Nominal Modification

The Graduate School on Nominal Modification at the University of Frankfurt

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Colloquium: Charles Yang

On Tuesday, May 7th, at 4pm in SH 5.105, Professor Charles Yang (University of Pennsylvania ) will be giving a talk in the GK colloquium.

Title: Language shapes children’s understanding of number 


Only humans learn language and only humans develop the concept of natural number: How are these two abilities related? We propose that the Successor Function, which provides the infinity of natural numbers, becomes available to children through learning the productive rules of numeral formation in their native language. We tested the development of counting and the knowledge of the Successor Function by Cantonese-learning children. The simplicity of the Cantonese numeral system provides a full year of developmental advantage over English-learning children, which can be precisely characterized by a well-established principle of language learning and generalization.  These results have inevitable Whorfian implications for the relationship between language and thought.

[This talk reports joint work with Margaret Lei and Thomas Li of the Chinese University of Hong Kong]

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