Multiple Perspectives on the Critical Period

Event Notification Type: 
Call for Participation
Friday, 5 June 2009 to Saturday, 6 June 2009
United States
Submission Deadline: 
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Multiple Perspectives on the Critical Period

Date: 05-Jun-2009 - 06-Jun-2009
Location: Columbus, OH, USA
Contact: Cynthia Clopper
Contact Email:
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Meeting Description:

The Department of Linguistics at the Ohio State University will host a
symposium entitled Multiple
Perspectives on the Critical Period for Language on June 5-6, 2009.

The traditional view of the critical period for language - going back to
Lenneberg - is that it is part of a
biological process: the decline in language ability reflects a maturational
change in brain development.
This view makes two strong predictions, namely, that children will be better
at acquiring language than
adults and that short of some kind of brain disorder, there's no way to
change that fact. This view has
been challenged in recent years in a variety of ways. Work on second
language acquisition has found
that adults are not always worse than children in acquiring a language.
Moreover, particularly in the
domain of phonology, there is evidence that second language learning can
influence first language
representations, suggesting a continuity between the two processes. In
addition, alternative
mechanisms to biological maturation have been suggested as ways to account
for differences between
adults and children. Chief among these alternatives are computationally
influenced models which appeal
to the radical differences in terms of specific domain knowledge and
processing capacities through

We wish to address two related issues in this event: First, to what extent
do language acquisition
abilities decline in adulthood? Second, to the extent that adults are worse
than children in acquiring
language, what is the mechanism that causes this decline? The goal of the
symposium is to bring
together scholars with a range of views and thereby foster debate and

The symposium will include invited talks by:
James Flege, University of Alabama, Birmingham
Silvina Montrul, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Ann Senghas, Barnard College
Jason Zevin, Sackler Institute