Update Language: On Current (Sign) Linguistics

In Update Language 2023, two of the UvA’s leading linguistics researchers talk about current trends in their specific take on linguistics. Floris Roelofsen and Titia Benders will each give a lecture about their respective research fields: sign languages and spoken languages. Afterwards they will engage in conversation about the current research developments in their fields.

The event will be held in English with a Dutch sign language interpreter present.

Update Language is organized by the Linguistics Alumni circle of the University of Amsterdam. Linguistics concerns the study of language, in the broad sense. It investigates the structure of different languages spoken and signed across the world, as well as how children and adults learn and process language, and what happens in case of a problem with language.

Sign languages pose challenges to methods of description and annotation, especially since sign languages are in 3D rather than 2D. Floris Roelofsen will present methods that automatically capture the face of a person while signing (or speaking) in 3D, with fine-grained measurements of relevant facial features such as brow raise and eye squint.

The investigation of lesser studied spoken languages is important for informing us how children learn their languages. Titia Benders will talk about her research on language acquisition in understudied languages. She will present the results of studies on multilingual infants, conducted in Ghana, as well as work on multilingual children in Saudi-Arabia. In addition, she will reflect on the challenges involved in child language acquisition studies without lab facilities, language descriptions, or adult comparison data.

About the speakers

Floris Roelofsen is a professor at the University of Amsterdam, doing research at the interface of linguistics and artificial intelligence. He is one of the directors of SignLab Amsterdam and leads the research programme Language Science for the Social Good. Besides his work at UvA he is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Sign Language of the Netherlands and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of AURIS.

Titia Benders is Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam, where she teaches and does research on Child Language Acquisition, specifically infant-directed speech and the development of phonological representations at the interface between perception, production, and input (infant-directed speech).

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