Lila R. Gleitman

University of Pennsylvania


Election Year: 2000
Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Secondary Section: 51, Anthropology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

I am a linguist and psycholinguist. One of my main interests concerns the architecture and semantic content of the mental lexicon, i.e., the psychological representation of the forms and meanings of words. My second major interest is in how children acquire both the lexicon and the syntactic structure of the native tongue. As one indication of the astonishing nature of this learning feat by infants, it is striking that from about the age of 18 months to the fifth birthday, children acquire about 15,000 words. That means about one new word per waking hour every day, a rate that hardly lessens in the succeeding decade of life. I have been particularly interested in studying populations that are deprived by tragedies of nature from exposure to normal language input (e.g., blind and isolated deaf children who acquire language normally despite the distortions in the referential and structural information they receive). The robustness of this learning to input variation suggests significant biological preparedness for language in the human infant.

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