LINGUIST List 32.3074

Thu Sep 30 2021

Rising Stars: Meet Janani Ramadurai!

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <everettlinguistlist.org>



Date: 30-Sep-2021
From: LINGUIST List <linguistlinguistlist.org>
Subject: Rising Stars: Meet Janani Ramadurai!
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Dear Linguist List Readers,

For this week's rising star we have Janani Ramadurai who is in her senior year at the University of North Carolina where she is working on a Linguistics and Neuroscience double major along with a computer science minor. For her studies, she is interested in how children acquire language with and without cognitive deficits in different sociolinguistic environments. As with all of our Rising Stars, Janani's list of achievements is long but to give you a preview, here are just a few... She is currently beginning her second year as the president of the Undergrad linguistics club, she has taken (and excelled at) several higher level classes aimed at graduate students, and she has conducted independent research with Professor Elika Bergelson at Duke. She presented this research at the Undergrad Research Symposium last spring! Impressive work, indeed. This preamble is getting long so let's get to Janani's piece.

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The field of linguistics is such a diverse and dynamic area of study, given that the languages we use are changing every single day! We have expanded our field to not only encompass different human languages but also different modes and even non-human forms of communication. Due to this rapid increase in physical and virtual dialogue, linguists have been given a new, seemingly infinite source of data from which to enhance the study of language.

Understanding how language is acquired and developed — whether that is spoken language, nonverbal communication, or AI interaction — is a topic that requires more exploration. I believe that, with today’s society undergoing monumental changes that will affect us for many years to come, such as advancements in technology and a wider variety of languages being taught to children, linguistics is rising to the forefront with regards to identifying productive and inclusive ways to raise future generations.

There are a multitude of questions that remain unanswered, with my research ranging from analyzing the validity of caretaker reports on child language comprehension to understanding the various social and environmental influences on language development. In order to keep up with technological advancements, we have now created a space to observe human interactions with artificial intelligence. When it comes to their child’s language development, it is important for parents to be aware of all the factors that play into an individual’s language acquisition.

My interest in sociolinguistics, language acquisition, and cognitive science motivates me to fill in these gaps in our current literature. Since technology is growing to play such a huge role in our everyday lives, I anticipate that we will begin to rely more on AI to help our children cultivate their language development skills. Computational linguists as well as individuals specializing in cognitive science and language acquisition will be at the forefront of this campaign, helping us figure out how to capitalize on our interactions with AI in order to enhance our language. But our involvement with artificial intelligence is only part of the story: I hope to learn more about how we interact with each other and apply that knowledge to aid children from different backgrounds in developing their language skills. I believe that the current research I am involved in -- which looks at the influence that the social environment of a child has on their language comprehension and production -- is the first step to understanding this bigger picture.

In addition to contributing to the research regarding language acquisition, I plan on receiving a Master’s degree in Linguistics at UNC before gaining some work experience and eventually earning a PhD in Neuroscience or Cognitive Science. I hope to pursue a career in research and academia and have the opportunity to share my work and experience with others as invested in language acquisition and development as me!

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Page Updated: 30-Sep-2021