Monday, October 10, 2005

Gonna be busy

It's getting busy around here. First up, I am about to take over presentations for the next three weeks in my Language Acquisition seminar. The format of the seminar is that for the first 6 weeks or so we read papers attempting to prove that language is "innate." Then the rest of the class is devoted to students providing anti-nativist papers for the semester. There are only 4 of us in the class, so I have the next 3 weeks all to my lonesome self. A full 9 hours of class where I select the readings, do the presentations, and lead discussions. Shouldn't they pay me for this or something? My topic is statistical learning in language acquisition, so my goal is to convince the class that children don't need innate linguistic constraints on language learning because their statistical learning abilities do the trick. This may sound absurd for two reasons. 1) Paca, you are teaching statistical learning, but you've never taken a class in statistics in your life? Here you make a good point, and it might in fact be absurd. Of course, there comes a time in your life where if you only do things you learned in classes, then you are never going to do anything. 2) You are gonna tell me a one year old knows statistics?! Uh-huh. Sure. However, the truth is they do. Kids can detect all sorts of amazing statistical patterns. And presumably so can you, even if you did fail your stats class. It's like being able to catch a ball even though you can't consciously do the integral calculus required to model this mathematically.

On Thursday, I am debating a second time as well. This time I am to be John Searle arguing against the prospects for true artificial intelligence. I have the good fortune of going against a Computer Science prof who has spent many years of her life arguing against Searle's position. So, yeah, this should be fun. Nothing like a little public humiliation to start the day off right. That's part of the Cognitive Science Colloquium CogSci Smackdown! series. Of course, it's my fault, since I am the one who came up with the idea in the first place.

I also really need to get some copy-editing done for my journal. I have finally caught up in the shuffling of manuscripts off to review and the like. So now I really need to get the copy editing started for our January issue.

Today's main homework project was a review of Finnish phonology. Did you know that Finnish has 17 separate diphthongs and that they have short and long consonants and vowels? That's right 'tippa' is a different word from 'tipa' which could be different from 'ttipa' or 'tiipa' or 'tipaa'. You get the idea. Cool, huh?

Song of the moment: Do it by Poncho Sanchez off the album Do It! Only because that's what's playing right now.

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