3rd MIAI Distinguished Lecture on January 25, 2023 - 2 PM CET

on the January 17, 2023

We are pleased to share with you the third MIAI Distinguished Lecture on January 25th, with CRISTIA Alejandrina, the CNRS researcher at the ENS who will give a distinguished lecture.

Inside the minds of babies: Using AI to understand and replicate language acquisition


When everyday we hear of a new AI feat, it feels that we are finally up to Turing (1950)'s challenge: "We may hope that machines will eventually compete with men in all purely intellectual fields. But which are the best ones to start with? [...]  Many people think that **a very abstract activity,** **like the playing of chess**, would be best. [Others think] it is best to **teach** [the machine] **to understand and speak English.** **This process could follow the normal teaching of a child.** **Things would be pointed out and named, etc**." In this talk, I will discuss how very wrong Turing was: While AIs beat humans at chess years ago, natural human language acquisition remains exquisitely more efficient and robust. I will summarize recent work from my lab in two dimensions. On the one hand, we describe child-centered language experiences, which shows how challenging these data remain for speech and language processing. On the other hand, we started reverse-engineering the early stages of language development, shedding light on the mechanisms that are likely required.

Alejandrina Cristia
Alejandrina Cristia

Alejandrina Cristia is a linguist known for research on infant-directed speech, daylong audio recordings of children's diverse linguistic environments, and language acquisition across cultures. Cristia is interested in how phonetic and phonological representations are formed during infancy and their interactions with other linguistic formats and cognitive mechanisms. She attended graduate school at Purdue University where she obtained a M.A. degree with honors in General Linguistics in 2006 and a Ph.D. degree in Linguistics in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, Cristia worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the LSCP in Paris, France. Later, she joined the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics as a scientific staff member. In 2013, Cristia became a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, France. She now holds the position of Research Director of the Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (LSCP) at the Paris Sciences et Lettres University (PSL University). Cristia is a member of the LSCP Babylab and the Daylong recordings of Children's Language Environment (DARCLE) network. Cristia received Annual Prize of the Academia Argentina de Letras in 2005, the James S. McDonnell Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition in 2017. In 2020, she received the CNRS Bronze medal for her research on language acquisition across cultures. In December 2020, Cristia was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant for her "Experience effects in early language acquisition" project.

Published on January 19, 2023