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Brian MacWhinney

Brian MacWhinney is Professor of Psychology and Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University. He received a Ph.D. in psycholinguistics in 1974 from the University of California at Berkeley.

He has developed a computational model of the acquisition of grammar and a functionalist account of the development of sentence processing.

In 1984, he and Catherine Snow co-founded the CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System) Project for the computational study of child language transcript data. The CHILDES programs and database have now become an important component of the basic methodology of research in language acquisition.

Recently, MacWhinney’s work has focused on aspects of second language learning and the neural bases of language as revealed by the development of children with focal brain lesions. He has also begun to explore a new form of linguistic functionalism which views linguistic and discourse structure as emergent properties of two forms of grounding. On the one hand, the interactional aspects of language are grounded in the conversational framework. On the other hand, the cognitive aspects of language are grounded in fictive perspective-taking that uses the embodied self as the deictic center.