Center for Language Acquisition at the Pennsylvania State University

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The Center for Language Acquisition (CLA) is a research unit in the College of the Liberal Arts at The Pennsylvania State University. 

 

 


 

CLA INVITED SPEAKER SERIES

 

Spring 2014

 

April 14, 2014:  Holbrook Mahn to present Watz Memorial Lecture

 

Dr. Holbrook Mahn, Professor of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico, will deliver the Gil Watz Memorial Lecture, entitled:

 

"Vygotsky's Analysis of Meaning Making and its Implications for L2 Teaching/Learning"

 

Date:  Monday, April 14, 2014

Time:  4:00-5:30 p.m.

Location:  Foster Auditorium

 

In this Gil Watz Memorial Lecture, Holbrook Mahn will examine a central, but often overlooked, aspect of Vygotsky's work--the analysis of the sytem created through the unification of thinking processes and those involved in teh use of language in its myriad manifestations.  In that analysis, Vygotsky focused on the internal development of meaning acquired through language use, examining its origins and path of development, the form of its development, and finally the way that its use in practical activity shaped its development.  Mahn will examine a number of reasons why this central aspect has been overlooked, starting with the varied interpretations of Vygotsky's methodological approach.  Without a clear understanding of his approach and its relationship to his theoretical framework, it is difficulty to appreciate his analysis of the processes through which children make meaning of their sociocultural, natural, historical worlds, and create systems of concepts.  This presentation will examine two key concepts Vygotsky used in analyzing these processes--perezhivanie and the social situation of development--relating them to his analysis of concept development.  By situating Vygotsky's better-known concepts--the zone of proximal development, semiotic mediation, social interaction, psychological tools, and practical activity--in his analysis of the internal meaning-making system, Mahn will present a different perspective on these concepts.  The lecture will conclude by looking at implications that can be drawn from Vygotsky's analysis of children's meaning-making processes and concept development for studying second language acquisition and for teaching/learning a second language in school.

 

 

Holbrook Mahn, Professor in the Department of Language, Literacy, & Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico, has extensive publications in national and international journals and books on the work of Lev Vygotsky.  Over the past two decades he has collaborated closely with Vera John-Steiner. At UNM, he teaches courses in the theory and practice of teaching English as a Second Language, with a particular focus on second language literacy.  Prior to teaching at UNM, Mahn taught high-school ESL in inner-city schools in Los Angeles.

 

This event is co-sponsored by the University Libraries.

 



 

February 3:  Lecture from Professor Elizabeth Bernhardt

 

Dr. Elizabeth Bernhardt, Professor of German and Director of the Stanford Language Center, presented an invited lecture entitled:

 

 

"Revisiting three key dilemmas in second language reading"

 

Date:  Monday, February 3, 2014

Time:  4:00-5:30 p.m.

Location:  22 Deike Building

 

This presentation focuses on three unresolved dilemmas in discussions of second language reading.  The first dilemma, the proficient reader or proficient text, is the most publicly contentious.  Some investigators search for features of text that render some texts more difficult than others and then superimpose those features onto a notion of second language reading development.  Others search for reader behaviors as indicators of comprehension development independent of text type or genre.  Until there is an understanding of the dilemma rather than a dismissal of it, little progress can be made in understanding the phenomenon of second-language reading.  The second dilemma, strategy instruction or comprehension instruction, has received little or no research attention.  In fact, teaching comprehension in a second-language is virtually unheard of, masked by strategy instruction.  In parallel to the proficient texts-readers dilemma, little progress can be made in the field until it distinguishes between teaching strategies and teaching comprehension.  The final dilemma, L1 or L2 in the instruction or assessment of L2 comprehension, confronts a long-held dogma regarding the exclusive use of the foreign language.  Yet the role of L1 literacy in L2 literacy is undeniable.  Until there is an acceptance and understanding of the L1 in L2 literacy development, the field risks suppressing the key strength that any L2 learner possesses.  The paper contends that these dilemmas are stifling progress in developing knowledge about the second-language reading process and will argue for a reader-based model of proficiency that embraces literacy knowledge that second-language readers already possess.

 

Elizabeth Bernhardt is the John Roberts Hale Director of the Language Center at Stanford University.  Her research focuses on second-language reading, teacher education, and policy and planning for foreign- and second-language programs.  She has received multiple awards for her scholarship and leadership in second language education, including the MLA's Mildenberger Prize for her book Reading Development in a Second Language, and the Distinguished Service to the Profession Award from the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL).  

 

 



 


 

Fall 2013

 

October 16:  Lecture from Professor Charles Goodwin

 

Dr. Charles Goodwin, Professor of Applied Linguistics at UCLA, presented a lecture entitled:

 

 

"The Co-operative organization of human action"

 

 

Date:  Wednesday, October 16

Time:  4:15-5:45 p.m.

Location:  Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library

 

 

Human action is built by actively combining materials with intrinsically different properties:  language, prosody, gesture, embodied participation frameworks, and materials in the environment.  The simultaneous use of different kinds of resources to build single actions has a number of consequences.  First, different actors can contribute diferent kinds of materials to the construction of a single action.  Someone with aphasia who cannot produce lexical and syntactic structure can nonetheless contribute crucial prosodic and sequential materials to a local action, while appropriating others' lexical contributions, and thus become a powerful speaker in conversation, despite catastrophically impoverished language.  Second, action can be built through transformations of the materials provided by a prior action.  Third, the distributed, compositional structure of action provides a framework for developing the skills of newcomers within structured collaborative action.  Combinatorial heterogeneity sits at the heart of human action in interaction, creating within the unfolding organization of situated activity the distinctive forms of transformative collaborative action in the world.

 

Charles Goodwin is Professor of Applied Linguistics at UCLA.  His interests include video analysis of talk-in-interaction, cognition in the lived social world, aphasia in discourse, languagein the professions, and the ethnography of science.  His publications include Rethinking Context (co-edited with Alessandro Duranti), Cambridge, 1992), Conversation and Brain Damage (Oxford, 2003), and a wide range of journal articles.

 


 

November 13:  Lecture from Professor Michael Ullman

 

Dr. Michael Ullman, Professor of Neuroscience, Linguistics and Psychology at Georgetown University, gave the following lecture:

 

"Do we learn language in the same brain systems that rats use to learn a maze?  Evidence from a multidisciplinary investigation of first and second language"

 

Date:  Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time:  3:45-5:15 p.m.

Location:  112 Chambers

 

 

Increasing evidence suggests that language learning and use crucially depend on two long-term memory systems in the brain, declarative memory and procedural memory.  Because the behavioral, anatomical, physiological, cellular and genetic correlates of these two systems are quite well-studied in animals and humans, they lead to specific predictions about language that would not likely be made in the more limited study of language alone.  This approach is thus very powerful in being able to generate a wide range of new predictions for language -- including for first and second language, individual differences, and a range of language disorders.

 

I will first give some background on the two memory systems, and then discuss the manner in which language is predicted to depend on them.  One of the key concepts is that to some extent the two systems can subserve the same functions (e.g., for navigation, grammar, etc.), and thus they play at least partly reduandant roles for these functions.  This has a variety of important consequences for normal and disordered language.  I will then present multidisiplinary evidence (behavioral, neurological, neuroimaging, electrophysiological) that basic aspects of language do indeed depend on the two memory systems, though in different ways across different unimpaired and impaired populations.   I will discuss normal first and second language, individual and group differences (e.g, sex differences), and our work on disorders, focusing on developmental disorders (e.g., Specific Language Impairment, dyslexia, autism, and Tourette syndrome.)

 

Dr. Ullman is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Neurology, Linguistics and Psychology, at Georgetown University.  He is Director of the Brain and Language Laboratory and the Georgetown EEG/ERP Lab.  His research examines the brain bases of first and second language, how language and memory are affected in various disorders (e.g., autism, Specific Language Impairment, aphasia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases), and how such factors as sex, handedness, and genetic variability affect the brain bases of language and memory.

 






CLA Travel Grants

 

Travel grants are available through the Center for graduate students for travel to/from conferences.
Download the Center for Language Acquisition travel grant application

Students may also apply for Department of Applied Linguistics travel grants.
Download the Applied Linguistics travel grant application

Notice: The Center and Applied Linguistics forms used for submitting requests for travel funding have both been updated. Please review the latest form, and verify that you are using this version when submitting a travel request.

 


 

Gil Watz Dissertation Grants

 

The Center for Language Acquisition, in conjunction with the College of the Liberal Arts, provides up to five dissertation research awards per academic year for doctoral students working on a dissertation in applied linguistics. For more information click here.

 


 

Gil Watz Visiting Scholars Program

 

For informatiion about the Watz Visiting Scholars Program, click here or contact Jim Lantolf, Director of the Center for Language Acquisition at JPL7@PSU.EDU.

 



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