A lectern has been set up in front of a projection screen.
About FORTY ACADEMICS are sitting, listening. Young,
confident, PROFESSOR JOHNSON is introducing Alice as shewaits at the side.
PINK PAGES 5
Now in my dissertation I spent
about a chapter and a half fairly
vituperatively citing today’s guest
and saying why I thought she was
The audience laughs, Alice as well.
For the record, every time Alice
and I have argued, she’s right.
Alice Howland is the Lillian YoungProfessor of Linguistics atColumbia University. She famouslywrote her seminal textbook, From
Neurons to Nouns, while raisingthree children - I’m sure gettingmore than a few “Ah-ha” moments
from them - and it is now
considered one of the cornerstones
of linguistics education all overthe world. Please welcome...Dr.
Warm applause from the assembled. Alice takes her placebehind the lectern.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
She taps a computer sitting on the lectern. A photo of anadorable, bright-eyed baby comes up on the screen behind her.
She launches into her talk with great self-assurance.
Most children speak and understand
their mother tongue before they
turn four, without lessons,
homework, or much in the way of
feedback. How do they accomplish
this remarkable feat? Well this is
a question that has interested
scientists at least since Charles
Darwin kept a diary of the early
language of his infant son. He
observed, “Man has an instinctive
tendency to speak, as we see in the
babble of our young children.”
She taps her computer - a photo of Charles Darwin comes up.
PINK PAGES 6
Much has been learned since then
but today I’m going to show yousome recent studies from my lab inchildren between the ages ofeighteen months and two and a half