Language Acquisition and Language Processing Lab

Language Acquisition and Language Processing Lab


PhD student and test person in the lab, test person wearing a cap with sensors.

Research at the Lab is funded by a number of major grants from the EU Horizon 2020 programme, the Research Council of Norway (NFR), and the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST).

Language acquisition

We investigate general and specific cognitive and neural mechanisms that support first and second language acquisition, and how competences in the first language can transfer positively to additional languages. We are interested in the dynamic interactions of environmental and biological factors that impact on language learning, and how their influence changes over time. Another research topic is the extent to which second language learners can attain the abilities typical of native speakers, and at what stage of development and language learning such abilities first appear. Recent projects investigate how childrens’ capacity to process meaning emerges during development, how brain responses to language mature, and whether statistical learning skills can be used as predictors of language attainment.

The Lab also conducts research on the links between language and cognition in developmental deficits known to affect language and literacy skills. Our work addresses subtle dissociations between structural language competence and figurative language processing in high-functioning autism, predictors of word decoding skills in children with reading impairment, factors that affect favourably or adversely language outcomes in developmental deficits, spatial cognition and spatial language in autism, and the impact of digital technologies on cognitive development and language acquisition.

2021-2025: Spatially Enhanced Learning Linked to STEM (SellSTEM; EU Horizon 2020 MSCA ITN)
2019-2024: Early Language Development in the Digital Age (eLADDA; EU Horizon 2020 MSCA ITN)

Language processing

We investigate how adults and children understand spoken and written language in context. We are interested in the interplay between linguistic meaning and systems for representing objects, motion, space, time, and other perceptual and cognitive categories. Recent projects address the processing of spatial and temporal prepositions, demonstratives and indexicals, and verbs. Our aim is to understand how the brain reconstructs complex events, in particular when not all elements of event structure are linguistically encoded, and more generally how it recovers meaning beyond the information given.

Another focus area concerns the relations between linguistic meaning and form, particularly logic and grammar, and between linguistic meaning and context, such as discourse and perceptual information. Recent projects target how the brain composes meaning in various syntactic environments, and more broadly how linguistic form constrains interpretation. We also investigate how referential relations are established between language and visual scenes, using pronouns, plurals and quantifiers. Much of our research on these topics is experimental, though we also develop computational models of lexical and compositional semantics and of relations between meaning and grammar. Finally, we study how these capacities are affected in neurological conditions, in particular neurodegenerative disorders.

2016-2020: Deictic Communication (DCOMM; EU Horizon 2020 MSCA ITN)
2013-2016: Language and Perception (LanPercept; EU FP7 MSCA ITN)