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University of Iowa News Release


April 28, 2009

UI to host conference on language acquisition April 30 through May 2

Lydia White, James McGill professor of linguistics, will deliver a keynote speech at "Mind-Context Divide: Language Acquisition and Interfaces of Cognitive-Linguistic Modules," a University of Iowa Major Projects Conference scheduled from Thursday, April 30, to Saturday, May 2, and coordinated by the UI departments of linguistics and Spanish and Portuguese in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS).

"The topic for this conference was chosen because it is the most important topic in language acquisition research right now and it is pushing the field forward," said Roumyana Slabakova, a UI associate professor of linguistics in the CLAS, who is convening the event, along with Jason Rothman, a UI assistant professor of Hispanic linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the CLAS.

Generative first and second language acquisition research tries to explain how children and adults acquire languages. This field of linguistics is a branch of cognitive science and endeavors to understand how the mental representations of various linguistic properties come to exist in the mind of the learner. White's keynote speech, "Language Acquisition at the Interfaces," will be presented at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 30, in Room W151 of the John Pappajohn Business Building.

Recent research has suggested that some elements of the linguistic system may be more difficult and take longer than others to acquire. Integrating the linguistic message -- a sentence, for example -- with the context in which it is uttered may be one of the more problematic areas in acquisition, both for children and for adult second language learners.

White will provide an overview of the various parts that make up the human linguistic system -- sound, sentence structure, meaning, context -- and the interfaces, or the areas of integration, between them. She will examine all the linguistic interfaces in order to address the question of whether some interfaces present more problems to learners than others.

Rothman and Slabakova, along with Downing Thomas, associate provost and dean of International Programs, will issue opening remarks Thursday at 9:45 a.m., with plenary speakers scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Plenary speakers over the three days include Jurgen Bohnemeyer, University of Buffalo; Alison Gabriele, University of Kansas; Andrea Gualmini, Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, The Netherlands; Silvina Montrul, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne; and Maria Zubizarreta, University of Southern California.

The conference will also feature two poster sessions and additional speakers from universities in the United States, Portugal, Canada, Croatia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

A conference dinner will be held in the River Room of the IMU from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Registration is available before April 29, with a student fee of $80 and faculty/nonstudent fee of $120. Registration will also take place from 9 to 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, April 30. On-site registration student fees are $90 and faculty/nonstudent fees are $140. Fees include two lunches, the formal conference dinner, and the cocktail banquet.

The workshop is made possible by the generous funding from the International Programs Major Projects fund, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Bond Fund for Interdisciplinary Interaction, the Vice President of Research, as well as the co-sponsorships of FLARE/Second Language Acquisition doctoral program, the Iowa Center for Developmental and Learning Sciences and the Departments of Linguistics and Spanish and Portuguese.

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UI International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Roumyana Slabakova, 319-335-0208,; Jason Rothman, 319-335-3453,; Kelli Andresen, 319-335-2026,; Writer: Jodie Klein