Heidi Getz, Ph.D.
Hi! I’m Heidi Getz. I’m a postdoc at the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery at Georgetown University and (as of Spring 2019) an adjunct professor in the Linguistics department. I did my PhD in Linguistics and Cognitive Science here as well, as part of Elissa Newport’s Learning and Development Lab. I study child language acquisition. You can read more about my projects here. Thanks for stopping by! email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The structure of a sentence is determined by its closed-class items. In this line of work, we are studying how children analyze closed-class items. Do learners’ computations reflect the special role of these items in sentence structure? And how do these analyses shape learners’ grammatical representations?
Every natural language has its own rules for forming sentences. As a learner, in order to form sentences of your own, you have to figure out what those rules are by searching for patterns in the sentences you hear. This project asks: What kinds of patterns do learners search for? How do they organize their knowledge of these patterns? And how does knowledge of patterns develop into hierarchically structured representations of language?
Language acquisition researchers have long worried about how children can acquire language despite the Poverty of the Stimulus. In this paper, I argue that the input may appear impoverished because we are looking at the learning problem from only one perspective. There may not be enough input for a specific learning approach to work, but one always has to consider the possibility that there exists another approach for which input actually is adequate.
This work focuses on neural entrainment to higher-level grammatical structure (Ding et al., Nature Neuroscience, 2016). Here we asked how this brain response emerges as learners acquire representations of such structure from transitional probabilities in a miniature language.
Before grad school, I worked at the Center for Aphasia Research and Rehabilitation. One project focused on phonological alexia: these patients easily read content words, but struggle with function words (e.g. they can read hat but not that). In another project, we studied people with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a neurodegenerative disease.