Variation in the Mechanisms of Human Language Processing
For three decades, the CUNY Human Sentence Processing conference has provided an essential forum for psycholinguistic research. Although research from the CUNY Conference community has produced numerous fundamental advances, the picture of human language processing that emerges is potentially skewed by a focus on the language processing of typically developing, college-aged native speakers, who comprise the participant pools in most researchers’ experiments. The special session at CUNY 2019 will highlight research that expands our purview beyond this “typical” population and acknowledges variation in the mechanisms of language processing across the human population.
Key questions raised in the special session will include:
- how language learning and processing is impacted by congenitally atypical cognitive or perceptual abilities (e.g., deafness or blindness)
- how language processing mechanisms change across the lifespan as the brain develops and ages
- what sorts of individual differences in language processing occur within the typically developing population.
Six distinguished invited speakers will present their research in these areas. Additionally, submissions for presentation are encouraged from researchers investigating variation in language processing, broadly construed and not restricted to the specific topics represented by the invited speakers.
The special session aims to foster cross-pollination among research paradigms. We anticipate that many psycholinguists will gain valuable insights from exposure to the phenomena and methods highlighted by researchers studying variation. Conversely, current sentence processing research has much to offer to those who study language abilities in populations that differ from the one traditionally studied, including children, older people, people from diverse levels of socioeconomic backgrounds, and various cognitively atypical groups of people.
Critically, the study of individual and group differences in language processing is entirely consonant with the goals of those who search for universals of language and language processing. The commitment underlying this session is that better understanding of systematic variation in language processing will illuminate what is universal.