Week 1: Intro & Topic Discussion

Welcome to the BLNDIY project!

We’re so glad you want to join us on this journey. This week is all about getting you up to speed and ready for things to really get rolling.

First, if you want to help us out even more, make sure you check out our sign up page and everything we’ve got posted over there.

Next, it’s time to get a bit more familiar with language science and the kinds of things we study.

At the end, you can leave us a comment about what language questions interest you!

These are the three main areas of research that our lab works with the most often:


1. How do adults use language to think about the world? – PSYCHOLINGUISTICS

Many of us feel like we don’t just use language to talk to people, but we use it to think inside of our own heads. What does that look like? Do we create mental pictures in our minds when we hear people speak? Does the way we describe something change the way we think about it? How are our words organized inside of our minds?

This is a good Wikipedia page about psycholinguistics in general.

Check out this video on how language and thought might be connected, and this page about how words are organized in our heads.


2. How does our language tell others about who we are? – SOCIOLINGUISTICS

You can probably tell if someone isn’t from around here based on the way that they talk; where they’re from, how old they are, and their gender are all kinds of personal information that comes out in the words people use, how we put those words together, and how we pronounce them. How does that work? How good are people at figuring out personal information based on our speech? Can we change the way we talk to change how people perceive us?

Click here for more on sociolinguistics in general, and here for more on the connection between language and politics.

Last thing is a TedX talk all about Ohio’s dialects – given by the Language Pod’s very own Dr. Kathryn Campbell-Kibler.


3. How do children learn language? – LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Nobody is born knowing a language, but children learn the language that surrounds them very (very!) quickly. How do they do that? Do they learn about language sounds the same way they learn about word meanings? How do they learn the meanings of really weird words like ‘the’ or parts of words like ‘-ing’? Do they ever get confused about how to put words together into sentences? Are there special things that adults can do to speed up language learning (or slow it down)?

Check out these sites for more about how children learn their language!

Here’s a general page about language development and when kids learn what.

This is a video all about word learning, and this is an article about how meaning matters for learning.


Now you’re ready to start brainstorming!


Your job for the week:

What kinds of questions interest you about language? Is there anything, specific or broad, that you think would be cool for us to look at together over the summer?

Tell us about it in the comments below! Next week, we’ll ask you to submit your final research question idea, and we’ll go from there.

**Although we moderate every comment before it gets posted, please remember to be kind to others and mindful of your personal information before you post here!**


17 thoughts on “Week 1: Intro & Topic Discussion

  1. Do infants begin to develop the mastering of a language by first reading lips?

    • That’s really interesting to think about, especially as everyone is wearing masks now and these infants aren’t seeing lips! Might we be able to predict what will happen because of children who are born visually impaired?

  2. I am interested in the role of internal dialogue in feelings of self worth.

    What linguistic elements of internal dialogue are most predictive of shame, anxiety, and depression?

  3. I’m kind of curious about why, when I text, I seem to write the wrong (but sounds right) word so often?? Like when I type on a computer I rarely have issues with their/there/they’re or to/too or other similar words. But when I text I CONSTANTLY sub the wrong version of the word that I mean! I know people get what I mean on the other end, but why does this happen so much when I text in the first place???

    • I know what you mean! Though, I feel like it’s a matter of paying attention. I’m usually in such a hurry to get through a text message that I don’t always read over my words. But when I type on the computer, I’m much more careful.

  4. I’m wondering why so many made-up brand names just seem to sound right. Like I read somewhere that advertisers name foods to sound like their tastes/textures; Doritos sounds crunchy and Jello sounds wiggly. And lots of car names are really similar, too… Ultima, Acura, Optima, Impala. Is there a linguistics reason for all this?

  5. Is using words as internal dialogue a universal thing? Can you learn to be more aware of your internal dialogue, and how? How can it be changed?

    What leads to childhood delays in learning language, and why? What part of the brain is being affected? How can we foster language development as parents, especially in children with delays?

    Do we develop biases around language, leading to stereotypes or negative associations with the way people talk? Does language affect racial, gender, and other biases?

    • Those are very interesting questions!

      I think internal dialogue is pretty universal, but I would love to read about more research on this topic!

  6. I certainly think in language as well as images, but though I can “hear” the language when I am thinking, it seems way way faster than speaking.
    When thinking linguistically, do we just ditch all the “small words”? Are there keystone words that translate from larger concepts, which in our own heads seem obvious, but when talking to another person don’t translate as obvious?
    Maybe the larger question is, if we think linguistically, why is it so difficult to explain our ideas out loud?

    • I’m really interested in the ideas around the private language we use as we think. Sometimes the words are just floating around, other times they are like self-talk, and other times the words in my head have all the features of dialogue with inflection, tone, emotion, although I’m not having a conversation. Maybe it is the intersection of words, thoughts, images that make this “head talk” seem richer, but can’t be translated when we try to explain our ideas out loud?

  7. The section about child language acquisition got me thinking about some of the videos I’ve seen around the internet of kids using the wrong words for certain things, often with humorous results. One stood out in particular, where a toddler looks up at a teenage girl and asks, “daddy?” In another viral video, a little girl looks out onto a field of ducks and exclaims, “look at all those chickens!”
    I’m starting to notice a theme, and I’m wondering … why do we make so many mistakes like this when we’re learning new words?

  8. What kind of impact do parents and caregivers having a variety of accents (i.e. a parent from Canada and the other from South Africa) have on a child’s language comprehension and production? You often hear about kids growing up in multilingual households, but rarely in multi-accented.

  9. From the day I was born I was immersed in two languages simultaneously. I was learning English in the outside world and at school (my parents just moved to the US and didn’t know much English) and Russian at home. I am now fluent in both of these languages. If I tried learning two languages at once right now, I would have a very hard time doing that; which leaves me wondering on how a child’s brain works and manages to master and learn two very different languages so easily, yet a more developed brain would have to work much harder to do that.

  10. I am curious as to if this idea of a mental lexicon and the relationships between different sets of words has been studied across various languages? Do “slips of the tongue” occur in other languages, and if so, do they occur as often as they seem to in English (or at least American English)?

  11. I am fascinated with child language acquisition, especially in languages besides English. It leads me to wonder, are there different time frames for different languages for when a child, on average, should be able to perform certain language tasks? Do the sound-making capabilities of children come at different times depending on the phonetic system of the language, such as different “clicks,” “tones,” and even vowel and consonant sounds of non-English languages? Do different cultures have unique expectations for when their children’s speech should be able to be comprehended by others?

  12. It seems like every day there is a new acronym to be decoded in the place of a common phrase. These acronyms, such as “tbh” for “to be honest,” or “ilysm” for “I love you so much,” seem to very quickly become second nature to the point where I can basically understand 5 words while only reading 5 letters in one made-up “word.” In today’s society, these and numerous other “new words” seem to be added all the time. How do these seemingly random words come about and spread to the point where they can define a whole generation? Does this sort of phenomenon occur in the youth of other non-English languages, and if so, how does it look/sound in those languages? What are the implications of this ever-growing vocabulary in English?

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