it was challenging being at home so much, it also allowed me to spend much more time with my daughter. In my last two posts, I told you about how my then-one-and-a-half-year-old was starting to understand and produce her first sentences. Now a feisty three-year-old, she is talking nonstop and switching between two languages.

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Do we understand a word by the company it keeps?

Imagine you only speak your own native language. You find yourself “locked in a room”, let’s say, with a Chinese book, a Chinese dictionary, and a set of rules in your own native language. By applying the rules, you learn to relate the Chinese words in the dictionary to the book, only by recognising the shapes of the characters they contain. You learn to manipulate the strings of Chinese symbols so well that you start to resemble a native Chinese speaker who actually understands Chinese words and sentences. Yet, what you are doing is just manipulating formal symbols without knowing what they mean. Are you behaving any differently than the artificial mind of a computer?

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Creating androids that dream of electric sheep

It is the year 2049. We now co-exist with artificial intelligence. Human-like agents are completely integrated into our society and work regular jobs. They act and look fully human. Like in the dystopian movie ‘Blade Runner’, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, or the more recent TV series ‘Westworld’, the humanoids can imitate all the outward signals we attribute to consciousness, and appear entirely self-aware. In other words, we have reached the point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.

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Language and power in the Dutch empire

Language policies are structural elements of colonial domination because they undermine the cultural identity of the subdued populations. Here I will discuss the checkered relationship between language and imperialism, paying special attention to the Dutch case. A story of language, power and inequalities.

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