Rule learning in birds & babies
Keynote lecture by prof. dr. Claartje Levelt (Leiden University), Saturday April 22nd 10:00 - 11:00

Prof. dr. Claartje Levelt studied Linguistics in Leiden, and did her PhD in Leiden too (1994). Then she worked at, successively, Rutgers University, USA (1994-1995), the Max Planck Institute Nijmegen (1996-1997) and the Free University (1997-2000. In 2000 she returned to Leiden University. She spent a sabbatical year at Brown University, USA (2005-2006). Over the years she received several NWO grants to work on different aspects of first language acquisition. 

Rule learning is an important part of the language acquisition process. But is the rule learning mechanism specific to language, and/or to human beings? This question has been addressed in comparative research, using artificial language learning (ALL) experiments. In this presentation prof. Levelt will discuss results from ALL studies with human babies and two types of birds, zebra-finches and budgerigars. These populations have in common that they are vocal learners, i.e. they need species-specific 'language' input from their caretakers to acquire their native 'language’. Specific questions that will be addressed are: (1) to what extent are vocal learners rule learners? (2) which factors influence success on ALL tasks? and (3) are the results indeed comparable?